Judy Driedger had no idea where to start when she began eliminating gluten from her diet after suspecting she had a gluten intolerance causing her stomach aches and itching skin.
That was over five years ago.
The Austin-area woman saw her symptoms disappear and her health restored. Although never having a blood test to confirm it, she’s convinced she’s learned to live with celiac disease by changing the way she eats.
But what a struggle it was learning to eat gluten free, says Driedger. So many foods contain gluten and cutting out the bread, muffins, cakes and cookies she loved was very difficult.
“Basically, I hardly knew what to eat,” said Driedger, a self-professed snacker, who admits the first thing she did was start snacking on rice crackers, until she couldn’t look at another.
“And in the meantime I tried to figure out alternatives besides basic meat and potatoes.”
The cost to buy gluten-free breads and other gluten-free products was also an issue. A small loaf of bread was often about double what she’d pay for regular bread.
That’s when this passionate home baker decided to see what she could make for herself at home.
She literally started from scratch, lacking access to the Internet and unaware at the kind of resources available through organizations such as the Manitoba Celiac Association.
She began experimenting with baking with rice, tapioca and other wheat flour substitutes. Her first results weren’t very impressive, but as she tweaked more recipes she did have success. Finally she was baking what “tasted like the real thing again,” she says.
“I was amazed. I’d managed to make wonderful muffins and cookies and cakes.”
Were others struggling as she had to go gluten free, she wondered? Two years ago, Driedger decided to publish her recipes in an 80-recipe cookbook Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking which she now markets directly.
Once thought to be a childhood disease, celiac disease is far more common today than it was 50 years ago. It’s an auto-immune permanent intolerance to specific peptides of gluten-containing cereals including wheat, rye, triticale and barley.
According to recent findings of a study at the Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota reported last July in Gastroenterology magazine there is a 4.5 times higher incidence of celiac disease today.
“Celiac disease is unusual, but it’s no longer rare,” according to Dr. Joseph Murray, the American gastroenterologist who led the study which tested and compared blood samples gathered in the late 1940s and early 1950s with samples collected today.
New screening methods using a variety of blood tests indicate the incidence of celiac disease in the general North American population may now be as high as one in 100.
An estimated 200 to 300 new cases of celiac disease are diagnosed every year in Manitoba, according to figures cited in Wave the Winnipeg-based Health and Wellness publication of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
The condition has unspecific symptoms that can vary greatly from person to person but common symptoms include vitamin deficiencies, diarrhea or constipation (often both), and abdominal pain.
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The condition has also been linked to other health problems such as the development of osteoporosis; those with celiac disease are unable to effectively absorb nutrients such as calcium and iron from food.
Manitobans can request a blood test at no cost at any walk-in medical clinic if they suspect they are manifesting symptoms of celiac disease, says Susan Finlay, president of the Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association.
She says Judy’s story of struggling to eat gluten free in a world awash in wheat-based foods is a common one.
“We hear this over and over,” said Finlay, adding that it’s usually immediately after diagnosis that those with celiac start to puzzle over how to organize their daily diet.
Gluten is found in many foods, and many unexpected sources, including certain drug products and anything that lists hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein as an ingredient.
The Ca n a d i a n Ce l i a c Association’s website includes extensive information on living a gluten-free lifestyle and eating a gluten-free diet, noting on its website that many individuals “are often confused and needlessly avoid certain foods and ingredients, thus limiting the variety in their diet which can lead to nutritional imbalances.”
The Canadian Celiac Association held its annual conference in Winnipeg June 4 to 6 with speakers addressing many issues including the health risks posed by the disease, “silent” celiac disease, and workshops on creative cooking for celiacs.
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Manitoba Co-operator Recipe Swap
Box 1794, Carman, Man. R0G 0J0
Here are two recipes shared with us this week from Judy Driedger of Austin. For a copy of her cookbook (cost is $15 including shipping and handling) contact her at Box 415, Austin, Man. R0H 0C0
1 c. rice flour
1 c. tapioca flour
1/2 c. potato starch
1 tsp. xanthan gum (like
a glue that holds things
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. oil
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. rhubarb
1/2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Premix all the wet ingredients excluding rhubarb. Beat and add to the well, lastly adding the rhubarb. Pour into greased muffin tins. Divide toping between muffins. Bake at 350 F 20 to 25 minutes.
This recipe is found in Judy’s cookbook Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking published by Rasmussen.
1/2 c. corn flour
1/2 c. rice flour
1/4 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 c. cornmeal
1 beaten egg
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil or melted
Combine all dry ingredients, make a well in the centre, add remaining ingredients and just stir until blended. Put in a greased 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Tastes great warm with butter!
Pulses – beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils – are gluten free and provide a great alternative to wheat and other gluten-containing grain, adding starch, fibre and many other vitamins and minerals that could be lacking in a gluten-free diet. Pulse flours such as black bean, whole bean and pea flours can also be used very successfully in gluten-free baking.
This recipe for Country Chili, suitable for celiacs and non-celiacs alike, is found in Pulses, Cooking with beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas a recipe source of Pulse Canada that contains over a dozen gluten-free cooking and baking recipes. The recipes can be found online at www.pulsecanada.com.
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. onion, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 -7–oz. can (398 ml)
1 -28-oz. can (796 ml)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire
sauce (gluten-free variety)
4 c. red kidney
beans, cooked OR
2 -19 oz. cans (2 -540
ml) red kidney beans,
rinsed and drained
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Pinch salt and pepper
In skillet, cook ground beef until browned. In a medium soup pot, heat oil and sauté garlic, onion, green peppers and celery about five minutes. Add ground beef, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce. Cook 10 minutes on medium heat and add beans. Bring to a boil and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy.