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Celiac Disease: What it is and Why it's important to you

Celiac Disease is an incurable, hereditary, geneitc, autoimmune disease.  It is an intolerance to gluten, which is the protein in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats (oats, normally due to cross contamination in the fields and/or processing) made up of gliadin/glutenin proteins and is found in the endosperm (tissue of seed/plant around the time of fertilization). Gluten gives your baked goods the elasticity in t he dough and the chewiness of the finished product.

1 in 133 have Celiac Disease with new studies coming out making it closer to 1 in 100. Celiac Disease damages the small intestine.  The cure, strict adherance to a gluten free diet for life.

The symptoms of Celiac Disease range in severity as well as are numerous (as there are over 300) and include (but are not limited to): bloating, gas, abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, weight gain/loss, failure to thrive in children, pale-foul smelling stools, anemia, bone/joint pain, depression, irritability, Vitamin K deficiency, missed menstrual periods, infertility, miscarriages, canker sores, tooth discoloration, loss of tooth enamel .......

Most people with Celiac disease are also affected by a second auto-immune disease as well, such as: diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, IBS, eczema, Sjorgren's Syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, thryroid disorders, dermatitis herpetiformis, osteoporosis ......

What do you do about it? Start by getting a proper diagnosis ~ blood test, intestinal biopsy, genetic testing, etc.  TALK to your physician, explain your concerns and give him/her reasoning for such concerns if he/she is hestitant.  The only fix to Celiac Disease is a gluten free diet  - please note, if you are going to have testing ordered, you MUST NOT follow the gluten free diet as it will skew the results.  GLuten has to be in your system for the testing to be accurate. 

Avoidance of cross-contamination factors is very important.  A few tips to watch for hidden gluten: avoid sharing utensils, eating/drinking/kissing after another who has consumed gluten products, use a separate toaster, use separate cookware or purchase new if yours is scratched or pitted, do not use the same condiments or food that has had a utensil replaced into it after using with a gluten containing product, read the labels of your lip products to ensure they do not contain gluten.

 Why is Celiac Disease important to you?  97% of celiac people are undiagnosed - are you one of them?  Someone in your immediate family or surrounding community HAS Celiac Disease and needs your help, encouragment and understanding.  Somewhere you've seen the signs advertising Gluten Free, now you know why.

Can you eat gluten free foods if you're not Celiac?  Of Course! Anyone can eat gluten free foods, many are more convenient, more nutritious, quicker and easier to prepare, grab and go.

Gluten free living doesn't have to be much different than your normal everyday person's day.  Yes, we do have to watch everything closely, but that's only a minor hurdle in our lives to continue on the track of good health.  It makes one more awarea of the surroundings and choices thus making a stronger character, if you allow it!

Happy and Safe Eating!


SO, You've Been Diagnosed With Celiac Disease ...

 Now What?

Congratulations first, on a proper diagnosis! By following a gluten free diet you'll be feeling better and seeing your health improve soon.

First, let's take a look in your kitchen, starting with the refrigerator.  Grab a sharpie marker and put a big "X" on any items where a knife, fork, spoon, spatula, etc. have been put back into the product after spreading on or used with gluten cotaining foods.  This would be things like james, jellies, butter, spreads, left overs, grated cheeses, etc.  Those items that you've placed and "X" on are no longer safe to eat.  Let your family or friends enjoy them. Those items have been contaminated by the gluten proteins, this is called cross-contamination.  Cross contamination is a huge factor when eating gluten free - it will make you ill if you don't watch out for it and prevent it.

If you have a family, getting used to the gluten free diet and all the precautions can be tough, but by working at it together with an open mind it can be made easier! Explain to your family (and friends) that the items with an "X" are okay for them to eat but not for you.  Keep that sharpie marker nearby for times one forgets and accidentally contaminates a jar/food - it can immediately be labeled to keep you safe.  These type of accidents will occur from time to time, no matter how long you've been gluten free.

Always keep your cupboards and drawers closed, this will reduce the risk of crumbs and dust particles from setteling on your plates, bowls, cups, and utensils.  It's a wise idea to wipe down the handles and drawer/cupboard fronts often to remove any such gluten residue/dust that may have setteled while you weren't looking.

If you have older cookware that is badly scratched or pitted, it may be wise to invest in a pan or two as replacement for gluten free cooking as the scars in your cookware have a tendency to hold onto gluten.  Cast iron or wooded items need to be replaced unless seasoned and used for only gluten free cooking. If you enjoy deep frying, always start with fresh oil and fry any gluten free items first.  Once you have fried any gluten containing / breaded foods, the oil is no longer safe/gluten free.   And always during any food preparation, if you've used a utensil in a non-gluten free item DO NOT put it into your gluten free item .... AVOID CROSS CONTAMINATION!

Let's move on to the pantry - if your pantry is like mine, there's little organization going on in there ... that's okay provided that it is Celiac friendly unorganization!  All your gluten free items should be either on a separate shelf, higher than the other items or in a pantry or cupboard by themselves.  The reasoning for this is that if a product's dust or crumbs fall onto the shelving holding your gluten free items, this will lead to contamination as you open and/or use your gluten free products. 

What should you fill your cabinet or pantry with? Watch for future articles to come including ones on gluten free flours and recipes!

Happy and Safe Eating!


