“Each of us in our family arrived at this in a much different way. And it seems to work for each of us in different ways.”
Patti is a mother of four who follows a gluten-free diet, though she doesn’t have celiac disease.
She doesn’t have celiac disease but like many people these day, she and three of her kids follow a gluten-free diet anyway.
“We’ve got two neices who have celiac so we had an awareness of some years ago. Our daughter, our oldest daughter, happened to be in hospital – she was quite ill and tests indicated at the time she had celiac. But because she was so ill they couldn’t properly interpret those results. They suggested that we continue on a gluten diet for 6 months and then have some further testing but she’s also a person with seizures and we had noticed that her seizures were fewer, they were decreased, when she was a gluten free diet. So we opted at that time just to carry on with a gluten free diet for her and that’s been 7 years now.”
What is celiac disease?
According to the Canadian Celiac Association, “celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.”
They estimate that 1 in 133 people in Canada are affected by celiac disease.
Dana is Patti’s niece, a woman in her mid-thirties who is married, has two boys aged 3 and 1, and is a lawyer working in downtown Vancouver. She started suffering from low iron 8 years ago, eventually did the testing, and discovered she was suffering from celiac disease.
What is gluten?
“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, barley. In the case of wheat, gliadin has been isolated as the toxic fraction. It is the gluten in the flour that helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents crumbling. This feature has made gluten widely used in the production of many processed and packaged foods.” – Canadian Celiac Association
The key for Dana was to shift the focus of her thinking.
“I think when you first get diagnosed, for me anyway, it was an issue about needing to change your mind focus from what you are not allowed to eat to what you can eat. And once you’ve made that shift, it’s very easy to realize that a lot of what you ate before is still fine. And that it’s very easy to eat gluten free, if you want to make the substitutes for bread and pasta and that kind of thing, you can, so at home I eat almost the same meals as I used to, just with the right substitutes. But when you actually focus on what’s available to you, there’s so much variety. So it’s a mental shift? Definitely, yes.”
What about cooking for family members who are going gluten free?
Patti says it’s not as hard as you think.
“Many dishes are gluten free naturally. If do a roast chicken dinner, well you’ve got the chicken, you’ve got the vegetables. I just put rice flour in the gravy if there is gravy and not everybody likes it anyways. But it’s quite simple. If you keep your cooking simple, it’s very easy to be gluten free.”
Wheat free world
Myshshael discovered 20 years ago she had celiac disease.
Six years ago she did something about it , she developed an app called Wheat Free World.
“I was the third app for gluten free. And basically it was ‘Celiac for Dummies’. So it was describing what the disease is, so there’s an information tab, there’s recipes – I worked with a chef who use to work at Lumiere. We adapted some wonderful recipes so that you could have wonderful food for your family that wasn’t “Ugh, is this gluten free?’. Because at that time it was kind of a taboo, the bread then were door-stoppers and not very great. And now there’s amazing bakeries like The Lemonade on Fraser that is like a French patissierie walking in.”
Patti agrees with Myshshael.
“It used to be that you could only find it in the specialty bakeries and now every grocery store has a gluten free section so there are more and more options. And bread in particular seems to be that more companies are taking that on as just one of their offerings. There’s certainly more packaged things that you can buy, mixes that are already there for you, pancake mix or cake mixes or muffin mixes, things like that.”
The gluten-free taste test
We brought in a few different recipes for staff to try; Cheese shortbread, Mexican wedding cakes and peanut butter cookies.
The favourite? Peanut butter cookies. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the baker to part with all of her recipes, except for the cheese shortbread below.
Is this just a passing fad?
But what about critics who says this gluten-free thing is just a fad or the scientific studies that support or call into question gluten sensitivity.
And as someone with celiac disease, Dana doesn’t mind the trend.
“I do think that the gluten free trend has helped me and other people with celiac because it’s raised awareness in restaurants and its created a desire for more gluten free products and more variety. So I’m benefiting from the trend but I haven’t really engaged in that debate.”
Going gluten free – maybe it’s not such a big deal.