Where Can I Find Out What I Need to Know?

In today’s internet age, most of us who get a diagnosis to start a gluten free diet, hit the internet and hit it pretty hard.  I remember, at the beginning, staying up late at night because I’d read some information that contradicted information I’d read earlier.  What was wrong? Could sources not agree on the facts?  If those in the know couldn’t agree, how was I ever to get it right?

After meeting with my dietitian, I was introduced to the website for the Canadian Celiac Association http://www.celiac.ca.  She told me that this site is vetted by qualified doctors in the field and is well respected internationally.  I later found out that other sites for different organisations have differing agendas and are not necessarily reliable.  So now I had a reliable source for information, and I couldn’t absorb it quick enough.  I wanted to understand all the terms, all the meanings of the bloodwork results, the definitions, the exact scope of intestinal damage, and what “parts per million” actually meant.  It all seemed a bit much, but I had to get a handle on this thing.

The reading and investigating, and late nights on the internet, even on the reliable site, caused me such anxiety.  How could I do this? How could anyone do this? So much to know.  So much to change.  I remember one day, very early on, I had made contact with another mother who was also celiac, and she suggested I come by for a visit and chat.  The day before we planned to meet, was a busy one for me.  I had a meeting in the morning, a playgroup with my youngest and later had to take both kids to their swimming lessons – regular busy Mom stuff.  My mind was not really into everything yet and I thought, no problem, can’t stop for lunch, so I’ll throw a granola bar into my bag and have it while the kids are at swimming. Oats aren’t wheat, and I’d read somewhere that I could have oats.  I was busy, this would work.

I ate the granola bar.  The reaction was swift and brutal.  I was not able to drive home.  I was unable to function from the pain.

I rallied somewhat the next day and was anxious to speak to my new friend about what had happened.  She taught me that not all oats are created equal and although oats were actually gluten free, as I had read, by the time they are processed, we can’t eat them.

I now make the most amazing             Oatmeal Cookies.

I would go on to make more mistakes and learn more each day about how to manage my diet.  It was a very happy day for me when I was actually able to buy “pure” gluten free oats that were specifically processed for people who could not eat gluten.  Oats are now a regular part of my diet, but I will never forget what happened when I didn’t get it right.





Why Me?

cropped-dscn1557.jpgWe have all asked this question many times.  There is no real answer, but there are thoughts to ponder.  If you ask your doctor or your friends, they will answer with things like – “I bet you had some Irish ancestors” (it does seem to appear more in the Irish population), or “the incidence is just under 1%, so you’re it!”

I prefer to look at the diagnosis completely differently.  It is not easy.  It is hard, unsociable and sometimes downright depressing.  But, I consider myself and my daughter, lucky.  We have an autoimmune condition that we will have for life, but unlike other autoimmune conditions, ours can be completely controlled by a diet.  If you ask others who suffer from serious autoimmune conditions about their struggles, you’ll likely hear about a series of doctor visits, treatments, costly medications and the inevitable side effects.  We are spared most of this.  There is no medication, there are no specialist treatments and the side effects of a gluten free diet, are more good than bad.

I am reminded of a customer coming into the bakery late one day, not long before closing. I had finished my work in the kitchen, the other staff had left for the day, and I was working in the shop.  An older gentleman came in, looking very upset.   He explained that his wife was in the car, and they had just come from a doctor’s appointment.  She has been sick for a long time and finally got the diagnosis of celiac disease.  He was frustrated and concerned.  I said, “that’s great” (maybe not the best response).  He looked cross and said, “I guess you didn’t hear me, she has celiac disease and now she has to eat this food.”  We went on to have a discussion about what celiac disease was and how a gluten free diet can treat it.  I told him, I’d rather have celiac disease than almost anything else her symptoms may have suggested.  No pills, no special treatments, no side effects – just treatment from healthy food.  She’ll feel better relatively quickly and many of the effects of the disease will go away.  I told him she can eat any meat, any fish, any fruit, any vegetable, it just depends how it is prepared.  We continued our discussion, as now he was getting excited.  I sold him some bread and baked goodies and he left, saying he couldn’t wait to tell his wife how lucky she was.  Job Done!

Being celiac, or gluten intolerant, isn’t like winning the lottery, but when you are ravaged with digestive issues, often for years, a diagnosis is a welcome relief.  The diagnosis of celiac disease starts a new chapter in your life, but one that is manageable, and one with lots of promise for better days to come.









Gluten Free – How Can That Be?

Wdscn1486e all remember the day a doctor told us to eat a gluten free diet.  In my case, it was just before Christmas.  I did a bit of research about what gluten was, but distinctly remember telling a friend, “that it can’t mean not having any gluten or wheat, that didn’t seem possible – he must just mean you have to count it or something”.  I was wrong, and after dabbling with gluten free for a few days, gluten did me in on New Year’s Eve.

If you have been told you have celiac disease, or are gluten intolerant or maybe have irritable bowel syndrome, or another digestive issue and you should be eating a gluten free diet, it means NO GLUTEN.  It’s a difficult concept in our day and age, with so much choice out there in yummy ready to eat foods (note, I didn’t say healthy ready to eat foods).

Gluten – we all have a definition in our minds as to what gluten is.  We’ve researched on the internet and asked other people.  We expect that when asking a medical professional, we’ll get the most accurate answer.  You may be surprised to hear an accurate answer from a trained baker or chef.  Gluten is the part of wheat that makes the grain strong and elastic.  We’ve all seen when a bread maker is taking the dough and punching it, then using their hands to knead it, or pull at it.  This action aligns the gluten in the dough and makes the dough strong.  Too much kneading will develop the gluten too much and cause the bread or dough to be tough.  The gluten is the strength, or glue that keeps the dough stuck together as it rises and bakes, then makes the final product hold together nicely, and even be resistant when you try and pull it apart.  These are properties of food that a baker and chef know very well.  As a consumer, this is your ideal of any bakery product.

If you have celiac disease, and to a lesser extent some of the other conditions mentioned, gluten is poison to your body.  Gluten causes a reaction in the body that is described as an autoimmune reaction by doctors.  I describe it as your body fighting itself.  The gluten is identified by your gut as a poison, then a series of events begin to take place to fend off the poison.  The end result to you is pain, maybe diarrhea, maybe constipation, maybe cramping and tenderness in your abdominal area.  The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten free diet – NO poison.  For some other conditions, a diet low in gluten may be enough to get relief, but you should always start by cutting gluten out completely. Easier said than done.