Gluten Free Cost Saving, Quality Control Measures

Eating gluten freeis more expensive than a traditional diet.  Always remember, it's your health - the cost is minimal.  This article will give you some tips to save a little money here and there as well as some additional measuers to follow in the kitchen.

Recycling is very important, not only in waste, but in foods as well - esepcially when a loaf of bread can cost up to $8.00.  Don't throw it away - if you simply don't enjoy the flavor or if it is stale (but not moldy), it can be salvaged!  Turn it into bread crumbs for breading, bake it up into croutons, cut into cubes and freeze for the next time you'd liketo make stuffing/dressing.

Cookies that have turned stale or just aren't up to your taste buds can be crumlbed to use as a pie crust, cheesecake crust, ice cream topping, or additional crunch in additional recipe.

Cakes can be salvaged too! Cut it up into cuts, toss it into the oven for a quick toasting an use in fondue or create a decadent layered dessert with jam, glaze or fruit.  Use as a cool treat in an ice cream sundae or use as an ice cream topping when crumbled.  If you cannot eat an entire cake, freezing is an option  - to avoid soggy defrosting, place the cake in the refrigerator with the wrapping removed or place in the oven for 10-12 minutes on 250 degrees.

When you find a product you really like, if you can, buy it in larger quantities which can often reduce the price.  Repackage the product into individual portions to store or freeze for later use.  Bake or cook in larger quantities, do double or triple batches, this will save you a lot of time when you're in a hurry and your tummy will enjoy it when you're on the run!  Squeeze containers are great for condiments - thre isn't the fear of 'double dipping' cross contamination by family or friends, plus they are easily refilled from the larger, better priced unit.

Utilize your kitchen to its fullest extent!  Vacuum sealers are amazing for repackaging and storage. Store your gluten free items on the top shelves or in a separate location/cupboard to avoid cross contamination. Specifically mark your bowls, utensils, cooking sheets, colanders, sieves, storage containers, etc. as gluten free or keep them in a specific (safe) area of the kitchen. Be sure to use a designated gluten free toaster - NEVER share unless you're using the "toast-it" bags.  Purchase a cutting board that is not wood, invest in a durable one that will not scratch and hold onto the gluten that it may come in contact with. Watch your wash cloth and dishtowel, if they've been hanging out or wiping up after family or friends they could be contamined with crumbs.  Know the universal sign for NO (Circle with a diagonal line through it) - when something does get contaminated in the refrigerator or cabinet, place the symbol on it so you know not to use it. (an X works well too!)  Keep that marker nearby for these occasssions, teach family and friends how easy it is to keep you safe!

Happy & Safe Eating!


 Gluten Free – Label Reading                 

How to know if an item is safe to eat - the food labels should contain all the information you need to ensure your food is safe for your gluten free diet. Thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act the top eight allergens are to be declared on all product labels, including imported items. You should never have to guess whether the ingredients are made of wheat, if wheat is used, the label is required to state such.

Rye and Barley are not part of the labeling law, however, rye is not used often in foods and barley is most commonly labeled as ‘malt’. They are both easily identified in the ingredients list if they are used.

Some ingredients that cause concern and anxiety need not do so due to the labeling laws. Let’s look at a few:  Hydrolyzed Plant/Vegetable Protein  (HPP/HVP) theses are identified by the base protein on the labels and will appear as Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein or Hydrolyzed Corn Protein;  Modified Food Starch is safe unless it’s identified as Modified Wheat Starch; Starch and Dextrin, which are used as fillers, thickener and binders, are typically made of corn, potato or rice unless labeled Wheat Starch; Natural and Artificial Flavorings make up a wide range of items to flavor foods, these should be safe unless wheat is used to enhance the flavor as hydrolyzed wheat protein or if barley malt is added to the syrup which the label will disclose both; Maltodextrin, Glucose Syrup, Carmel Coloring, Citric Acid, Distilled Vinegars are all safe because of the processing procedures and/or distillation process even if wheat is used in the beginning stages. Remember though, Malt Vineger is NOT safe - the malt is from Barley.

Herbs, spices and seeds are safe by themselves.  Spices that are ‘blends’ are safe unless the label reads ‘includes wheat’ which may be added as an anti-caking agent.

Oats still present a food labeling issue of their own. Oats do not contain gluten, harmful to most Celiacs, they are most often contaminated with wheat.  This contamination can happen in the fields, during harvesting and/or during processing which makes oats off limits for most of us eating gluten free.  There are dedicated facilities that process certified gluten free oat, both steel cut and quick oats.

In addition to the allergen labeling you’ll often come across a disclaimer on the labels that read:  “may contain wheat”,  “produced in a facility that also processes products made with wheat” or “Facility produces wheat products”.  These disclaimers are to protect the facility from harm if a product would happen to be contaminated since there is that possibility.  Facilities today are closely inspected and pass many FDA and local guidelines making it rare to have issues, but again, the possibility is there and can happen.  Whether or not you decide to eat such product(s) is an individual choice.

Remember, you are fortunate to have the knowledge that gluten is what has been making you so ill, millions of people do not know yet – you have a head start at reversing the effects of the damage through your body simply by diet!

Is there an item you’d like to cook or bake gluten free? Is there a recipe you’ve been hungry for and aren’t sure how to do it?  Do you have questions about gluten free living or Celiac Disease?  Together there is strength, together there is knowledge and awareness – Celiac Disease shouldn’t be a struggle and together we can make it easier for you, a friend or family member!

Happy & Safe Eating!