I’m sure you’ve heard of gluten. Honestly I’d be surprised if you haven’t. Going gluten-free has become one of the latest food trends after-all. In fact, most of the time the words gluten-free or celiac disease will get you an eye-roll from at least one person. . . I should know, I used to be one of those people. Sorry!.. Unfortunately for a lot of people it’s not just a new food trend.
Having Celiac Disease and needing to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle isn’t something I would wish on anyone. I’m still in my own personal hell adapting to the diagnosis. Maybe hell is a strong word, but you see I’m permanently ending a long-term relationship with some of my favorite things. Chocolate chip cookies from Culture coffee shop, late night hot dogs from street vendors, frozen ding-dongs on a summer night and Pizza are just a few of them.
So What The Heck Is Gluten?
Put simply Gluten is a set of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Gluten is a binding agent that keeps bread products together and makes pastries so fluffy. Yep, this means gluten is in all baked goods like breads, pizza, cake, cupcakes, pastries, crackers, cookies and pancakes. Gluten is also in pastas, cereals, processed meats and malt liquors.
That’s not all, gluten is also used as a thickening agent and it will sneak attack you like a ninja. Because it’s used as a thickening agent it hides out in all the best places, like marinades, flavored syrups (like the ones you put in your coffee) and salad dressings. Gluten can also be found in soy sauce, chicken, beef and vegetable broths, gravy and in sushi rice thanks to wheat vinegar.
This is why you have to read every single label, and if you aren’t sure about something put it down and walk away.
I’ve had breakdowns in grocery stores while reading label after label of items that say the most depressing words ever: “contains wheat” or “may contain traces of wheat”.
Gluten & Celiac Disease
Now that we’ve covered gluten, what it is, and the massive lists of places that it likes to hide, let’s talk about celiac disease and how the two relate.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body starts attacking itself. Destroying the villi (small finger like projections that help absorb nutrients from food) in your small intestines, when gluten is consumed. Making you sick as a dog. A few of the most common symptoms of celiac disease are beyond tolerable gastrointestinal distress, burning sensations in the joints, depression, irritability and eczema.
Gluten issues come in many varieties. The three most common are Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy. Wondering why everyone seems to have celiac disease all of a sudden? As it happens, celiac disease has always been here we just didn’t know what it was in America until about thirteen years ago.
Celiac Disease happens to be one of the most undiagnosed diseases in the United States. For years, people have been told they are suffering from IBS or the symptoms have been written of as countless other things. Approximately 2 million Americans have not been diagnosed and are currently damaging their bodies unknowingly.
Statics show that 1 in 133 people or 1% of the population in the United States has Celiac Disease. However, if you have a direct relative with the disease your risk goes up to a 10-12% chance. This is because Celiac Disease is a genetic disease.
[Tweet theme=”tweet-box-shadow”]Celiac Disease happens to be one of the most undiagnosed diseases in the United States.[/Tweet]
Suspect you may have gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease? A simple blood test can easily detect celiac disease. Further diagnoses after initial blood tests are done through genetic testing and an endoscopy of the intestine to see if there is damage to the villi.
Because of the extensive damage gluten can do to the body, it is important to completely eliminate it from your environment and diet. This means keep a gluten-free kitchen and be-careful about cross-contamination when you eat out or in other people’s kitchens. So, while the gluten-free fad is great for those of us suffering from the disease. It’s also not so great for those of us suffering from the disease.
This is because people who adapt a gluten-free diet for whatever reason, but don’t adhere to it 100% send confusing mixed signals. So if you are gluten-free by choice, do your best not to encourage the idea that it’s just a fad. Don’t pick and choose when you are gluten-free. Don’t order carelessly when eating out, encouraging chefs and wait staff not to take it seriously. It hurts those of us who rely on them to listen to our needs.
For those of you recently diagnosed. It’s a struggle to maintain this new life commitment. I understand. I was a huge offender of thinking I could eat a little gluten here and there. Only making my symptoms worse each time. Take is slow, conquer one challenge a day until you have made it to your 100% gluten free life.
I’ve done my share of searching the web for information on celiac disease and edible gluten-free recipes. Some of the sites and books I’ve found to be helpful are here:
Websites & Blogs:
beyondceliac.org – super informative site with loads of info about gluten and celiac disease
glutendude.com – This site cover just about everything. From info for newly diagnosed, recipes, additional resources as well as a support community.
glutenfreeandmore.com – This is another great site with recipes, helpful info about gluten and celiac disease as well as other food allergies.
glutenfreegirl.com – This blog has great recipes and extensive guides on living and dealing with celiac disease
The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet– I just finished this book and it was beyond helpful. There is a going gluten-free in 30 days or less meal plan and loads of delicious recipes. The book is also full of more resources broken down state by state.
The Gluten Free Revolution – Full of personal stories, tips and recipes. This book has been listed as #1 resource for celiac disease.
Gluten-Free Slow Cooking – I picked this book up at the library and there are so many great recipes I will be buying it for my collection.
Essential Gluten Free Restaurant Guide – You can still eat out and this book will help you do that. Plus it has an expansive list of gluten-free restaurants state by state.
Do you have celiac disease or gluten issues? How long ago were you diagnosed? How did you deal with the struggle of eliminating gluten?