Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are you wondering if you may have Celiac Disease?

There are no signs or symptoms that are typical for all people with celiac disease. Signs and symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. People with celiac disease often have general gastric problems, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. Some people with celiac disease may have no gastrointestinal discomfort at all. To make matters of diagnosing celiac disease even more challenging, celiac symptoms can also mimic symptoms of other conditions, such as anemia, Crohns disease, gastric ulcers, irritable bowel, parasitic infection, even skin disorders or nervous conditions. It is not uncommon for celiac disease to present itself with symptoms that are vague. These symptoms can include: dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis), depression, irritability, joint pain, mouth sores, muscle cramps, skin rash, stomach discomfort, and even tingling in the legs and feet. Having celiac disease results in malabsorption of nutrients. Depending on the degree of malabsorption, the signs and symptoms of celiac disease are different among people, ranging from no symptoms, few or mild signs and symptoms, to many or severe signs and symptoms.

Monday, January 25, 2010

From Then Until Now

To give you some background on why I know what I know about Celiac Disease and having to adhere to a diet without gluten, I had a simple out-patient surgical procedure. Not long after coming out of the anesthesia I realized that my feet were on fire. ON FIRE! They didn’t look any different, but from within, I was sure someone had touched a blowtorch to my feet. That was the first hint that something was about to happen. Next came a major drop in my blood pressure. So low they hauled in this huge machine with a blood pressure cuff attached. That was strapped on my arm and became my new best friend. Ultimately I was admitted for an overnight stay. All of my muscles became inflamed and extremely sore to the touch. My eyes became blood red, as in no white at all. I could hardly move. Unfortunately, at that time no one could figure out what was happening to me. Very weird. After 24 hours they sent me home. I was then introduced to a Rheumatologist. A wonderful doctor who I still see every 3 or 6 months. Six long years went by before he was able to determine what exactly was going on with me. A diagnosis of Lupus came first. Then a few years later, after a long haul of weight loss, hair loss, major iron deficiency and constant pain and nausea, a simple blood test was performed. Bingo. 100% sensitivity to gliadin, the protein that makes up gluten. At that time the gold standard for Celiac Disease was a scope down into your intestine to snip a piece of tissue for testing. Not necessary for me. I was 100%. That was so long ago that there was not much information out there. Luckily for me, I had some computer experience at my full time job. After spending some time at the local library I jumped full speed into the internet, which of course I knew nothing about. I had to know what this Celiac Disease thing was. The first thing I found was a website called Back then it was the best source of information out there and still is. It is always the first place I tell people to go who need information. If you or a loved one is newly diagnosed please go directly to this website. It can be overwhelming with information but take it slow. Probably the first thing you want to know is what you can’t eat and what you can. There is a comprehensive list of all foods legal and illegal for us GF people. This list became my bible. You get really good at reading labels as well. Grocery shopping can be painful. Reading all those labels makes you want to take a pillow & your sleeping bag with you. You feel like you’ll never get out of there, and then you don’t want to go back. To help with that, I bought a little address book. Using the A-Z tabs, I wrote in all the gluten free items that I thought I would ever buy from a grocery store. On each page I also wrote the items that were “toxic” or “illegal”, alphabetically of course. This book was about 4” x 5” in size and easily fit into my purse. For any item that I bought I refer to that book and don’t need to read the label of that product. Of course, back then I couldn’t find anything that I could eat that had a label. I also included those crazy ingredients that no one knows what they are. lists those as well so you will know what they are and if you can have them. After a while you learn which ones you can have and which ones you can’t and you won’t need to use the book. I haven’t used my book in years, but I know right where it is if I need it. That’s the best advise I can give you in the beginning. Get to know that food list really well, it will make your life so much easier. Following is my favorite recipe. This is a simple muffin recipe that comes from my favorite cookbook, The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, Revised Edition by Bette Hagman. It has become a staple for me and takes the place of bread as I used to know it at all times. It only takes a few minutes and in no time you have warm, really good muffins. I make them plain when I am feeling hungry for bread. If you want something sweet add chocolate chips and walnuts. If you are feeling nutty add nuts and some raisins. This recipe is so versatile it will hold up to just about anything you want to throw in. Unfortunately, sometimes homemade gluten free food doesn’t keep well. I find that if I put these muffins in an airtight container, they “sweat” and become soggy. Still edible, but not as good on the second day. Also, if you leave them out uncovered they become little hockey pucks. Sounds odd, but I have found that putting them uncovered in my microwave oven to keep (be sure to remind everyone they are in there), they keep the best. They don’t usually last long anyway. Enjoy!!

