I had a lot of fun walking through the gluten free section at the expo at #FNCE and saw a lot of great g-free products – some old and some I hadn’t seen before. Then later, I got to sit in on a really interesting session called “Celiac Disease: It’s Not Just the Digestive Tract” with Alessio Fasano, MD and Carren Sellers, MMSc, RD, LD, CDE.
By now, most people have at least heard of Celiac Disease, or might even know of someone who has it. It’s become much more commonly diagnosed over the years, mostly due to new diagnostic developments.
I wrote a session summary below and included links to some of the exhibit hall gluten-free products.
My key “take-aways” from the session were that people with Celiac need to be very careful with cross-contamination issues. There is no mandatory labeling for gluten-free so there is a chance products marketed as “gluten free” have traces and can cause a reaction.
Although this was not brought up in the session, I am aware of the gluten-free certification organization — “Products carrying the GF logo represents unmatched reliability and for meeting strict gluten-free standards. GFCO is the leading gluten-free certification program in the world.” You can look for the seal below on products to know they are truly gluten-free.
The other key “take away” was that people could have Celiac disease without GI symptoms that most people expect to feel. For example, iron deficiency anemia or fatigue could be the only symptom. If you aren’t sure you should definitely see a Registered Dietitian who specializes in digestive health.
If you are in the D.C. area, you may want to take a look at my digestive health services. If not, email me anyway and I can help you find a good RD in your area.
Here’s the detailed summary.
What is Celiac?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center the prevalence in the US is 1 in 133; an estimated 97% of those people living with it are undiagnosed.
What are the Symptoms?
If a person with celiac disease eats foods with those ingredients they might experience GI issues like chronic diarrhea. But one thing the panelists discussed was that many people don’t, and that makes nailing down a diagnosis potentially very difficult. Many people don’t experience any physical symptoms, but instead feel fatigue, and also very commonly anemia. It’s also found to be a co morbidity of Hashimoto Thyroiditis, another autoimmune disorder. Many times family history can also be a factor.
Gluten in Hiding
Many times foods that wouldn’t normally contain gluten can become cross contaminated through processing. Always read labels because many times you’ll see it will say somewhere on the label that it’s processed in a facility that also produces wheat. Labeling requirements are still being sorted out, but some products do carry a seal of approval. Here a few other hidden gluten sources mentioned in the session:
- Coffee flavorings
- Lipstick – the long-lasting kinds
- Imitation seafood – the real stuff is g-free, but not the fake stuff
- Fries – if they’re fried in the same oil as anything battered
- Any contaminated cooking surface
- Oats can potentially be if they’re produced in a plant that also processes wheat products
- “flavorings”, “seasonings” and “smoke flavoring” all can contain barley
- Basically, “when in doubt, leave it out”!
I’m Celiac – Now What?
The good news is, it’s completely treatable. The bad news is that you will need to avoid gluten for the rest of your life, which most likely means a big change to your eating habits.
Walking through the FNCE exhibit hall I found a lot of great products that can be a part of a well balanced gluten free diet. Here are some of the ones I really liked:
- Gluten Free Living Magazine – great articles, tips, recipes and resources for people living with celiac.
- Bob’s Red Mill has a over 70 products that are gluten free including baking mixes and flours
- Pamela’s – she’s been making g-free foods since 1988 including a line of baking mixes
- Udi’s has a really tasty line of g-free breads, tortillas and other baked goods
- San-J – gluten free soy and tamari sauces that taste delicious
- Dried cranberries – I was really excited to hear they’re coming out with 50% lower sugar versions next year!
- Lundberg Rice – they offer a number of rice snack chips for those crunchy cravings as well as pastas, rices, couscous and, of course rice.
- Sorghum flour – a whole grain alternative to wheat flour that’s great for baking. I tried cookies baked with it and they were amazing
Other Helpful Resources
Here are a few resources I found in the expo that I thought might be useful for folks
- www.celiacdisease.net – if you’re newly diagnosed you might qualify for a free Gluten Free Care Package
- www.gluten.net – find local gluten intolerance support groups and educational materials
- Jump Start Your Gluten-Free Diet: Living with Celiac/Coeliac Disease & Gluten Intolerance – download the free e-book put out by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center
- Shelly Case has a great resource guide
- Rachel Begun, The Gluten-Free RD
- InspiredRD blog has great recipes
Does someone you know have Celiac disease and need more information on how to cope?