Monthly Archives: January 2010
Food is such a huge part of our culture that a serious problem with foods containing gluten can seem like a jail sentence. What do you say when your friends, family, or co-workers want to go out to a restaurant? True, in some major cities you can find a handful of restaurants which specifically cater to people with wheat intolerance or celiac disease, but in a lot of places, that isn’t the case.
First off, don’t be ashamed or hesitant to tell your friends and co-workers the reason for your reluctance. More and more people are becoming aware of food allergies and intolerance these days. If someone replies insensitively, just keep it light. Explain that accidental exposure makes you sick enough that it’s just not worth it to you to take the chance. Such people aren’t generally trying to be hurtful; they simply don’t understand.
When it comes to choosing restaurants, call ahead. Clearly state your problem with . Ask if they have a gluten-free menu. If not, ask if they can accommodate you with some simple gluten or wheat free recipes. If your sensitivity is very high, ask if they will clean pans and utensils before cooking your meal, to avoid cross-contamination. Most places will find it easier if you offer specific suggestions: vegetables steamed and drizzled with olive oil and herbs; a baked potato; a plain steak or chicken breast, un-marinated, with salt and pepper. Many places will have ingredients like these on hand, and will be willing to work with you, especially if you give them some warning by calling ahead.
It’s more common for large chains to have dedicated gluten-free menus, but if you can’t find such a chain and need to ask for special dishes, your best bet is usually locally owned Mom and Pop restaurants. This is because most chains get their food pre-prepared, meaning that the gluten-contaminated breading or marinade or whatever is already on the food. Mom and Pop shops are more likely to cook from scratch, giving them more flexibility for special food requests.
Take notes. If a place is rude about your requests, don’t spend your money there. If they say they’ll accommodate you and you end up getting sick because they goofed, don’t spend your money there a second time. Eventually, you will find a selection of places where you can eat safely and happily. It may not be a huge selection, but there’s something to be said for eating where you have a bit of a personal relationship with the staff because you’re a regular customer.
You’ll feel good because you’re spending money with people that you know, who value you enough to go the extra mile for your health and safety. They’ll feel good because they’ve gained a customer for life by giving exceptional customer service– and will possibly gain many more customers when word gets around that they are food-allergy friendly.
In another outrage against people with celiac and gluten allergy symptoms, healthcare giant American Community Mutual Insurance cancelled 17-year-old Brianna Rice’s coverage after her diagnosis of celiac disease, citing earlier non-specific complaints like dizziness and fatigue as evidence that her parents had lied on her health insurance application.
Now, with the family facing financial ruin and after significant pressure from media and government, they have reversed their decision. But does this sort of thing go on all the time?
Every parent of a child with wheat intolerance or celiac disease worries about accidental exposure to gluten. Foods containing gluten seem to be everywhere. But food isn’t the only potential source of gluten exposure.
One source that you may not have thought of is– of all things– fingerpaints. Yes, fingerpaints generally contain gluten, and with children of a certain age, you can bet that fingers, and the paint on them, will end up in little mouths at some point. While it just kills us to see children excluded from normal childhood activities, their safety and health has to come first, right?
Fortunately, one company has taken steps to put the messy fun of fingerpainting back in the lives of children with gluten intolerance. Bluedominoes now produces safe, certified gluten free and lead-free fingerpaints, as well as Play Dough, another commonly gluten-contaminated childhood staple. Both use food grade ingredients, all of which are listed on the packaging. They have also been approved by the Celiac Sprue Association.
If you have children who can’t tolerate gluten, consider supporting this innovative company by visiting http://www.bluedominoes.com.
No two ways about it – adhering to a strict gluten-free diet is stressful.
Now, a team of leading gastroenterologists at Rush have designed a new study to find out if mind/body techniques can help people with celiac disease adhere to this very strict diet.
Celiac sufferers have long wondered if their condition runs in families, placing their children at risk for the disease. Only in the last few years has it been practical to have genetic testing done… but is it worth it to do so?
Here’s the low-down:
95% of people who are positively diagnosed with celiac disease via alternate methods such as intestinal biopsy also test positive for a particular gene called H.L.A. DQ2. An additional 5% test positive for the gene H.L.A. DQ8. The practical upshot is, if you don’t have either of these genes, you really don’t have to worry about celiac disease.
However, just because you test positive on one or the other of these genes, it doesn’t mean that you have celiac disease. In fact, only about 2 or 3% of people with these genes will get celiac disease. In other words, not having these genes means you don’t have celiac disease. Having these genes means you have a 2-3% chance of having or getting celiac disease.
This means that the greatest value of genetic testing for celiac lies in cases where celiac disease is suspected, but diagnosis is inconclusive. By acting as a reliable indicator that a person does NOT have celiac disease, genetic testing can ease a patient’s mind, and aid in narrowing down the symptoms to other related conditions such as wheat allergy or wheat intolerance.
Since 60-65% of the population do not carry the genes, and therefore do not have celiac disease, genetic testing can greatly reduce the number of suspected celiac cases.
The bottom line? If you have no symptoms, genetic testing is of limited value. But if you do have symptoms and are struggling with an inconclusive diagnosis, genetic testing that is negative for H.L.A. DQ2 and DQ8 can put your mind at ease and free you to pursue other diagnoses such as wheat allergy or wheat intolerance.
The Globe and Mail have published their Top Ten food-related stories of 2009, and the increasing prevalence of wheat intolerance and celiac disease is right in the thick of things.