Local registered dietitian Heather Allen Joyce was on hand to provide recipe ideas, meal suggestions and information.
“Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat, rye and barley and their derivatives,” said Allen Joyce prior to the session. “If you have celiac disease you can’t tolerate the gluten.”
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that affects one in 133 people. Basically it impacts the ability of your body to absorb nutrients, minerals and vitamins — iron, calcium, vitamins D and B12, folate, zinc and magnesium.
Over a prolonged period of time gluten can cause damage to the intestinal tract. Allen Joyce said some people can have the appearance of symptoms but it may take up to 12 years before a diagnosis is confirmed.
Symptoms are variable and individual, and include weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, breakouts of blisters or hives on the skin, feeling bloated, fatigue and anemia.
Because the symptoms can often be linked to other conditions, diagnosis of celiac disease requires a blood test, followed by an intestinal biopsy to check for intestinal damage.
Allen Joyce also noted that some people may not have celiac disease, but rather a gluten sensitivity that may cause some symptoms but not damage the digestive track.
There’s also a bit of a celebrity thing to going gluten-free as many claim it helps with weight loss.
However, Allen Joyce said this is a myth.
“Gluten-free bread would have similar calories as regular bread.”
Anyone with celiac disease would have to stay away from wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. Sounds hard considering most breads, pastas and cereals are made with some kind of flour, but Allen Joyce said it is possible to go gluten-free.
She said there is a vast array of products in the marketplace that are gluten-free. Everything from bread, pastas and cereal to cookies and cake mixes.
Besides the recipes and meal suggestions she offered to the 13 people who joined her during the session, Allen Joyce also talked about substitutions for products containing gluten and how to find the hidden gluten.
She said crab for example is gluten-free, but when you turn it into imitation crab that contains wheat starch, which contains gluten. It can also be found in things like condiments and rice.
And while fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free, that doesn’t mean what they are contained in is.
“When bananas become banna bread and apples become apple pie, it becomes a problem,” she said.
The grocery store session was held in conjunction with Nutrition Month. On March 26 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Allen Joyce will be back at the O’Connell Drive store to host a session on weight control and weight loss.