Monday, May 16, 2011

May is Celiac Awareness Month

The point of such a thing, of course, is to raise awareness of celiac disease, a condition in which the body does not tolerate gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats, a condition that affects 1 out of every 133 people in the U.S. alone.

May is also Digestive Diseases Awareness Month, Food Allergy Awareness Month, National Arthritis Month, and National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.

That's a lot of diseases...And a lot of awareness.

All of these conditions are food related, even osteoporosis. Those with celiac disease are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones thin and become brittle. It's not just an old lady disease, as was once thought.

There's a school of thought that certain forms of arthritis are symptomatic of food allergies; the inflammation of the joints is an allergic reaction. Before you dismiss the idea, consider that in celiac disease the small intestines become inflamed when exposed to gluten, and other food allergies result in inflammation of the esophagus, the throat, the face... why not the joints?

A friend of mine's grandson has eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). He is sensitive to corn, dairy, soy, sugar, gluten and fruit, among other foods. Foods you and I would consider good for us -and good for our kids, like applesauce- put this kid's esophagus into inflammation hell.

So many aspects of our health pertain to food. And one man's healthy diet is another man's toxin. My mother lived to be 90 years old. She ate eggs almost every morning of her life. She salted all her food. And fat did not scare this woman.

My husband, at 48, had a triple by-pass and the doctor told us, straight out, that if he continued to eat as he had been (heavy on the fat and salt, light on the fruits and veggies) he would die.

Contemporary cooks need to be more than just meal makers. They need to understand how food affects each member of the family. They need to balance the desire for good tasting foods and the need for foods high in nutritional value. And if they are dealing with food allergies and special dietary needs, these cooks need to master the art of culinary diversity.

My friend with the grandson with EE - his mom learned how to bake without eggs or butter, without wheat flour, corn syrup or granulated sugar. Now that's culinary diversity.

It's May. It's a month for making people aware, aware of how food affects your health and theirs. Do your part. Make something good to eat and share it with your family and friends.

For more information, visit The Celiac Disease Foundation Website

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