I’ve been gluten-free for over three years now, and without getting up on my soap box, I know it is a diet that works for me. I used to suffer from all sorts of digestive issues; cramping, bloating, irritability. I would always complain about how my stomach hurt, how I felt fat and gassy, how I felt uncomfortable. In fact, I tried all sorts of other things, including going vegetarian for two years, and what my friend calls a pseudo-gluten-free diet (I ate gluten free-ish, minus beer, when I was in New Zealand… turns out, that is not a gluten free diet whatsoever). Anyway, nothing made me feel better, until my boyfriend’s mother recommended I try out the strict gluten-free thing. She has Celiac disease, and so does her mother and daughter. I am lucky to have a super-supportive boyfriend who, although testing negative to the genetic assays for Celiac disease, threw out his gluten-full pizza and donuts in favor of sharing the same diet as me.
One of the things I have come to appreciate is the ever-expanding market for gluten free goods today. Three years ago, it wasn’t difficult, per se, but it wasn’t as easy as it is now. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like twenty years ago. While the gluten free diet is more expensive than the regular run-of-the-mill diet that includes Wonder bread and Ramen noodles, it does encourage a follower to cook more for themselves, and to learn to love the kitchen. While rice and veggies are a staple in my diet, I am still able to enjoy my lifelong favorite foods, like spaghetti (Tinkyada makes the best gluten-free spaghetti noodles I’ve ever had), peanut butter and jelly (thanks to Larabar), and the best bagels I’ve ever had (gluten free or not) from Against the Grain. Sure, I cut back on grains because spending $7 for a loaf of bread is redonkulous, but it helps me to appreciate the (gluten free) grains when I have them.
My new favorite bakers:
Since moving to St Louis, I have found a few awesome places that cater to the gluten-free folk, and I feel even luckier to have come across a local gluten-free bakery (Free Range Cookies) that distributes their goods all over the metro-STL area. Free Range, if you haven’t already tried it, has the best gluten free baked goods I’ve ever had straight from the source. The owner, Linda Daniels, is a cute, peppy young woman who is seriously on top of her game. I was introduced to FRC because I saw the cocoa crinkle cookies at Kaldi’s, and when I saw they were made in Ferguson, I knew I had to take the hike up there. Granted, it’s not that far from where I live (maybe a 20min drive), and it was totally worth going to the cute town of Ferguson to check out the shop.
Free Range had several different samples to try, and I felt like I could have skipped lunch before going there. I stocked up on all sorts of gluten free goodies, including baguettes (which are doughy on the inside and crispy on the outside, just like gluten-FULL bread is. I don’t know how she does it…), more cookies (I got the almond quinoa and more cocoa crinkles), and even cupcakes. She had all sorts of non-cookie fare, including focaccia, burger buns, and pizza crusts. I couldn’t buy everything, but I did dish out for some biscotti because I love the Free Range chocolate chip biscotti.
Also, a friend of mine recently started a gluten-free diet because she was also having some GI dilemmas, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. She made a few dozen Girl Scout Samoas, gluten free of course, and Baberaham brought them down this past weekend. Ho.ly.crap. They are so good. Crumbly shortbread cookie covered in chocolate, with a sweet coconut sugary ring on top. I felt like I had gone back in time to when I would eat Girl Scout cookies, only I am pretty sure these things were better than the “real” thing! They were bigger, too. So, good on you Sam, for jumping head first into the gluten free lifestyle. You are doing a great job, and I am so proud of you!
And, in the news:
Recently, the Wall Street Journal shared an interesting study from BMC Medicine about gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and gluten intolerance. The article discusses how gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease differs, and it sheds light on different symptoms and classifications of the two disorders. Using gut permeability assays, histology of gut biopsies, and mucosal gene expression, differences between Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity were discovered.
What does this mean? Well, besides the obvious (gluten free diet recommendations for gluten reactivity across the board), there may also be slightly varying ways of treating people with gluten sensitivities. While Celiac disease can be considered an autoimmune disorder, which is now easier to detect based on serological tests for common antibodies, gluten sensitivity is much more difficult to diagnose. When people ask me: “How did you know you needed to be on a gluten free diet? Did you get tested?”, I tell them I just gave up gluten and simply felt better. Even if I had been tested, I may have turned up negative for Celiac disease. But to me, following the gluten free diet made my GI symptoms go away, and that is what mattered the most. This new article in BMC Medicine attempts to uncover whether there may be other ways of diagnosing gluten-reactive disorders, even those that were otherwise considered ambiguous, like gluten sensitivity. There may be a difference between sensitivity (perhaps an innate response) and Celiac (likely an adaptive response), and there may also be potential for the development of molecular diagnostics that can help us to clinically assess each individual issue. Or, the patient can just try the diet, and see if it works. Some people need the answers, and that’s where a study like this can help get us there.