Throw the sugar in the bowl with the shortening (I am using Crisco).

Cream together. This works best with a wire whip. Keep going, this will be muffins in the end, I promise.

Add 2 eggs. These are 2 beautiful brown, home grown ones from a local grower. I am lucky enough to have a father-in-law who loves to bring these home from his friends the egg people, and pass them out to those in his life. Eggs are his thing.

Beat those eggs in, builds up those arm muscles. This looks a little soupy, that's OK.

Sift the flour, salt, xanthan gum and baking powder into another bowl. Always too many utensils to clean up.

Milk, it does a body good. Anyway, now alternate adding the milk & the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Be gentle. No overbeating here. Last, fold in the vanilla.

This is what you have, ready for the muffin pan!

Fill er up.....

So good!

....and the winner is.....homemade muffins slathered with butter and honey, a little piece of heaven.

Quick and Easy Muffins

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
2 eggs
1 cup GF flour, or all rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 milk or nondairy liquid
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease 8 muffin cups or use liners
In the mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening. Then beat in the eggs.
Sift together the flour, salt, xanthan gum and baking powder and add to the egg mixture alternately with the milk. Don't overbeat. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour into muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I can't have Gluten, what the heck is that?

I was thinking today about how hard it was "back in the day" to find information on Celiac Disease and learning to live without wheat. That was about 15 years ago. There was not much available on the internet at that time let alone websites about having Celiac disease or being gluten free. I spent a lot of time at the library and in bookstores trying to get my hands on anything that I could that might help me learn to cook in a way that seemed completely foreign to me. The very first cookbook that I found was called The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, Revised Edition. The inside cover says it was first published in 1990. I still use this cookbook. It is tattered and the pages are bent and soiled, much like my beloved Betty Crocker's Cookbook that came as a wedding gift. The basics of gluten free cooking and gluten free baking came to me from this book. There is nothing fancy about it. It is well written and to the point. It is as much a manual for the newly diagnosed Celiac or anyone who needs to be gluten free as it is a book full of recipes. The recipes are simple to understand and just as easy to put together. There is more information packed in this one little cookbook than most medical books I have found on the subject. If you are just entering the world of glutenless eating (not sure that's a word) you need this book. Don't be afraid, jump right in.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I am gluten free and you are too, or you probably wouldn't be here!

I've started this blog to share my experiences with Celiac Disease. I was diagnosed 15 years ago and have been living a gluten-free lifestyle ever since. Researching and finding information then was very difficult, not like today where you are literally a click away from all the information you need to get you going. Even though the information out there today is readily available that doesn't mean that it is easy to put into practice. Cooking and baking with gluten-free ingredients is just not the same as cooking and baking with wheat flour or other ingredients containing gluten. Learning to cook gluten-free is an art and not easily mastered by everyone. You have to be persistent and dedicated. No matter how many failures you have to keep trying. Practice makes perfect in the truest sense of the word. You will find that certain ingredients work in some recipes while those same ingredients won't work in other recipes, or won't work as well. Most recipes will take several tries to end up with something edible and ultimately good. I hope to help you through that process with this blog. If some of my ideas make your day a better one than it will have been worthwhile. Happy cooking to you!