The G-Free Diet

The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet purports to be about her experiences living gluten-free, but by the storm of controversy it’s generated, you might think it’s a dangerously flawed medical manual. The Executive Director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, Elaine Monarch, went so far as to warn:

…the inaccuracies in this book are potentially dangerous and detrimental to celiacs and to those yet to be diagnosed if people self diagnose and start eating GF.

Alison St. Sure of the GF blog Sure Foods Living wrote a very comprehensive review of the book that’s worth reading if you might want to purchase the book. Here’s a taste:

I really liked…

The chapter called “Throw Me a Bagel!” about living with someone who is gluten-free. Rarely have I seen tips for the person who lives with a gluten-free person (”GFG” she calls it, for Gluten-Free Gal or Guy). There is some great advice addressing such things as compassion, adaptability, preparedness, cleanliness and selflessness.

The section “Translating Ingredients” for understanding how to read cosmetics and personal care product labels. This is something that often gets overlooked by people on a gluten-free diet.

I really didn’t like…

The fact that there is a chapter named “G-Free and Slim As Can Be!” which sounds like the whole chapter is promoting the use of the gluten-free diet for weight loss. The chapter is actually not about that at all and points out that once people are on a gluten-free diet and are forced to read labels, they become aware of what they are putting into their bodies and generally become healthier eaters overall.

St. Sure also commented on the CDF letter:

I am well aware of the CDF’s warning about the book. I wrote my review before they made a statement. There is a chapter in the book about getting the proper diagnosis for celiac, including the exact blood tests. Many doctors do not even know what the blood tests are for celiac, and Elisabeth has armed the reader with this knowledge. Nowhere in the book did I feel that Elisabeth trivialized celiac or the gluten-free diet. I do feel that the media and talk show hosts like Rachael Ray are the ones trivializing the diet. The book has succeeded in raising awareness about celiac disease and I feel confident that more people are going to get tested for celiac. How is this detrimental to mission of the Celiac Disease Foundation?

Another person commented on how this book had helped his/her teen daughter:

My daughter found comfort in this book, she read a young woman also an athlete put in writing the pain and embarrassment she has had to deal with. She feels “hope” knowing that Elizabeth has gone on to have children, keep a job, get her education and move on in life without the pain keeping her down. She was happy to read about her lethargy and pain and the constant trips to the bathroom, she related to having to take different paths to the bathroom just so her classmates wouldn’t notice and make fun of her.

Three Other comments:

I love this book! I’ve had Celiac for 2 years and this is the first book I’ve read that talks about it in everyday language.

…where I really examined the G-Free Diet was in the library, along side of several other resources on celiac. For solid information – the other books were so far superior. Easier to figure out, easier to trust.

At the beginning it seemed daunting but Elisabeth had been in the same situation as many of her readers. It is most helpful to read a book by someone who has gone through it themselves.

I haven’t read the book yet myself, but it seems from preliminary reports that it’s better as a friendly, anxiety-lessening introduction than as a reference. I’m sure some of you have opinions. Please share them with the community!

Babycakes Cookbook

I just read a disturbing post at Celiac Squirrel, asking celiacs to boycott Babycakes’ much feted cookbook. Kay and I visited Babycakes in NYC and tried their chocolate cupcake, which Kay declared delicious. Now according to Celiac Squirrel, many of the Babycakes recipes use spelt flour. Spelt is a kind of wheat and therefore is poison to people with celiac disease.

I went to the Babycakes website to see if they label products with spelt as gluten-free. They don’t.  On a page about their ingredients, they write:

What other flours do you use?
We use spelt flour for our non-gluten free products.

Do you know there is gluten in spelt?
Spelt contains gluten, so it is NOT recommended for those following a gluten/wheat free diet. Also, an individual with a wheat related condition (i.e. celiac sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathies, etc…) should not consume spelt flour.

What is spelt and why does BabyCakes NYC use it?
Spelt is an ancient grain. People prefer it to its distant cousin, wheat, because it has 15-20% more proteins, is higher in complex carbohydrates, is rich in magnesium, is lower in overall carbohydrates, has not been genetically altered and contains enzymes that assist in glucose and insulin secretion.

Many people with delayed hypersensitivities and allergies to regular wheat feel spelt protein is much easier to digest than wheat protein. We, however, do not encourage those with wheat sensitivities to consume this grain.

