The lifestyles of the gluten free and famous

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Guest Blogger: Abisaac Saraga, Founder of Gluten Free Edmonton

Okay, so gluten free is not really a lifestyle but sometimes famous people are making it out to be.  I’m here to write about what a gluten free diet is, and why it’s not a lifestyle, but really a part of a medical condition called Celiac Disease.

In short, Celiac Disease is a deficiency to the protein gluten that comes from wheat, malt, barley and rye.  It attacks the lower intestine by damaging it, reducing the intake of nutrients causing many symptoms like stomach pains and fatigue.  Currently, the only treatment for Celiac Disease is a permanent gluten free diet.  The Canadian Celiac Association estimates 1 in 133 Canadians are affected by Celiac Disease.

In the entertainment section you can read more about Hollywood stars on a gluten free diet to lose weight.  But really, this is a bad fad diet and doesn’t sit well with the Celiac community:

  1. A gluten free diet does not actually cause weight loss.  In actual fact, gluten free breads are really higher in carbs.  So are they really just trying a low carb diet?
  2. It also may cause false perceptions of the gluten free diet and what it actually means to eat gluten free.  It is my opinion that the fad diet overlooks hidden glutens and cross contamination, therefore not properly educating others about how a gluten free meals are prepared.

My wife was diagnosed with Celiac Disease over two years ago, just weeks before our wedding.  We promised ourselves after our honeymoon the gluten free diet would begin.  The day we landed back home in Edmonton from our honeymoon in San Francisco, was the beginning of healing her body to properly take in the vitamins and nutrients.

We did our research online, contacted the Edmonton Celiac Association and began emptying our cupboards of everything that was not gluten free.  What did this include?  Well, this goes way beyond bread, because there are hidden glutens in many products like BBQ Sauce, Soy Sauce even soups!  Why would there be gluten in those items?  Well, it is common to have a thickening agent in many of these products.  Sometimes wheat is used as the thickener.

So what does this mean when we go shopping?  I’ll steal this quote directly from the Canadian Celiac Association; it means “read every label every time”.  Yes it’s true, every time!  It’s not uncommon for a manufacturer to change ingredients for one of their products.  It’s happened to us before.  We are always reading labels before putting the product in a shopping cart.  Scour the ingredients for gluten, wheat, malt, barley or rye.  We also look to see if the product was made on the same production line as something containing gluten.  Just like a nut allergy, cross contamination will affect someone with Celiac Disease. For example, even using a bread slicer around other cooking utensils and appliances could potentially cross-contaminate.

So how so do we eat out at restaurants?  Similar to shopping, but instead of reading labels, you ask a lot of questions, about what’s in the food, what’s used to make the sauces, are their fillers in the hamburgers?  Do the French fries have a dedicated fryer or are they deep fried with all the breaded stuff?  Can you use fresh utensils when preparing and serving my dish?  It is easy to get comfortable with a place once you know it’s safe, but sometimes it’s good to still ask every time.  Just like a manufacturer changing ingredients, a restaurant can change its recipe or supplier, or have new kitchen staff that might not be as familiar.

Two years ago there was very low awareness about Celiac Disease and the gluten free diet.  However I am happy to say things are looking up.  During our learning curve and all of our research, we started up Gluten Free Edmonton, a Celiac guide to gluten free living in Edmonton.  We appreciated the start-up information the Celiac Association had, but we wanted to share more information with the community here in Edmonton.

Because we were new at this, we were learning along the way:  learning about how to find out about product ingredients, where to eat out, and how to travel.  We thought, heck if we could help a dozen people out with what we learned, that would be great!  Little did we know how many people wanted more information!  Not only people from Edmonton, but across Canada and United States are frequently visiting the blog.  The blog traffic was pretty slow to start, but as we gained popularity and awareness started to rise, Gluten Free Edmonton’s traffic started to soar.

Beyond sharing gluten free information about local restaurants in Edmonton and gluten free recipes, we have been happy to share our experiences, our frustrations, our victories and have been excited to hear back from our readers.

If you want to learn more about Celiac Disease, contact your local Celiac Association chapter, or speak to your doctor.  If you want to learn more about living gluten free, feel free to visit our blog www.glutenfreeedmonton.com or follow us on Twitter @gfreeYEG.  You can also like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gfreeYEG.

For more tips on a Gluten-Free diet, visit our Baking Tips Center

One Response to “The lifestyles of the gluten free and famous”

  1. Stacy Malinow Says:

    Please support my petition for the Girl Scouts to sell a gluten free and allergen free cookie. http://www.change.org/petitions/encourage-the-girl-scouts-to-sell-an-allergen-free-cookie

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