“Oh my aching back!”

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I used to say that all the time before I went gluten-free. Matter of fact, when I get glutened (name for accidently ingesting gluten), the first things that hurt are my back and neck. Thankfully, I don’t have pain anymore, but this week I attended a talk at our local hospital about the damaging effects of gluten in women with celiac, specifically Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies and their relationship to osteoporosis.

The speaker was Dr. Keith Laskin, MD who went to New York University School of Medicine and is a gastroenterologist in the Philadelphia region. He opened his talk telling the audience about the updated prevalence of celiac (previously 1 in 133 is now 1 in 1001) worldwide and for whatever reasons, is becoming more common. His statistics on the hereditary factors of celiac and how the disease is 65% more common in women was astonishing. No one is really sure why it is more common in women, but in general (and as a woman), I think we take our health much more seriously than men and look for reasons for symptoms rather than just live with them.

In the past, doctors would only test patients who were severely malnourished, but now there are many more symptoms that could present as celiac. Patients are getting smarter in asking to be screened for symptoms, like the ones below, which are not the typical G.I. symptoms celiac was thought of presenting.

• Iron Deficiency
• Constipation
• Fatigue
• Indigestion
• Neuropathy/ataxia
• Increased liver enzymes
• Skin rash
• Infertility
• Bone Diseases

I was familiar with all the symptoms above, but honestly, I didn’t think about bone diseases as being a concern. Boy was I wrong! Until Gluten is removed from a Celiacs diet, nutrients like calcium and vitamin D cannot be absorbed, which puts women at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become less dense and more likely to fracture2. Matter of fact, it puts people at 6 times greater risk of having a hip fracture3. Nutrients like calcium are absorbed in the small intestines, which is the exact spot where Celiacs villi atrophy occurs most frequently.

Once a gluten-free diet is in place, there are three things that can be done to support bone health.

1. Good Nutrition: Dark green leafy greens (collard greens, kale, etc.), broccoli, soy beans, bok choy and even dried figs are good sources of calcium. Dairy products and fortified non-dairy beverages (almond, soy, rice milks) can have as much as 300 mg of calcium as well.

Some vitamin D rich foods are egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver. But a supplement might be the easiest and fastest way to get vitamin D, especially if you live in northern areas of the United States. The Vitamin D Council is a great online source for information regarding safety and dosing.

2. Exercise: Weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise can help strengthen muscle and build bone.

Weight bearing exercises make you move against gravity and stay upright and can be easily done
• Dancing
• Aerobics
• Hiking
• Jogging
• Jumping rope
• Stair climbing
• Tennis
Muscle strengthening exercises
• Lifting weights
• Elastic exercise bands
• Weight machines
• Lifting your own body weight

3. Healthy Lifestyle: Smoking and drinking excessively are very detrimental to bone health. Did you know that women who smoke go through menopause earlier than non-smokers resulting in lower estrogen levels which can decrease calcium. Alcohol can suppress new bone growth and not to mention, feeling “tipsy” can cause falls and possible bone break.

Dr. Laskin recommended getting a Dexa scan (bone mass test) about one year after adapting a gluten-free diet. It may take up to that amount of time for your body to recover from nutritional deficiencies, depending on how much damage is done to the small intestines. The good news is, adhering to a strict gluten-free diet will allow the gut to heal in most Celiacs. It just may take time, but with good nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes calcium and vitamin D deficiencies can be reversed.

1. “What Is Celiac Disease? – Celiac Disease Foundation.” Celiac Disease Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
2. “What People With Celiac Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis.” What People With Celiac Disease Need to Know About Osteoporosis. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
3. “Celiac Disease: The Medical Case for Gluten Free in Women”. By Keith Laskin. Paoli Hospital, Paoli, PA. 20 Jan. 2016. Performance.

Celiac and gluten-intolerance is NOT a competition, it’s a team!

This past Sunday, I took my two children and drove 3.5 hours (each way) to a gluten-free expo in State College, PA. Gluten-free shows are rare, so I didn’t hesitate when I heard they were looking for vendors for the show.

The last gluten-free show I attended was three years ago in Philadelphia. I had just launched my blog and spent the day meeting other bloggers, book writers and listening to talks from physicians and patient organization. Not to mention sampling a wide array of gluten-free products and arm fulls of yummy samples. It left a huge impression on me because I was surrounded by people that understood that one person’s food is another’s poison, which is gluten for us.

For three years I searched for a gluten-free show in my geographic area, but until the show in State College, none were around. I gladly paid the vendor fee, bought new business cards and bookmarks to hand out about my newly published book, 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living. It is a step-by-step guide for anyone newly diagnosed with celiac or gluten-intolerance to help answer the question of “Where do I start?”

I had a basket raffle, gave books as door prizes and donated magnets to the first 500 attendees in their product gift bags. To say I was excited about this show is an understatement. 20151108_105541

For 6+ hours I stood at the booth and talked with hundreds of people about my book and their gluten-free journeys. I heard stories of pain, depression, anxiety, migraines, intestinal distress, despair and frustration, just to name a few.20151108_105531

Celiacs with multiple autoimmune conditions had the saddest stories. One woman finally got her celiac diagnosis only to find out a year later that she now has Huntington’s disease.  Huntington’s disease, which is another autoimmune disease that causes the progressive breakdown (degeneration) of nerve cells in the brain. I was humbled (and saddened) listening to her fear and desperation for relief.
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Of all the people I talked with that day one woman, a mother of a celiac sufferer, made a comment that rocked me to my core. I was talking with her daughter, a nurse that was diagnosed 3 years ago with celiac, about my books ability to keep information about shopping, eating out and traveling, organized.

Her mother, who had a close ear on our conversation, threw her arms in the air, stormed away only to turn back and shout to her daughter, “You are wasting your money, she’s not even celiac . You should be writing a book because gluten-intolerance isn’t as serious and you know everything there is to know because you are nurse.”

I began to walk toward the Mom to explain to her that Yes, I was not diagnosed with celiac, but I had been suffering with a multitude of symptoms since I was 14 years old. I wanted to tell her how humiliating it was at 16 to spend the day in the hospital on an IV doing the exhausting prep for the following days colonoscopy.

I wanted her to hear how many bladder infections, sinus infections and throat infections I had in my 20’s and how much money was spent on tests and antibiotics to try and figure out why they were so recurrent.

Maybe if she knew how heartbroken my husband and I were because we couldn’t conceive our children without the help of a team infertility doctors in my 30’s. We never hesitated a moment to spend our savings of over $30K to get pregnant with our amazing children.

After all that, she should’ve heard about my 40’s and the arthritic pain, gastrointestinal problems, depression, anxiety and debilitating migraines I battled. I wanted to tell her about the tens of thousands of dollars that has been spent over my life seeking an explanation and diagnosis for the years of pain and hardships only to find out, on my own, that food was my poison. I was probably the only gluten-intolerant person to want a celiac diagnosis only to have a name for all my suffering to validate to others that it was real. I found that because doctors couldn’t give me a positive celiac diagnosis, I was left with a nameless condition and on my own to figure out the gluten-free world, and it was not easy.

I wrote my book to help others comply with a 100% gluten-free diet quickly, easily and less expensive than I had. I don’t claim to be an expert in celiac, but I do live it every day, especially now since my husband was diagnosed with celiac.

So, to the mother of the nurse that was so angry that I wrote a book to help celiac and gluten-intolerant suffers without a true medical diagnosis, I want you to know that giving up the traditional ethnic foods of my family, spending extreme amounts of money on gluten-free foods and not going out with friends to restaurants because the fear of being glutened is not something I do to seek attention. I do it to try and keep my immune system strong. I don’t want to suffer in my up and coming 50’s like I did my previous decades.

And to the daughter/nurse, thank you for buying my book and being kind and empathetic to me while your mother stomped away. Please encourage her to read the section of my book entitled “A Message to Your Family.” It’s directed to the family and friends of gluten intolerant to ask for encouragement, empathy, patience, advocacy and open mindedness, which should be shown to anyone suffering from food sensitives or allergies…diagnosis or not.

Statistics say, one percent of the population is diagnosed with celiac, but up to twenty percent has a gluten-intolerance. It’s that twenty percent that is driving change in the market and demanding legislation to provide laws for safer labeling. There is no hidden competition between celiacs and gluten-intolerant, we are a team and should be supportive to each other.

Everyone at the show had a reason to be there and every vendor wanted to make life a little easier for each of them, including myself. In the end, I spent way more money on the show than I made on the sale of my book, but the lasting memories of all the wonderful people that did stop to talk and listen to me made the whole day worth while.

“Where do I start?” has been answered!

Well, it’s taken me 12 months, but it’s finally done!

3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living is now available on Amazon.com

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And just in time!  I just read that “roughly 1 in every 133 Americans has celiac disease, but 95% remain undiagnosed.  This means that almost 3 million Americans have celiac disease and only about 150,000 know they have it.”  THAT IS INCREDIBLE!  This one statistic is why I am passionate about people going gluten-free the right way.  More and more people are being tested for celiac and many more are being diagnosed with little or no direction from their medical providers.  To no fault of their own, doctors don’t receive much nutrition training, so patients are forced to turn to the internet and figure out how to navigate the gluten-free world on their own which takes lots of time, energy and money.

My own husband was diagnosed with celiac in May and was told (by phone) to change his diet with no recommendation on how to do it.

This book is perfect for anyone newly diagnosed by a doctor with celiac or gluten-intolerance because it takes you step-by-step through the journey.  The first step is learning to eliminate gluten 100% from your pantry and why that is so important.  Each page is a different subject and provides just enough information to give the reader a jumping off point for that subject.

The second step is transitioning your heart and home to a new way of eating. Losing the foods you love is extremely hard, but having a positive attitude and being prepared when eating out takes the stress out of eating and makes new foods more enjoyable.  I provide thought provoking exercises to get the readers to recognize new and exciting foods to love.

Finally, knowing what foods to substitute back into your pantry to make life easier saves time and money.  I stress that being gluten-free is NOT a diet, it’s medically necessary.  If you do it the wrong way you will gain weight, but by eating organic, fresh and local ingredients you’ll always have safe foods to eat that are good (and healing) for you.

I’m looking forward to getting this information into the hands of people who need it now, so please forward my post to anyone you know that is new to the gluten-free community and tell them they are not alone on their gluten-free journey!

Thanks for all your support!

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3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living

BIG things are happening here at Gluten-Free Bebe!  I’ve been slow posting on my blog because I’ve been busy writing my book.

Last November I began writing a step-by-step guide on how to go gluten-free after a student in one of my classes asked “Where do I begin” at the end of our 2 hour class.  I realized what had been easy for me, since I was living it day by day, was completely overwhelming for people new to the gluten-free world.  I decided to breakdown my 2 hour class into 3 easy to follow steps and create a workbook that people can carry with them through their daily routines.  Each page is a step towards being gluten-free and allows the reader to keep notes about what works or doesn’t work in their daily lives.  It’s the perfect book for anyone starting out in the gluten-free world.  There is just enough information to get you on your way without overwhelming the reader with too many details.

The book starts by explaining what to eliminate from your diet, how to read labels and where to find support.  Then it shows how to transition your heart and home to new ways of eating and concludes with products to substitute back into your diet to stay gluten-free and feel better quickly.  There are lists of products to buy, where to buy them, how to eat out, how to be prepared, how to prevent cross-contamination and much more!

The book is called, 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living and will be available in July through Amazon.  Thank you for being patient and for supporting me on this blog.  I’m passionate about making gluten-free eating simple and easy to follow.  No cheating necessary! Please pop over to Facebook and “like” Gluten-Free Bebe for daily updates and  more information on gluten-free living.

“So where do I start?”

That was the question that was asked at the end of my Gluten-Free tips and tricks class this past week.  It was a two-hour course that went over three main points, what to eliminate, how to transition to a gluten-free lifestyle and what gluten-free products to substitute into your pantry.  It was a lot of information in a very small period of time.  Especially for someone who has been medically forced to go gluten-free.  My initial response recommended that she go “full tilt” and replace everything in her pantry with gluten-free products.  This response was made before she had time to digest all the information she just received during my class about product names and where to buy them.

I had completely forgotten how overwhelming it was 4 1/2 years ago when I went gluten-free.  I left the class and had an immediate flashback of me standing in my food pantry searching for something familiar to eat.  Nibbling on dry rice cakes, horking down potato chips and being starved when I left the house unprepared for the gluten-full world outside my house.  I forgot how long it took me to get gluten out of my diet because I didn’t know what I could eat, or what I wanted to eat.  Being unprepared led me to let my guard down and open myself up to ingesting gluten and feeling miserable.

Now that I’ve had time to look back and see the world through my students eyes, I’m better prepared to answer that question “Where do I start?”.

Here is a plan on what to do….

1.  Write down 3 items you like to eat for each meal of the day (Breakfast, lunch & dinner)..

2.  Look at each item on your meal plan/recipe and decide what items contain gluten or might contain gluten.

Example:  For lunch, check to see if your lunch meat and chicken salad are g.f.photo 2 (2)

3.  Create a grocery list to include gluten-free items that you need to complete those menu items.  This will help to prevent buying products that you might not need in the future.  Gluten-free pre-packaged foods are very expensive, so try to only purchase what you need.  This is a good time to try to use as many “clean” ingredients that you might already have in your home.  Instead of purchasing a marinade for your steak, make your own using balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary(see recipe below).  It’s a good idea to have ingredients on hand to make 4 or 5 quick recipes that you know your family will enjoy.

Remember to make eno ugh of each item to cook once, but eat twice.  Dinner tonight can easily be lunch tomorrow.  Don’t forget to have 3-4 quick and healthy “Go-to” snacks available at all times.  Low carb power bars are great to have as well.  Some of my favorites are fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, hommus with baby carrots, celery with Laughing Cow cheese, G.F. chips and salsa,

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So, to answer my student’s question of where to begin, start by planning 3 meals and writing a good shopping list of what you need to complete only those meals.  Also, keep some snacks on hand to satiate your hunger quickly.

Remember to be prepared with healthy snacks and items to take with you when you leave your home, just in case there is no g.f. options available.

Marinated Flank Steak

1 flank steak (1.5 pounds)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish or resealable bag.  Pierce meat with a fork and add meat to bag.  Refrigerate in marinade for up to 24 hours.

Gluten-Free Tips and Tricks Class

I have a secret ambition to be a teacher.  I should’ve been one, but my path took me other directions.  Now it’s my time to work toward what I love the most…educating others!

If you, or a friend, live in the Chester County, PA area, I am teaching a Gluten-Free Lifestyle course on two different dates, Wednesday, April 2 and April 9th.  It’s the perfect class for newly diagnosed as celiac, gluten-intolerant, thinking about going gluten-free or have a need to know how to help a family member or friend who is gluten-free.

For $29 you will get lots of great information and LOTS of samples and fun conversation.  Classes for Chester County Night School are easy to sign-up for. Spread the word and see you there!