stack of cookies
One year ago I wrote my first column for Neapolitan Family. The subject was gluten. In the article I stated that nobody in my family had Celiac Disease (CD). However, I thought it was a good idea to eliminate gluten in your diet whenever possible. Ironically, I recently found out I do have CD. To make matters worse, my 2-1/2 year old son might have inherited it from me.
It took 16 years to determine I have CD. I was misdiagnosed by a slew of doctors. One doctor diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is really just a catchall group for people with unexplained gastrointestinal issues. The treatment: take Tagamet before every meal. I was 20 years old and not about to become hooked on pills for the remainder of my life. So, for the next 13 years I sucked it up and just dealt with the problem as best I could. I knew I was on my own with this one.
Three years ago I diagnosed myself with gluten intolerance. I gave up all gluten. However, I still had intestinal issues when I ate gluten-free dessert. Once again my hopes of any type of cure were crushed. Out of desperation I went back to the medical experts. I was put through a gamut of tests, including some that were quite invasive. Ultimately, the experts found nothing and were headed down the road towards cancer.
My gut kept gravitating back to CD even though the tests were negative. So, I tried diet elimination-reintroduction. My intestinal issues dramatically improved in just two weeks. Yet, again I experienced problems after consuming gluten-free desserts. Luckily, I found a blog post of someone with CD who had the same experience. It was leaky gut syndrome! I learned that gluten damages the lining of the gut resulting in food particles leaking into the blood stream. When this happens the body sees the food particle as a foreign invader and attacks it. After removing gluten from the diet, some foods can still cause symptoms until the damaged or leaky gut heals. Finally, an explanation that made sense!
Why am I sharing all of this with you? For far too long gluten has been flying under the radar. According to some estimates, one in every 100 people has CD and 97% of them don’t know it. Some studies estimate CD affects one out of every seven people, but they just don’t know it! It’s critical to know because if you do suffer from gluten intolerance or even gluten sensitivity, you can die if it goes untreated. In fact, there are approximately 55 diseases linked with gluten including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, MS, and autism.
You might be thinking, “I don’t have intestinal issues so I can’t have CD.” But, you’d be wrong. Symptoms can also include: infertility, fatigue, bone or joint pain, osteoporosis, migraine headaches, and depression.
Adapting to a gluten free lifestyle can be challenging, especially since most gluten free products are expensive and not very tasty. Honestly, I prefer to make everything from scratch. Sur la Table in Mercato periodically offers a cooking class called “Intolerant Gourmet: Gluten and Lactose-Free Baking” that can help get you started. When I’m in a pinch here is a list of my favorite store bought items:
My Favorites from Trader Joe’s:
Rice Pasta & Cheddar • Udi’s Whole Grain Bread • Udi’s Whole Grain Hamburger Buns • Nature’s Path Gorilla Munch Cereal • Nature’s Path Panda Puffs
Brownie Baking Mix 8 Rice Drink • Chocolate Chip Cookies
Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms
My Favorites from Whole Foods:
Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Sticks • Cherrybrook Kitchen: Sugar Cookie Mix
Gluten Free Pantry: Brown Rice Pancake and Waffle Mix
Andean Dream Quinoa Cookies-Chocolate Chip
Udi’s Gluten Free Au Naturel Granola • Annie’s Ketchup Organic
Pacific Natural Foods Organic Almond Beverage
Bob’s Red Mill Old Fashioned Gluten Free Rolled Oats • Almond Scones
My Favorites from Publix:
Alpha Tots (French fries) • Jolly Time White Kernel Popcorn
Betty Crocker GF Vanilla Cupcake Mix • Betty Crocker Frosting
Ruffles Simply Natural Reduced Fat potato chips
Kettle Brand 40% Reduced Fat Sea Salt Potato Chips
My Favorites from Costco:
Skinny Pop Popcorn • Wild Riceworks Wildrice Crisps
Some of these items are not certified gluten free, they simply don’t contain any gluten ingredients. Please read the food labels.
Bottom line: CD is largely undetected so trust your gut and be persistent in getting an accurate diagnosis.