Saturday, March 3, 2012

0 What is Celiac disease? If you have it, what can you do?

What is it? Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats

The exact cause of celiac disease is unknown. But it may be caused because of our increasingly grain based diet. It is not a food allergy as some believe, it is an auto-immune disease. It now affects 1 in 100 people. If you have celiac disease your family members should also get tested as there is a strong possibility that this disease can run in families. The lining of the intestines contain areas called villi, which help absorb nutrients. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging these villi. This damage affects the ability to absorb nutrients properly. A person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food he/she eats. It also increased the risk of becoming anemic and getting osteoarthritis, bowel cancer and intestinal lymphoma.

The symptoms of celiac disease vary from person to person, which is one reason why a diagnosis is not always made right away. Some symptoms include: abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, nausea, vomiting, bloody stools and unexplained weight loss. Because of the intestines inability to absorb vitamins and minerals the following symptoms may start to develop over time: bruising easily, depression or anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, itchy skin, missed menstrual periods, mouth ulcers, muscle cramps and joint pain, nosebleeds, seizures, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.

Celiac disease can not be cured. However, symptoms will go away and the villi will heal if you follow a gluten-free diet. Do not consume food, beverages, or medicines that contain wheat (durum, einkorn, graham, kamut, semolina or spelt), barley, rye, triticale, malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar and possibly oats (up to ½ cup daily of pure, uncontaminated oats can be tolerated by most celiacs).

Grains/flours that are allowed: rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, arrowroot, teff, flax and nut flours.

Distilled alcoholic beverages and wines are allowed, but beers, ales, lagers that are made from gluten containing grains are not distilled are not allowed.

Frequently overlooked foods that may or do contain gluten: brown rice syrup, imitation bacon, imitation seafood, marinades, processed luncheon meats, sauces/gravies, self-basting poultry, soy sauce, soup bases, communion wafers, herbal and nutritional supplements.

Here are some hints to help you replace flour in your cooking and baking:

Step 1: Swap the flour
Substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour in place of all-purpose regular flour at a ratio of 1:1. Try Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour. If you are baking items such as cakes and/or breads, add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum.

Step 2: Eliminate the flour
Try omitting the flour altogether. If you are craving peanut butter cookies, for example, try this simple recipe: 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 to 2 eggs (depending on how moist you want them to be). Blend ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Yield: six to eight cookies.

Step 3: Create flour mixture
In place of flour in a recipe try a combination of 3 parts white or brown rice flour, 2 parts potato starch and 1 part tapioca flour/starch. Add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum for every 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture.

Step 4: Consider arrowroot powder
Arrowroot powder is another ingredient that can be used in place of xanthan gum. As a general rule, use one-half teaspoon of arrowroot powder for each cup of wheat flour called for in any recipe. Note: Round up if the recipe calls for a partial cup.

Step 5: Experiment with ingredients
Other ingredients in the recipe may need to be adjusted when trying new flours and flour combinations. For example, use 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder for every cup of flour used in a recipe. Some flours also may be a bit dryer, so you may have to add additional liquid ingredients such as water or oil, depending on what the recipe calls for.

If you live in the Sierra Vista area, The Brown Bag Cookie Company makes delicious gluten-free cookies, pastries and breads that they will deliver for free directly to you. If you live in an outlying area, they will deliver to you for a small fee. And if, unfortunately, you live somewhere else in the United States (or if you have an APO/FPO address), they will ship them to you for small shipping fee. Check out their website:

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