Stillwater News Press

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February 11, 2013

Class cooking up gluten-free living tips and resources

STILLWATER, Okla. — “Give us this day, our daily bread” is a mantra for human survival but for sufferers of Celiac disease, the gluten in manna makes life a struggle. Nature Supply’s Stephanie Simpson wants the community to know living a gluten-free life is not the end of the world. She will teach a gluten-free cooking class at Meridian Technology Center 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 25 to share tips and resources.

“It’s a hands-on class like all our cooking classes,” said Jeremy Cowley, MTC coordinator of short term courses. “Stephanie will share recipes and the class will cook and eat together.”

Anyone in the community can enroll by calling 405-377-3333. Registration for the $40 class includes all course materials and cooking activities.

“Just because you’ve removed gluten from your diet, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor or convenience,” Cowley said. “Whether you suffer from Celiac disease or just want to explore gluten-free living, then this class is for you.”

In Oklahoma where we sing about the waving wheat smelling sweet, a gluten-free life could be considered a death sentence to the breads and pasta we love, but Simpson said there are many tasteful alternatives to recreating these products. Although the autoimmune disorder of Celiac requires avoidance of all foods containing gluten, there are people that simply have gluten intolerance or sensitivities. She lives gluten-free while introducing her family to dishes she has developed without gluten as an ingredient.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat that gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape, said Elizabeth Lohrman, a registered dietician at the Oklahoma State University Seretean Wellness Center. Lohrman recommends anyone suspecting a gluten intolerance ask their physician to test them for Celiac disease before considering totally eliminating gluten from the diet. If full-blown Celiac is not present, then solutions may include just eating more fresh produce and less processed food which is always better in maintaining a balanced diet, she said.

Simpson said when people with Celiac eat items containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. Tiny, fingerlike protrusions called villi lining the small intestine are destroyed. The villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, regardless of the quantity or quality of food eaten.

Recognizing Celiac can be difficult because some of its symptoms mirror those of other diseases. In fact, sometimes Celiac is confused with irritable bowel syndrome, iron-deficiency anemia caused by menstrual blood loss, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, intestinal infections and chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, Celiac is commonly misdiagnosed without specific tests. According to the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse, more than two million people in the United States are affected by Celiac disease, or roughly, one in every 133 people. Early signs and symptoms of Celiac are stomach pains, bloating, gas, decreased appetite, weight loss, constant diarrhea or nausea. Long-term symptoms include easy bruising, hair loss, missed menstrual periods, fatigue, joint pain and itchy skin.

Sufferers of Celiac cannot eat foods made with all-purpose flour; bleached flour; bran; bread crumbs; couscous; durum flour/wheat; enriched flour; farina; semolina; spelt; wheat bran; wheat germ; wheat starch; or whole wheat flour.  Rye and barley are also taboo. They also must check personal care products which contain gluten as fillers, said Karla Driskell who has been studying symtoms of gluten intolerance as part of her home business.

Simpson has been developing alternatives for her family as sometimes gluten-intolerance can be genetic. For Valentine’s Day, she created a special treat for delicious celebrating - even gluten-free.

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