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Check Up: Video spotlights problems of living with food allergies

The camera pans across piles of oat, millet, and rice flour and an invitation to a "food allergy party."

The camera pans across piles of oat, millet, and rice flour and an invitation to a "food allergy party."

The soundtrack swells with the Les Miserables show tune "One Day More," which gets a hypoallergenic rendering as "One Grain More," showing heartbreak in the kitchen - and the bathroom.

Then four miserable French chefs try to whip up confections with no allergens.

Inspired by his own diagnosis of food allergies, Wynnewood-based musical theater actor-writer Michael Bihovsky has made a music video showing the burden of living with food allergies in a gluttonous, gluten-heavy society. It has gotten 34,000 hits. (Go to

Gluten is a protein present in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, should never eat gluten - even trace amounts are toxic. Untreated celiac disease can lead to infertility and cancer.

The disease, which affects one of 133 Americans, is rarely diagnosed correctly.

Bihovsky does not have celiac, but suffered from stomach disorders for eight years before discovering his food allergies. He recalls being "nauseous 100 percent of the time."

He was skeptical when his doctor diagnosed him with dozens of food allergies. "It included cantaloupe," he said. "Who's allergic to cantaloupe? And lettuce! It was insane."

Then he was shocked to find that a shift in diet ended years of stomach pain.

Allison Lubert, who owns the allergen-free bakery Sweet Freedom on South Street, thought the video was hilarious. "I thought nobody understood my pain," she said, recalling the year she spent experimenting with exotic flours to get proportions right for her doughnuts and cupcakes.

She hopes the video won't discourage the newly diagnosed. "I think there used to be . . . a lot of cardboard-flavored products out there," she said. "I don't think that's true anymore."

Philadelphia may be ahead of the curve. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is headquartered in Ambler. Its president, Alice Bast, is pushing to make Philadelphia the nation's number one gluten-free city.

Perhaps Bihovsky and company would have been less miserable if they'd ordered in from the experts.

- Allyn Gaestel