~ Andrea (owner, Andrea's Gluten Free)
I knew nothing about celiac disease or gluten intolerance when I started Andrea’s Fine Foods. We were producing gourmet glazed pecans that were naturally gluten-free when we hired a woman with celiac disease. The more we learned, the more we realized that there was a great need for gluten-free products. We already had a dedicated facility, so we added a few baked goods and we have grown from there. In 2010, we discontinued the pecans and became a nut-free facility as well.
As I started to learn about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, I thought that I should try a gluten-free diet. Besides, it didn’t feel right to own a gluten-free company and not eat gluten-free. My main motivation for giving the diet a try was joint pain and stiffness. I felt like I was 30 years older than my age. I was tested for celiac disease due to chronic mild anemia and even had an endoscopy as a follow up for a polyp in my esophagus, but all was negative. I began a gluten-free diet anyway. Not only did my stiffness go away,but, I had fewer PMS symptoms and virtually eliminated hormonal headaches that were a regular occurrence. Eventually – psoriasis that had flared 3 years earlier - to the point of giving myself immunosuppressant injections – faded to a few random spots. Ironically, I will get gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea if I do consume gluten now that I have gone gluten-free.I am now motivated to stay gluten-free and to encourage others to become aware of celiac disease and gluten intolerance - especially if they or someone they know are experiencing health issues.
I was having migraine headaches that lasted for 2 to 3 days on and off for years. One Christmas Eve I got a horrible migraine headache that would not go away. I went to my MD who had me cat scanned and ran several other tests. He put me on 1 migraine pill, but that would not alleviate the migraine and added 2 more pills with no success. For 3 months I was going to doctors and no one could figure out why my migraine would not go away.
Finally, my MD sent me to a neurologist, who fortunately had great experience. She had me go off of all foods except plain meat, vegetables and potatoes for a month. Then she told me to add one food item a week to see if anything triggered the migraine. Sure enough, every time I ate something with wheat, oats, or barley, the next day I had a migraine. My neurologist said many people have the same problem and do not know that a food is triggering their migraines. She told me to follow the celiac diet, and so far it works great.
Let me first say, understanding the disease and listening to your body is paramount to healing and recovery! At the age of 44, I have many autoimmune diseases. One of them is Celiac Disease which was diagnosed almost four years ago. I was under the care of an M.D. who specialized in whole body, recommending alternative therapies when possible so the body could heal itself. She wondered and brought to my attention that there was something clearly going on with my immune system for many years. I felt so tired, very anemic, depressed and a lot of brain fog and some days just could not function. I attributed it mostly to the fact that I had hypothyroidism and that it was doomed to a life of generally feeling less than optimal. We went down the road of bio identical hormone replacement and it helped with subtle results. I tried many supplements with subtle results. She then began performing intense testing once I finally worked up the courage to make it into the office after a two month bout of diarrhea and a lot of dizziness. I honestly thought I was going to be told that I had cancer & didn’t want to face it. I’ll never forget the day that I went into her office to find out that I had my father’s disease, Celiac Disease. I was absolutely stunned! My symptoms were totally different than his so why would I have ever made the connection!
My new life with the new Celiac Disease diagnosis, I’ll never forget the day when my M.D. told me that I simply would need to avoid gluten the rest of my life and to go to the nutrition store for guidance of “how I should eat”. WOW! Emotional was an understatement! Are you kidding me, I live on toast and bagels! I’m the busy mom of twins and own my own business, how will I change this way of eating/cooking and further, how will I come to grips with it emotionally??! Well, some things take time to understand. About one week of being “gluten free”, I noticed that my brain fog began to lift, ability to focus was so much better and the gi side effects were gone. Ok, maybe this is worth it! I began reading about why eating gluten free was paramount for optimum health and at that time, I was sold.
Moving forward a couple of years, one of my twin daughters was diagnosed with both Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease at the same time. What a challenge for an 8 year old and us as her family to support her. Fortunately, I already had a handle of how to cook gluten and where to purchase my baking supplies and my yummy pre-baked things. The sad reality is that autoimmune diseases run in our family and some are more difficult to manage than others. The good news is that there is a lot of information available about autoimmune diseases and why you and your family should choose to eat with purpose. The key thing is to be aware, if possible, of any autoimmune diseases within your family and remember that their symptoms may look very different than yours. If you do find autoimmune issues, learn about them and read about why a gluten free diet could very well boost your immune system and possibly keep you from having the disease(s). In my case, I feel strongly believe that my current state of having 5 autoimmune diseases has a lot to do with the choices I made in my food, primarily gluten.
My celiac diagnosis came with few noticeable symptoms. I was overweight with no obvious gastro-intestinal issues going on; or so I thought. My indigestion seemed to develop in one weekend. By Sunday I worried that I was having a heart attack. ER doctors ruled out a heart attack and bleeding ulcer. They suspected GERD (acid reflux) or a gallbladder issue. Follow-up included a stress test to be sure my heart wasn’t involved, an ultrasound on my gallbladder, and an upper GI to confirm GERD.
Two months of testing followed. A false positive on the stress test led to cardiac catheterization. A false positive chest x-ray led to a CT scan. The gallbladder was fine. Finally, with everything else negative, I had an upper endoscopy to confirm the acid reflux. During the procedure my doctor noticed the villi of my small intestine were “flattened,” so he biopsied to check for celiac disease. WHAT?? Neither he nor any other physician had ever suggested this possibility to me. He sent me for blood work to further test for celiac. About a week later I got the news: Celiac disease, confirmed by biopsy and blood work, GERD, and gastritis. In hindsight, I now know that my osteopenia/osteoporosis diagnosis several years prior was a precursor. Doctors never investigated why my body wasn’t absorbing calcium.
When my mom was diagnosed with Celiac disease, her doctor recommended that any of her siblings or children should also be tested since Celiac tends to run in families. I agreed to the testing, and was pretty sure my results would be negative. After all, I did not experience any of the kinds of intestinal problems my mom had over the years. Imagine my surprise when my results came back positive!
Doing my research afterwards on Celiac disease, I found out that intestinal problems (bloating, gas, cramping, etc.) were not the only symptoms that indicated Celiac. My only symptom resented itself as canker sores. I suffered from these for years and sometimes the sores seemed to cover the entire inside of my mouth. We could never figure out why I’d break out with them like I did. After going on the gluten-free diet, I can honestly say that my experience with canker sores is pretty much history. I may get one now and then, but they are usually small and gone quickly. My advice … if you suffer from unexplained problems, follow up with your doctor and ask to be tested for Celiac. The list of symptoms is a long one, and the disease shows up in so many different ways!
I was born in Spain in 1979, a time when the strict laws that had governed General Franco’s dictatorship four years before, made medical advances and female doctors few and far between. My mother, 18 at the time, tells me about the first six months of my life as if they were the most trying months of hers: “You were a very sick baby. You didn’t stop crying and we didn’t know what to do. We were constantly in and out of the hospital as the doctors ran new tests. Your father and I were beside ourselves.” It wasn’t until they brought me to a new, young, female doctor, with a special interest in the recent findings of celiac disease, that I was diagnosed properly. Every six months since then, now 32, I’ve gone to the same doctor (a pediatrician) for a blood analysis. I was very lucky to have been diagnosed so young, in a time and place where little was known about the disease. After years of going to birthday parties and not getting dessert, now, thanks to companies like Andrea’s Gluten Free, I can finally have my cake and eat it too!