May is Celiac Awareness Month, and to kick things off in Red Deer there will be a gluten-free pancake breakfast on May 7th at the Rosedale Community Centre (29 Roland St).
The event, which is hosted by the Red Deer Celiac Support Group, runs from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Adults pay $6 and children under 10 are admitted for $3.
Tickets are available at the door.
According to the Canadian Celiac Association, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s own immune system turns against itself, attacking and damaging tissues and organs. It’s a permanent intolerance to gluten – a protein found in various wheats.
“Celiac disease can be a common underlying cause of many painful, chronic and debilitating conditions which can be non-specific and vary greatly from one person to the next.”
Symptoms run the gamut from diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, weight loss, joint pain to lactose intolerance, constipation and depression, according to the Association. Gluten consumption can result in deficiencies of iron, folate, calcium and the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and an increased risk of osteoporosis, infertility and specific cancers of the gut, according the Association.
In some cases, the disease is ‘silent’ and is found through blood screening.
The only treatment for Celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life.
Clarice Schulz of the Red Deer Celiac Support Group, who was herself diagnosed 16 years ago with the disease, said she is pleased to see a growing awareness about the disease over the past several years. She had gone for many years without a diagnosis, which has made her all the more aware about how important bolstered awareness about Celiac disease really is.
“I totally changed my eating – no gluten at all.” That can be something of a challenge, because gluten can actually be found in many foods and products on a person’s grocery list. It can be found in bouillon cubes, soup or gravy bases; sliced or processed meats, seasonings, soy sauce and salad dressings.
“It’s also much better since we have the (food) labelling,” she said, adding that some spices and even some coffees have gluten. “We tell our people, if in doubt, leave it out. If it doesn’t say ‘gluten-free’, don’t use it.”
You even have to watch what kind of toothpaste you purchase if you are affected by gluten.
For Schulz, within a few months after cutting out gluten she was noticing a distinct improvement in her health.
These days, those with Celiac disease can shop with more ease as many grocery stores carry extensive lines of gluten-free foods. “For example, at Sobeys South, there are over 1,500 items in that store now.”
According to the Association, there are excellent blood tests available now to screen for Celiac disease, which in the past was often difficult to precisely diagnose.
As mentioned, eliminating gluten from the diet is the key to allowing the system to recover. Because of the complexity of the gluten-free diet, the Association also recommends that patients should be referred to a qualified dietitian with expertise in Celiac disease for nutrition assessment, education and follow-up.
Meanwhile, the Red Deer Celiac Support Group meets the third Tuesday of the month at South Sobeys Coffee Lounge (2011 22 St.) from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Folks are encouraged to drop in or stay and visit and have a coffee.
Organizers share information and give support about issues pertaining to the gluten-free lifestyle, for example symptoms, diagnosis, shopping, gluten-free products, cross contamination and recipes.
Schulz is also at the hospital on the fourth Tuesday of every month for an awareness day.
“We just want people to know that we are here.”
For more information about this weekend’s breakfast, the Red Deer Celiac Support Group or awareness events that are specific to this month, call Clarice at 403-341-4351 or Karen at 403-357-2233.