Friday, July 23, 2010

Guest Blogger: Celiac Disease

I have mentioned Celiac Disease several times this week. What is it?

Celiac Disease is the inability to digest gluten. Gluten is the compound found in the wheat's endosperm (and many other grains including spelt, barley and to a lesser extent oats) that makes bread springy. The disease manifests in gastrointestinal distress, weight loss and other signs of malnutrition, sometimes skin trouble like eczema, and can lead to lactose intolerance, certain forms of cancer and infertility as the disease progresses. The disease causes a breakdown of the villi in your intestines. As the villi break down the body's ability to absorb nutrients is compromised leading to the before mentioned signs of malnutrition. However Celiac Disease is not a wheat allergy, it is a gluten allergy.

A dear friend of mine TQ was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Since I have spent so much time speaking about wheat and flour this week I asked her to write something about her personal experience with the disease.

Flour was the first seriously processed food, or close to it...according to some things I've read.

Contrary to popular belief, our bodies are not actually meant to consume refined flour. Those of us with Celiac Disease and other wheat or gluten intolerances are throw-backs to 10'000 (think that's right but you can look it up) years ago when land cultivation was getting underway in a major way. That's why we can't actually digest the protein gluten, cause we aren't supposed to. It's a foreign protein. I've read this same thought in several of the CD readings. It really struck me since the USDA and FDA recommend ridiculous amounts of flour based foods. If you were a hunter/gatherer, flour would not have been part of your diet at all.

I am very lucky in that my CD seems relatively minor in comparison to some folks I've met. I can tolerate very small amount of gluten, like breading on chicken or if it's hidden in a soup I'm ok if it's a small quantity. If I surpass the magic number though, which I do regularly because it's hard to know how much gluten an item contains if there's no label (like at restaurants or if I simply don't read the label) then I will know within two hours. Some people can't even share a toaster with gluten eaters. They have separate utensils, cutting boards, pots and pans. If they get even a whif of gluten, they will have painful symptoms. Celiac is progressive, so presumably I will be like that some day...this is also why some folks don't get diagnosed till later in life.

Life is livable with CD. In a way it's motivation to eat the kind of diet COB is touting, which is much more in line with what our bodies are designed to consume. The things that are healthiest usually don't contain gluten. The things that are made especially gluten free, like GF bread, GF pasta, GF cookies, are harder to get a hold of and expensive. And more over, even though they're ok, they really don't taste as good as their gluten-y counterparts. So in some ways it's easier to go without since eating the real thing brings on severe pain and the replica only tastes so-so and makes you yearn for the real thing even more.

You would be surprised where gluten can be found. It's everywhere! Even modern American soy sauce is made with a gluten derivative, even though it never was before and shouldn't be. It is. Wheat, barley and rye derivatives add texture, flavor and act as preservatives at times. So they sneak into just about everything with a label on it, even your vitamins and pain killers like Tylenol. Unless that label says GF on it, there's probably gluten or a gluten derivative. And there's a reason for it. It rocks. As bad as it is for us, it tastes sooo good. So much of taste is about texture too. My rice flour bread tastes ok, but it's so brittle and crumbly. I opened a new bag the other day and the whole loaf just crumbled out of the bag. No sandwich for me. :( At least once a week I give in and have a real sandwich or pizza or Chinese food and then spend the rest of the evening in the bathroom. It's like the equivalent of drinking too much cause it's fun while it lasts, knowing you'll pay for it later!

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