Celiac disease and gluten intolerance

Celiac Disease and Gluten-intolerance


Celiac disease/celiac sprue/gluten intolerance

Celiac disease involves an immune system that thinks the protein found in wheat and other grains (gluten/gliadin) is really, really bad. The body attacks itself, and the small intestine becomes badly damaged, to the point of a person being unable to digest much of anything.

Celiac disease is extremely under-diagnosed, with maybe a tenth of the people who have it being diagnosed with it. It does have a genetic/hereditary component, and I have family with it as well. It also takes a long time to get diagnosed for most people: up to ten years is average! It took me about ten years to figure out I was gluten-intolerant. It was thanks to a great doctor and hematologist that I did get the diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002, and have been faithful to the only cure currently available: a gluten-free diet. A GF diet means nothing with wheat, rye, barley, or other similar grains. That means no traditional breads, pizza crusts, or pasta. Sound hard? It does take some getting used to! I do have my favorite substitute foods listed below. There's a lot of GF food coming out now, as celiac disease is getting more commonly diagnosed. I can eat potatoes, corn, rice, amaranth, quinoa, and oats. (Not all celiacs eat oats, but the latest research suggests the only issue is cross-contamination.)

For me, going gluten-free made an amazing difference in my life. I gained twenty pounds or so, which meant for the first time you couldn't count my ribs from across the room. I got more energy, I gained color in my face, and I just felt great! It's no hardship for me to eat gluten-free when the change was so drastic.

The only food I really, really miss is Twizzlers. Alas.

Recommendations:

For the first few months, I'd avoid most of the replacement foods. Try to forget the taste of wheat before chowing down on a GF donut. You can eat basic meat and veg and fruits, lots of rice and corn and potatoes and quinoa. (Although changing to a heavy rice diet can have other digestive implications.)

The fat-free, sugar-free, low-fat, etc. versions of foods are more likely to contain gluten since they'll have more fillers. Regular sour cream and mayo are more likely to be safe than fat-free versions.

"Starch" alone means a corn-derivative and is therefore GF. Any modifiers means be careful. "Modified food starch" is the bane of the GF diet, in my opinion, since it's unknown and therefore not safe.

Companies often have a policy about labeling gluten. Kraft, for instance, will tell you that gluten will always be labeled, so I eat Kraft foods even if they say modified food starch. Get used to calling. And calling back to check in every 6 or 12 months.

Just because a food is safe now, it may not be in two weeks. Check ingredient lists frequently.

Things you might not remember to check:
Lipstick, lip balm, vitamins and medications, chewing gum.

My favorite foods:

Glutino is the best brand I've found. Very little I don't like of their food.

Kinnickinnic has some good baked goods (in the frozen section).

Ian's makes yummy chicken nuggets and fish sticks. (Frozen, labeled for kids.)

Pizza crust: Nature's Hilites rice and potato crusts
Pasta: bionaturae's GF selections
Cookies: Glutino's chocolate-covered vanilla wafers (oh, wow; kind of like a Kit-Kat!)
Brownie mix: GF Pantry's Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix
Breakfast bars: Glutino blueberry bars
All-purpose flour: Sylvan Border Farms GF flour
Bob's Red Mill has GF oats

Twin Cities area: Bittersweet Bakery makes absolutely delicious GF baked goods. It's worth the price! Really!

Fresh and Natural Foods has the best selection of GF food in the Twin Cities area. They do a good job labeling their GF products. Mississippi Market co-op and Seward co-op also are good choices.


A good book: Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter Green and Rory Jones. This is a technical book about the disease and the latest research on celiac sprue. Not a how-to book, a here's-what-to-know book.

Some links:
Celiac.com (has a safe/not-safe food page)
Celiac Sprue Association