Wednesday, June 6, 2012

gluten freeeeeeee

Another weekend of brunch with my sister, who just got a job working at an ad agency. Fancy schmancy. So lucky to spend another weekend with her. Maybe she's not so lucky to spend another weekend chasing me around thrift stores, convincing her that everyone should own a terrarium, reaching new levels of hyper off too much coffee, and getting excited about giant bottles of sriracha at marie catrib's.

Which by the way was absolutely fantastic. This was (half?!) a portion of  local eggs in a tortilla with hand seasoned potatoes and homemade salsa. There's something kind of fantastic about brunching outside while watching everyone come back from the farmers' market carrying awkward plants and bags of produce. It's comforting, kind of like we're on the same wavelength despite being complete strangers. I like that.

So although May (and nat'l celiac awareness month) just passed us by, I decided that it's not too late to write about Celiac disease. I see a lot of patients with this disease at work, and it's always amazing to me how families adapt//don't adapt to a new eating lifestyle.

what is celiac disease (CD)? 

CD is a genetic autoimmune disorder which affects ~1% of the US population. When a person with Celiac disease consumes gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, and rye, their body's immune system attacks the cells of the small intestine, causing inflammation. The small intestine contains many small finger-like projections called villi, which serve as sites of nutrient absorption. In CD, the villi are often blunted or show signs of cell overgrowth, causing malnutrition. 

how is it diagnosed? 

Blood tests for antibodies (TTG and EMA) may indicate a negative response to gluten. A person then undergoes an endoscopy biopsy (scope), where samples of their intestinal tissue are harvested and examined for presence of CD. A positive response to a gluten-free diet confirms the diagnosis. 

how is it treated? 

Those with CD must follow a life-long gluten free diet. Even a small amount of gluten in the diet can be harmful; not everyone will continue to experience symptoms, but they will continue to damage their intestinal cells if they consume gluten-containing foods. 

what about the weird//questionable ingredients?

  • Dextrin – May be derived from corn, waxy maize, waxy Milo, potato, arrowroot, wheat, rice, tapioca, or sago.  Avoid wheat sources.
  • Caramel Color – Safe in the U.S.
  • Modified Food Starch – if wheat is used, the ingredient list will state, “Contains wheat” or “Made on equipment that processes wheat”.  
  • Starch – if wheat is used, the ingredient list will state, “Contains wheat” or “Made on equipment that processes wheat”.  
  • Seasonings and spice blends or mixes (check labels, call companies
  • Baking powder: may contain wheat starch; Rumford Baking Powder - Non-Aluminum and Clabber Girl Baking Powder are gluten-free according to website

Cross contamination is a huge issue when trying to discern safe foods. Even if a food does not contain gluten, there is a chance (especially for grains) that it has come into contact or been processed in a facility that process a gluten-containing grain. The best way to find out if a product is safe is to directly call the manufacturer.

references and resources 

And here's one gluten free recipe I've been experimenting with. Sort of like Larabars in a different form (based on this recipe)

gluten free granola bites

1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup almonds 
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon

*make sure all ingredients are GF//not cross contaminated!

Blend in food processor until moderately smooth. Scoop into bite sizes portions. Pack as work//school//whenever snacks. 

Let me know if you have questions or good recipes (especially for gluten free breads) that you think others might love to try...


  1. Great information Emily. Sometimes I get confused though, when companies start to use random ingredients like barley instead of wheat (for example, I once saw some type of modified yeast, which is normally made with wheat, made with barley!). I wouldn't have known it was made with barley unless it had been in parenthasese after the ingredient (some companies don't do this). It's crazy how difficult this can be!!!
    Thanks for the recipe, and I hope you're doing well!!

  2. Great post! Definitely saving that avoid/safe list for future meetings with clients :)

  3. Yes! It is from my shop! Here's the link:

    Also! Thank you for all this info on Celiac's disease! I've heard about it, but never knew the details. This was super informative.

  4. I always stunned when I hear that only 1% of the population suffers from gluten intolerance. It seems with the popularity of the gluten free diet there would be more. Nonetheless, I do think that having a gluten lightened diet can help to balance out meal - wheat is so hard to avoid. The granola bites look like a great snack.

  5. Good post on Celiac disease. I seem to have a lot of friends that suffer from it and i can't believe how many things have gluten in them.

    Just recently a good friend went in for an endoscopy & she found out she didn't have CD, but a severe LACTOSE INTOLERANCE. Can you imagine? She'd been gluten-free for 3 years. Needless to say she ate a lot of cinnamon rolls for a while :)

  6. wow thanks for the post on CD. i am gluten sensitive and get really bad stomach aches from eating gluten. but i didn't have CD when i got tested for it. i really miss the farmer market days in michigan! wish i were there to enjoy the peaceful weekend mornings, dining at cafes, people watching... too! :) ps - the ice pop molds are from whole foods!

  7. Love the glasses!!

    Also love the sound of this recipe. I see a lot of recipes like this with dates, but raisins sound better to me...

  8. oh, how I miss those summer farmer's markets....

    A doc just told me to get checked for this. I am hypothyroid, but super bloated and cold and gaining weight. yuck....
    this information is crucial to so many. But what is your take on OAS?

  9. My mom has had celiac since I was four years old, so she's been eating gluten free since before I can even remember! Companies have come a longggg way in making gluten free food that is much more mom used to eat rice cake sandwiches, then when gluten free bread came around, she had to mail order it from Seattle! Crazy.

    I find it interesting that some people say they just feel better when they're not eating gluten, and I kind of roll my eyes since my mom gets violently ill when she eats even a small amount of gluten. Maybe people feel better because they're not longer eating a ton of crap? I've always wondered that. End rambling...


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