May 1st marks the start of Celiac Awareness Month and we’ve teamed up with Calvin Eaton of The Gluten Free Chef Blog to talk about this disease and just exactly what gluten is!
Can you believe it’s going to be May already! Time sure does fly when you are having fun and if you anything like me you are having tons of fun this year. Not only is spring in full bloom here in Western, NY but May also happens to mark the official celebration of Celiac Awareness Month.
The National Foundation of Celiac Awareness and life-long gluten-free(ers) like myself dedicate the entire month to casting a wider net in our mission of educating, highlighting, and teaching about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and other gluten-related illnesses. In 2017 it feels like gluten free is everywhere yet for as prevalent as the “term” (and label) is, there are thousands of people diagnosed and even more that: don’t know what celiac disease, gluten, or gluten-free means, don’t consider it to be real, or have a host of misconceptions and false impressions about the illness and the term “gluten-free”. If you fit into any one of these categories then this is the article for you.
All month long I’ll be serving up facts, figures, and nuggets of knowledge to educate and enlighten you on celiac disease, gluten-free, what the terms do mean (as well as what they don’t) as well as how you can shop, eat, cook, and bake for loved ones, friends, and family members that living with celiac disease each and every day using products right here at Harts Local Grocers. So without further adieu…
What is Celiac Awareness Month?
Celiac Awareness Month is an event held throughout the United States each May and is supported by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (and other relevant organizations). This event raises awareness about celiac disease, and highlights the work of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) which provides support for those affected.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disease which damages the small intestine. The small intestine is part of the gut which digests and absorbs nutrients from food. When the small intestine is damaged, the rate of nutrient absorption from food is reduced. Celiac disease can affect people in many different ways and symptoms vary in severity.
How does a person know they have celiac disease?
This is a complicated question. Approximately 3 million people have celiac disease; 21 million people have this disease or are sensitive to gluten. Of the 3 million who have this disease only 5% know they have it. In many cases, a person can go for years where there are no noticeable symptoms. This is called ‘silent celiac disease’.
Symptoms can go undetected for years and by the time a person starts to have issues the list of symptoms usually mimic other illnesses so celiac disease may not be the first illness suspected. If you or someone you know suspects that they have celiac disease the best way to find out is to consult with a rheumatologist or other medial professional. Only through a blood test of intestinal biopsy can one be officially diagnosed with celiac disease. However some people have a negative blood panels but still cannot tolerate gluten. In this case you know your body best and if certain foods like wheat make you ill stay away from them no matter what the blood work says.
People with ‘minor celiac disease’ have minor symptoms. These can include a wide range of symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, weight loss, and mild abdominal pain.
People with ‘major celiac disease’ have severe symptoms which can be of great discomfort. These may include ‘minor celiac disease’ symptoms which are more severe, and other symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea and muscle spasms. The only known cure at this time is a strict gluten free diet.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as barley, wheat and rye. Consumption of gluten can affect the whole body and can be a slow killer in persons with celiac disease
What foods are gluten-free?
- Whole fruits and veggies including fruit juices
- Milk and eggs
- Oils, Butter
- Seeds and nuts
- Beans & Legumes
- Corn, rice, tapioca, sorghum, coconut, and almonds including their flours and starches
Is gluten-free food healthier?
One should look at the ingredients and nutritional content of any and all foods consumed. Foods labeled gluten free are not necessarily “healthier” nor better for you than any other foods. Hart’s has large selection of healthy whole foods in the produce department and healthier processed snacks that are free of preservatives, added salt sugar, and fat like ancient grains, Snyders, and Enjoy Life.
Most nutritionists recommend diets high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. As a rule consuming whole real foods free from preservatives, sugar, and empty calories is the way to go. When selecting processed foods looking at labels and brands that keep whole foods whole and free from all the guck that makes the body unhappy.
How can I prepare food for someone with celiac disease?
Individual sensitivity levels vary greatly with celiac disease. Some folks require food to be prepared in totally gluten free environments while others are ok as long as utensils, cookware, and appliances are wiped down and sanitized thoroughly. The best rule of thumb is to purchase pre made items from a certified gluten free kitchen or an establishment that uses separate cook ware and utensils. If you are the one preparing the food, make sure you sanitize all utensils, cutting boards, and cookware with a bleach water solutions and vinegar. Also preparing the gluten free food first and 24-48 hours after you prepare gluten full foods. This is especially important when baking or cooking with wheat flour as dust particles can linger in the air for hours. When frying, using fresh cooking oil and fry the gluten free items first is ideal.
As cliché as it sounds, knowledge is power and once equipped with the basics gluten free living is honestly pretty simple. The most important facts to remember are:
- Whole real foods veggies, fruits, and meat are always gluten free
- When buying processed foods check labels and look for gluten free labels or symbols
- Celiac disease is real, complex, and symptoms may not be visible to you but the effects are very real.
- When cooking for someone with celiac disease asking questions and clarifying is best, never make assumptions
- Gluten free food can be healthy but isn’t necessarily healthier than other food
- When menu planning stick to the basics, keep it simple and purchase pre-fab baking mixes from trusted brands
- Visit theglutenfreechefblog.com for more recipes, information, and brands to purchase
Gluten free food is not only safe for celiacs but really fine for anyone to eat. Even for those not following a gluten-free diet. It’s really just about whole real food that is cooked with love. Be open minded and willing to try knew ingredients and you never know; quinoa may just become your new favorite food.
Want to learn even more? Check out these 3 ways to learn about Celiac Awareness Month and being gluten-free:
- Join Calvin on May 13th from 2pm-4pm where he’ll be in-store to talk more about celiac awareness and to debut two new gluten-free desserts.
- Sign-up to join him for an in-store gluten-free shopping tour on May 27th from 2pm-4pm
- Visit www.theglutenfreechefblog.com