Gluten free

We hear a lot about glutenfree in the media these days, but unfortunately many people still think eating gluten-free is a fad diet. For those with celiac disease, it is important for people to know the truth. We do not CHOOSE to eat gluten-free. A medically-prescribed gluten-free diet is the ONLY treatment for this life-long, inherited autoimmune disorder.

As facilitator for the Manitowoc County Celiac Support Group I, and other support group leaders, work diligently to increase awareness. Unfortunately, many health care professionals are still not aware of just how common celiac disease is and never consider testing for it. Some individuals go undiagnosed and suffer needlessly for many years, developing serious, and sometimes fatal, consequences.

Another goal that I am very passionate about is helping those who are newly diagnosed. Receiving a diagnosis can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, after being told one has celiac disease, they may be sent home to figure out on their own what is safe to eat. To be fair, time constraints do not allow for lengthy explanations by physicians of how to navigate the gluten-free lifestyle. Unless one HAS celiac disease, it is difficult to know or communicate to someone else the massive amounts of information required. Living glutenfree is much more than avoiding gluten (wheat, barley, rye, etc.) in foods.

Gluten can be found in prescription and over-the counter drugs, health & beauty products, and communion wafers.

Cross-contamination is a huge concern. Yes, even a crumb can make a celiac very ill. So, family members please take note: DO NOT add to the burden of your celiac loved one by asking, Can’t you just eat a little of this? Surely one bite won’t affect you?

Please consider asking how you can safely accommodate your loved one when meal planning, so he or she can participate in your family traditions during the holidays. Those with celiac may have to give up gluten, but they don’t want to give up being a part of family celebrations. They don’t want your pity, but they would appreciate your understanding and acceptance.

One of the greatest blessings I’ve experienced since my diagnosis was friends who cared enough to want to learn how to prepare a safe gluten-free meal for me.

It is typical when receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease for the physician to suggest an appointment with a dietitian.

Unfortunately, it can take a while to get in. Meanwhile, what do they eat? How do they survive? In addition, some patient’s insurance will not cover a visit to the dietitian or they may not have any insurance. A great resource is your local public library. They have many books about celiac disease and eating gluten-free.

Read as much as you can to learn about navigating the gluten-free life. Try to connect with someone who has celiac disease who can help you.

We are fortunate to have two support groups in our area. If you are newly diagnosed or are a physician wanting to provide helpful information to your patients, please contact your local CDF support group leader for information, including a helpful handout listing foods that a celiac can eat right away:

Sheboygan County: Faith Neils: (920) 458-511

LaVonne Young: (715) 891- 5353 or

Manitowoc County: Andrea Beschta: (920) 894-1629 or

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