TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Knitter's Tips on Dealing with Celiac Disease

Diane (left) visiting me in 2010

When something goes wrong with me, I ask Diane.  Waaaahhhhhh! Now this is hurting or aching or acting like such and such...  She seems to have been through it all and most recently, has put up quite the valiant fight against breast cancer.  She's diabetic, has had a knee replaced, had surgery for carpel tunnel, has sleep apnia, and the list goes on.  Does that stop her?  No way!

Off she traipses to some foreign country or drives to New Mexico to visit favorite haunts. A retired chemistry teacher, Diane is a scientist and approaches everything matter-of-factly.  This is the problem and this is solution.  Diane is also an avid knitter and I have benefited greatly from her talent: neck warmers, leg warmers, booties, fingerless gloves.....  Wonderful!

Margaret showing one of her unfinished jackets.

Then, there is Margaret from my local fiber art group.  We received an email last week saying that she has been very ill and was diagnosed with celiac disease.  Here is the Mayo Clinic's definition:

Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.
Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment.
No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease by changing your diet.
Our Paducah Fiber Artists group meets monthly at one of the member houses.  We share a pot luck dinner and then gather around for a show and tell.  The meals are usually an unplanned, sumptuous banquet and the sharing time is inspiring, a definite highlight to my month!  Increasingly, however, we need to be more sensitive to the dietary restrictions of our group members.  We have vegetarians, diabetics, and now, celiac disease to contend with.  I guess if we all stick to salads and wine, we'll be just fine, eh?

Margaret showing one of her pencil drawings.

I asked Diane, who has been gluten free for years now, for some advice on what she would recommend for  Margaret.  Diane was very ill many years ago, before gluten free products were as available as they are today and along with her physician, diagnosed her problem.  She excluded the top foods that produce food allergies from her diet (peanuts, wheat, soy, etc.) and then reintroduced them one by one until she got really sick on wheat.

Margaret lives out in the country, so it will be especially challenging for her to get products that she might enjoy, so I thought Diane could help with some online resources.  I thought her response to me was extremely valuable (that good ole' scientist again!) and could be of  help to others so she gave me permission to share it here;

Diane with Mitchie
The single best online source I know is the Gluten Free Trading Company, www.gluten-free.net, which is in Milwaukee.  They carry 1500 items, all GF.  Bob’s Red Mill, www.bobsredmill.com, is a good source for grains, a variety of mixes, GF oatmeal, and a good GF hot cereal.  There is a GF section on their website.

Health food stores often have a selection of GF foods.  And here are some other suggestions for regular supermarket shopping, where the sticker shock may not be so great:

Pasta.  I have bought GF pasta (rice pasta) at Walmart.  You DO need to be careful cooking this—it can turn from hard to mush in a blink, so you have to keep testing it.   Sometimes what’s on the package doesn’t work for me. Japanese brown rice pasta is excellent, and so are most of the ones from Italy.  I can buy tofu noodles in my supermarket, but it’s a huge market.

Soup.  Most soups such as all Campbells, last time I checked, are not GF.  Many of the Imagine and other brands in the cardboard quart containers ARE ok, but you have to read every label.  Avoid “modified food starch” in these and all foods as it is often wheat starch.  Progresso has a number of gluten=free soups and Progresso labels everything for allergens.  So, as long as the list at the end of the ingredients doesn’t include wheat, you should be fine.  The Vegetable Wild Rice is my favorite.

Cereals.  Most cereals are sprayed with barley malt (for crispness)—a no, no.  Rice Chex, Corn Chex, the chocolate Chex, and one other variety are labeled Gluten Free on the front of the package.

Cake Mixes.  Betty Crocker has several cake mixes and a brownie mix that are labeled GF.  Many other companies have GF mixes; some are better than others.  All are more expensive than the Betty Crocker. 

Bread.  A toughie.  And most GF breads are awful and worse, even when toasted.  An exception is Udi’s bread and baked goods.  Their website DOES list two health food stores in Paducah as carrying Udi’s products, which I consider worth the price.  And Margaret probably needs to buy a new toaster, to be kept just for gluten-free.  Same goes for bread-making machines and wooden cutting boards.  They simply cannot be cleaned well enough to get rid of gluten contamination. 

There are many websites online with gluten-free recipes.  The problem is that you can’t just take your favorite recipe, cookies , biscuits, or piecrust, for example, and just substitute rice  or other flour—they’ll probably turn out inedible.  

Gluten free foods can often be much more expensive than their mainstream counterparts, causing  what is called “sticker shock”.  The excess expense associated with GF foods  is the reason the IRS allows celiacs deductions for GF food when one itemizes.   I no longer itemize, but it seems like a lot of bookkeeping would be involved with making this option worthwhile.

So, I hope these tips will help those of you out there who have to deal with living gluten free.  I heard someone say once, and have no idea if this is true, that the best way to avoid food allergies is to eat a varied diet and to stay away from chemically processed foods.  Diane's cousin has been tested for a genetic cause in her disease, one that may lie dormant until the body is stressed for other reasons.  Whatever the case, my hope is to see Margaret's joyful face back in our regular meetings, full of spunky Southern spice in her wonderful stories!

I did have a little chuckle in thinking about this post as it is about "fiber" AND "fiber artists".   And, if you know of any other online resources or would like to share your experiences, please feel free to leave a comment.

Margaret's husband, Fred, makes wild sculptures out of gourds.


No comments:

Post a Comment

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts with Thumbnails