Since our journey into a gluten-free life began, I have spoken to so many people who want to know more about Celiac Disease. Friends and family, friends of friends and family, people I run into at the grocery store or my kids’ school, etc. Some people are just interested to know what it is. Others think they might have Celiac Disease or were recently diagnosed with it and want to know what to do. Some people just want to share experiences and knowledge of food products and recipes. I love to talk about it and share knowledge, but there’s never enough time to get it all said. So, I’ve created this page of resources to further answer their questions or just get them started on a gluten-free life.
What is Celiac Disease? What are the symptoms?
The short answer is Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by ingesting gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, malt, barley and rye. The disease affects people differently and the symptoms may include being in excruciating pain, having diarrhea and other digestive problems, developing a rash, becoming malnourished and developing other diseases as a result, having fertility issues, or even having no symptoms at all. The list of symptoms attributed to Celiac Disease is actually much longer than that. But I’m not a doctor. If you think you may have the disease, I suggest that you review the following websites so you can be prepared with good questions when you talk to your doctor about it.
What can you eat on a gluten-free diet? What can’t you eat?
Celiac.com has a wealth of information on Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet. It maintains a list of food and ingredients that are considered safe and unsafe for Celiacs.
What about medications?
Yes, over-the-counter as well as prescription drugs may contain gluten. A complete list of gluten-free drugs can be found at: www.glutenfreedrugs.com
What about cosmetics and other body products?
Lipsticks, lotions, bubble bath, soap, and other body products can contain gluten. Some people with Celiac Disease seem to be highly sensitive to gluten-containing products. Others seem to be unaffected or mildly affected by them. For more information on gluten-free body products check Gluten Free Cosmetic Counter.
Where do you buy gluten-free food?
Now that’s a big question! Gluten-free food can be found in just about any grocery store if you stay away from processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh meat are gluten-free. You just need to make sure that there aren’t any seasonings, additives or packaging that may have cross-contamination issues.
If you are looking for those processed foods that you are used to eating and using in recipes — well, that may be a little more difficult. But here are some places to start.
Many large retail grocery stores are carrying a limited number of products. They are often in the organic or natural market or special diet sections of the store. Giant, Bloom and Safeway fall into this category.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Trader Joe’s , Wild Oats and local natural foods or organic markets also carry gluten-free products. When we lived closer to it, David’s Natural Market in Gambrills, MD was a favorite of ours for their wide selection gluten-free products.
In addition, there are plenty of websites that also sell gluten-free products. There are too many to list all of them here. Although I have tried and had success ordering from a couple different websites, when it comes to ordering gluten-free food online, I usually go to Amazon. For gluten-free foods specific to babies and toddlers, you may want to consider Ella’s Kitchen.
There are lots of support groups for people living the gluten-free diet.
Chesapeake Celiac Support Group (Annapolis, MD area)
Washington Area Celiac Sprue Support (D.C., No. VA, MD area)
Lone Star Celiac GIG Support Group (Dallas, TX area)
Twin Cities R.O.C.K. (St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN area)
Rochester Celiac GIG Support Group (Rochester, NY area)
Celiac Sprue Association (search for your local area)
Gluten Intolerance Group (search for your local area)
R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Celiac Kids – search for your local area)
Cel-Kids Network (search for your local area)
Celiac.com also has a listing of local support groups.
What about food allergies?
Celiac Disease is sometimes referred to as a food allergy. Technically, it is not. It is an autoimmune disease. Confused? Here’s a good article that explains the difference: “Is Celiac Disease An Allergy?”
I don’t usually address food allergies on this website, but I often find myself talking to many people who have them. Many Celiacs are further burdened by additional food allergies. Families dealing with Autism will typically remove casein (milk protein) as well as gluten from their diets. I also find myself talking to parents at my kids’ school or at the grocery market about food issues. So, this list of websites is for them. These websites are specific to food allergies and may not address food intolerances.