(Don't ask about the picture, I just thought it was cool....even though it has nothing to do with the subject!)
When food enters the small intestine, tiny fingerlike projections called villi absorb the nutrients and take them away to the blood stream. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it attacks the villi and makes them inflamed and eventually they shrivel up, flatten out or totally disappear. Without properly functioning villi, the body can not absorb the nutrients it needs. After time, if no gluten is eaten, the villi grow back but not as quickly as they are killed. If you have celiac disease it is very important to not eat gluten. If too much gluten is absorbed, it can lead to serious injury and could result in the body not getting the nutrients it needs. Approximately 3 million Americans have celiac disease.
(Resources: Newsweek, September 17 2007 edition, page 61 "Waiter, Please Hold the Wheat")
A few days ago I interviewed my brother Evan about having celiac disease and living gluten free! Here is some Q and A with Evan,
How do you deal with not eating gluten in school and life in general?
It almost feels right now; I do not feel much different. My friends share food and I can not do that so it becomes annoying. Class trips are difficult to work out. I can not eat what everyone else is eating, so there has to be a totally different meal for me.
Do you miss gluten foods?
When I was diagnosed with celiac I was very young and I did not taste all the different kinds of foods other normal people have everyday. There is no food/dish that I really miss. Pizza I kinda miss, but I do not totally remember what it tastes like. It’s hard to say. I have it easy, my dad was diagnosed with celiac when he was an adult, so he really remembers and misses gluten foods. I try to think of it differently, the positive side, that it is healthier. It's not that I miss gluten as much but the difference between textures and tastes, I wish I could have something new.
Do you wish you could eat gluten?
Usually it's the smell, not the look that does it for me. It's not remembering something that makes me miss it but that I never got to try it, that’s what bothers me. I do wish that I did not have celiac. I am not per se happy to be a celiac. If I wasn’t, there would be more different and yummy kinds of foods but not as healthy kinds of foods. Altogether I do not mind being a celiac. It’s not a terrible thing for me because I do not remember gluten foods, and that makes it easy.
Are there any advantages or good things about being Gluten Free?
You eat healthier; and you get to have something different than what other people are eating. People can buy cake in the grocery store all the time but when I get to have a store-bought gf cake it's new, different and exciting. Biscotti, I probably only had that because it said it was gluten free and we were like oh cool, let's try it. I do not ever remember having biscotti with gluten. So for me some of this stuff is new and different. I do not think biscotti is a very regular thing and I got to eat it! For me it's a real treat to find something gf in a regular grocery store where gluten eaters get their foods too.
How did it feel / what was it like when you ate gluten?
I felt, from what I can remember, nauseous, sleepy, grouchy, drowsy, headache, hot and sweaty and a horrible stomach ache. "...one of the main things is that it is going to be one of the worst nights of your life!" You are up all night and you feel horrible.
What do you eat for breakfast and dessert?
I have a variety of different things I eat in the morning from, bagels, toast to cereal (envirokidz, naturespath). Last year I had a bagel with butter almost every day! As you can tell I love these bagels! The annoying thing is that you have to toast the bread, if you don't it does not taste as good. I miss having soft bread, that most people have every day.
Do you have any advice for people with celiac disease?
Find a place you can order large amounts of gluten free products, like co-op orders. Health food stores have a lot of gluten free products. The Outback Steakhouse has a great Gluten Free menu, that ranges from desserts to full meals, including fresh, soft, Gluten Free bread!!!!
What do you take for lunch at school?
When packing your lunch having veggies is a good idea, because they are a good for you and make a good filling substitute for sandwiches and other main foods. I take some chips, a cookie and some veggies and some other stuff like last night’s dinner or something like that. "...when you are gluten free you are going to have to surrender to veggies..." In my school we do not have a cafeteria so everyone brings their own lunches so I do not feel so strange and left out. A lot of teachers and students in my school know a bit about celiac, so this is really helpful on class trips and stuff like that. In our cooking class our teacher knows almost all the basics about celiac disease so it’s nice to cook and bake something gluten free at school!
Sharing food with other people:
Do not take any food from other people even if you know that the product is gluten free. What happens a lot is that someone will be eating a sandwich and then they reach for some chips. Most likely they do/did not wash their hands before grabbing the chips. The only time that you can be totally sure that the product is gluten free is when you open the bag for the first time and take your chips first. This does not work if the chips are in a zip-lock bag or a container that has been opened and placed into another storage container. The chance of the person who transferred the food into another container using their hands, results in possibly "glutenized" food.
Do you have any tips when shopping for food?
If you find something that you want but are not sure that it's gluten free the first place to start is by looking at the ingredients. Then look to see if it may contain traces of wheat or gluten during processing or packaging. NOTICE: IF IT SAYS WHEAT FREE IT DOES NOT MEAN IT'S GLUTEN FREE!!!!!! If you think it’s ok but not totally sure, go to their web site or email them and ask if this product is Gluten Free. With some items that there is a chance of it being not gluten free, I would advise you not to take this chance. Some people will not give you a direct answer if it's gluten free or not, if so I would advise you not to take the chance.