When her 12-year-old daughter Sarah was diagnosed with celiac disease, Carlyn Berghoff knew she needed to change the way she cooked and the foods she fed her family. Devising new recipes was nothing new for Berghoff, CEO of the Berghoff Catering and Restaurant Group and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. But even she was astounded at the complexity of ridding the family meals of gluten while still ensuring they tasted great.
But it was necessary.
“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye,” says Lori Granich, RD, Bariatric Dietitian at the Midwest Bariatric Institute in Dyer, Indiana. “In patients diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that reacts to gluten, it will cause inflammation of the small intestine.”
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that 1 in every 133 Americans are gluten-intolerant or have a sensitivity to gluten. Those who suffer from celiac disease experience a variety of symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, malnutrition, weight loss and skin rashes.
Berghoff says it was like someone had wrapped her daughter’s stomach in Saran Wrap.
“Sarah was eating but not getting nourished,” she says. “The food would go down, but she couldn’t absorb any of the nutrients from it so it would just exit her body.”
Eliminating gluten is much more complex than just shoving aside the bread basket.
“You have to really look at food labels,” says Carol Bliznik, a registered dietitian with Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point. “Many products you wouldn’t think have gluten in them, actually do.”
But lists of ingredients don’t always tell the entire story about what’s in a food product. According to Granich, the FDA has been working on gluten free labeling for years.
“Since this law is not yet in place, consumers must really search the label to identify possible sources of gluten,” says Granich noting that the terms vegetable protein, modified starch and natural flavor can all be derived from barley or wheat. “Even if the product does not contain any gluten ingredients, it still could have been cross-contaminated during food processing. This may not seem like a big deal, but people with celiac disease can be extremely sensitive to even the tiniest amount of gluten.”
According to Granich, gluten-free diet followers should call the manufacturer whenever in doubt about whether a product is gluten-free.
“Manufacturers can tell you if they are a gluten-free facility or if they are taking safety protocols in terms of cross contamination,” she says.
Eliminating fast foods and processed foods is another step in implementing gluten-free.
“Utilize farmers markets,” says Bliznik. “Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fresh meats, nuts, eggs and fresh dairy. Explore the different grains out there such as quinoa, cornmeal and amaranth. Use rice and almond four. Avoid foods with breading.”
Berghoff wanted to share the knowledge she developed in going gluten-free and so with her daughter, Sarah Berghoff McClure, pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Suzanne Nelson and food writer Nancy Ross Ryan, she wrote "Cooking for Your Gluten-Free Teen: Everyday Foods the Whole Family Will Love" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99).
“It’s a way of helping people on their journey,” she says.
For support and more information, the Gluten Intolerance Group of Northwest Indiana meets 7-8 pm on the second Monday of every month at St. Mary Medical Center, 1500 S Lake Park Ave, Hobart. 219.588.9829.