What do you do to prevent cross-contamination?
We realize many people are concerned about the potential for cross-contamination between spelt and gluten free flours. We take every precaution to ensure that gluten free items are not corrupted by spelt flour. We use separate pans, sinks, spatulas, measuring cups, cleaning utensils and bowls. Ultimately, however, up to the consumer to decide her comfort level with our use of spelt.

The Babycakes cookbook is titled:

Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery

So Celiac Squirrel is correct. The title of the cookbook is misleading. If Babycakes  had titled it Mostly Gluten-Free it wouldn’t have been a problem. But they didn’t. Celiac Squirrel argues:

Inside the book it is explained that spelt is not gluten-free. Are we supposed to be comforted that a book that says the recipes are gluten-free then tells us that not all the recipes are gluten-free? This is just an example of people willing to lie to take advantage of the gluten-free mainstreaming trend.

Which is why I think BabyCakes needs to pay a price for selling a cookbook of gluten-free recipes that are not all gluten-free. This, quite frankly, should turn into a public relations nightmare for the company, and it should be used to underscore that a gluten-free diet is not a trend, it is the only option for people with celiac disease.

We would love to hear people’s opinions about this matter!

Personal Chefs

While I was in Durham, North Carolina the other day, I noticed an advertisement for a personal chef that specializes in, among other things, gluten-free cooking. If this were a trend, what a wonderful gift for your GF friends! Or a special treat for yourself on a holiday or anniversary or if you’re sick in bed for a while. So I researched personal chefs in the U.S., and this is what I found:

  • Four Corners Cuisine, in Durham, NC: “You call and/or email to set up the initial consultation, where we discover your culinary needs, dietary restrictions, allergies, etc…then we set a date. A menu is created and discussed with you. On the set day, Four Corners does the grocery shopping to ensure that everything is fresh. We come to your home and prepare all the wonderful dishes that you’ve selected in 2 – 4 hours, depending on the quantity. We then package and label each meal and leave your kitchen exactly as we found it. You come home and in a matter of minutes are sitting down to enjoy a delicious home cooked meal. It’s that simple.”
  • The Chef’s Table, in  Dallas, TX: “Most of the package meals that I offer can be gluten free. With this option you can come home from your busy day and know you have a meal at home ready to heat and eat.”
  • Dining Details in San Diego, CA : “Enjoy delicious seasonal, farm
    fresh produce, organics, and top quality, fresh meats and seafood. Home Gourmet is a
    convenient, healthy way of feeding yourself and your family.
    We specialize in “special
    needs” diets, including celiac, low fat, anti-cancer, and more.”
  • T.O.P. Chef in Westbury, NY: “Chef Vanda has clients that require a gluten-free, low carb diet. She has compiled a large collection of gluten-free recipes that are great tasting and a culinary delight.”
  • Come Home to Dinner in Chicago, IL: “Chose from my extensive menu, which includes gluten-free and vegetarian selections, or allow me to custom design a menu specifically for you.”

Your Dentist and Celiac Disease

Did you know that Celiac Disease can manifest itself in your teeth? According to a dental website:

“Patients with Celiac Disease will often show a symmetrical pattern of developmental enamel defects.… About 80% of patients with CD have enamel defects as compared with the non Celiac population which has a frequency of about 4%. ”

According to the National Institutes of Health,

“Not all dental enamel defects are caused by celiac disease, although the problem is fairly common among people with the condition, particularly children, according to Alessio Fasano, M.D., medical director at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. And dental enamel defects might be the only presenting manifestations of celiac disease, Fasano said.

Dental enamel problems stemming from celiac disease involve permanent dentition and include tooth discoloration—white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth—poor enamel formation, pitting or banding of teeth, and mottled or translucent-looking teeth. The imperfections are symmetrical and often appear on the incisors and molars.”

In the future, dentists might have a much more central role to play in the diagnosis of celiac disease, especially in children.

Celiacs Helping Celiacs

The Palm Beach County Celiac Support Group of South Florida (pictured above) has established an assistance program “to help those individuals with Celiac Disease and/or Dermatitis Herpetiformis who are living at or below the poverty level.” Sponsored by the Celiac Disease Foundation of South Florida, this program has raised $9000 and gives $25 per month in food credits to people who qualify. The credits can be used to purchase food in four different stores in Florida. Proof of income or participation in other public assistance programs is required. Visit the link above for contact information and to download an application.

A study from one of the leading research centers for the disease, the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, figures that gluten-free groceries cost about 79 percent more than their off-the-shelf counterparts.”

Food stamps aren’t enough for impoverished people with celiac disease. To help support this group, please consider buying one of their $10 GF cookbooks at the link above.