Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Did you know that Mydols' drummer, Laura Spern, suffers from Celiac Disease? I'd never heard of it, and then I got asked to design a website called The Celiac Shack.

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.

I am learning so much about gluten-free living from people like Laura and Susan Jones, the owner of the Celiac Shack, but there is still a lot I don't know. I recently interviewed Susan about her new website.

Me: Why did you open The Celiac Shack?
Susan: I started The Celiac Shack after a year of reading and investigating Celiac disease and gluten intolerances. I have a few autoimmune disorders and so does my son, and I had heard that gluten could be an agitator of these disorders, so I began looking into the gluten free diet. It was then that I realized it is not an easy task to convert over to a gluten free diet. It's not as easy as just not buying bread. Gluten is in almost everything, and the items that do not naturally contain gluten, are often filled with gluten filled additives and preservatives. It seemed like such a daunting task to transition into a gluten free lifestyle, and I would often go to the grocery store with a list and a mission that I was only going to buy gluten free food, only to leave the grocery store with a shopping cart full of gluten food because I was discouraged and confused by the all the label reading and deciphering of manufacturing labels that made no sense.

I started to think that I was the only person having problems with this gluten free transition, but then soon realized that if I am having this many problems, I couldn't be the only one. I thought about what I wanted as a Mother, and the answer always came back to the following:

I want real information that is quick and reliable
I want real recipes that work and taste great for my kids
I want a place where I can go to quickly find what I'm looking for when I want it
I want to meet and communicate with other Moms and people that agree this transition doesn't have to be this difficult
I want In-the trenches tips, stories, and suggestions from real people that are doing exactly what I'm doing
I want a fun place where I can buy food at reasonable and fair prices
I want a food that has been taste tested by kids and guaranteed to be a success with my kids instead of purchasing products that taste awful and I end up throwing out

After figuring out what I wanted, I couldn't find it anywhere on the web or in my area. I decided to be the change I wished to see and The Celiac Shack was born. By creating this site to be what I want as a mother, I feel confidant that other mothers will want the same things and see that The Celiac Shack is a different gluten free website from the others. I am confidant that if moms of children with gluten intolerances become part of this community, it will be the support area, group of online confidants, and most valuable resource any of us could ask for.

Me: What are the benefits of a gluten free diet?
Susan: To give a brief explanation of what gluten and Celiac disease are, gluten is a mixture of the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. A gluten-free diet avoids these grains. Gluten is also hiding in foods like licorice, cereals, popsicles, some malt, soy sauce, natural flavorings and many convenience foods. Gluten is the glue that holds things together, as in baked goods and pasta. Celiac disease is a genetic intolerance to gluten. It is an autoimmune response to gluten when the immune system attacks the cells of the body along with the gluten molecule. It can develop at any age. The result is damage to the small intestine and a variety of health problems. When celiac disease gets out of control, serious illnesses result. There’s no cure for celiac disease. Over time the intestines become damaged and other diseases take over. The solution is to avoid all foods that contain gluten.

Celiac disease is one of the most common genetic diseases known and its prevalence is growing. If a relative has celiac disease, the likelihood is high that others in the family have it. The symptoms of Celiac disease appear all through the body. Symptoms are fatigue, weakness, gas, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, acid reflux, vomiting, headaches, inability to concentrate, weight gain or weight loss, infertility, joint, bone or muscle pain, depression, respiratory problems, canker sores, lactose intolerance, eczema and psoriasis, rosacea, acne, lupus, osteoporosis, hair loss, bruising, low blood sugar, muscle cramping, nosebleeds, swelling and inflammation, night blindness, and a skin disorder called dermatitis herpetiformis.

A gluten-free diet can also improve autism, schizophrenia and other mood disorders, and attention-deficit disorder (ADD/AHDH). Celiac disease disguises itself with so many symptoms that it is often misdiagnosed. It can be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, anemia, migraines, psychological problems, Crohn’s disease, cancer, viral infections, parasites, gallbladder disease, thyroid disease, cystic fibrosis, acid reflux, diverticulosis, diabetes, eczema and psoriasis of the skin. A long list of autoimmune diseases are also related to celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

In a nutshell, the benefits of a gluten free diet are endless to a person with a gluten intolerance/allergy. It can mean the difference of having chronic illness vs. living a "normal" life.

Me: Are gluten free products more expensive?
Susan: Unfortunately, gluten free products are slightly more expensive than "mainstream" food, and the reason is there are simply not as many manufacturers of gluten free food. One good thing is that living gluten free also means eating whole and natural products that aren't overly processed, so many items you can buy without extra costs. I fully understand the need to purchase safe food for your family without breaking your wallet, and it is one of my missions for The Celiac Shack to bring people gluten free food at a fair and reasonable price. We are dedicated to selling our products at the best price possible and we're open to suggestions from our customers as to product recommendations and we will do our best to provide those products.

Me: Do they taste the same as products with wheat?
Susan: Yes, the products that The Celiac Shack carries do taste the same as their "Normal" counterparts. We have every product taste tested by our kids, "The Jones Gang", and I can guarantee that everything we promote and sell taste as good, if not better than the gluten version. I've made several recipes, dinners, and treats that my children haven't known were gluten free, and that in my opinion is the best guarantee I can provide to my customers.

Me: Got a favorite recipe you'd like to share?
Susan: I have many recipes that I would rate as excellent, and I will be sharing all of them on our blog, and newsletter, "The Pipeline", I believe in creating recipes that are quick, easy, and taste great. I look for the following things when looking for and creating recipes for my family:

Is it quick and easy to make?
Am I likely to have the ingredients in my kitchen?
Am I able to substitute ingredients if necessary?
Does it taste great so my kids will eat it?
Would I make this for my most special guest?

If I can say yes to all of these questions, then I will post the recipe to my site and promote it. I am accepting new recipes for the site, and we're offering free products to those people that submit a recipe that we pick as the Winner of our Monthly Recipe Challenges. It's fun, exciting and at the same time, shares great recipes among other people that share similar issues and problems. It's a win-win for everyone involved.