Ready or Not #35:Celiac Disease and Food Storage

Just when you think you’ve got things figured out, Murphy’s Law surfaces.  Or maybe the saying about the “wrench being thrown into the works” is more fitting?  Well, I don’t know which one of them applies (maybe both of them), but really!

First I adjusted our food storage to accommodate diabetes; I even bought a small fridge to put all of the insulin in to keep it separated from the food so that it couldn’t be contaminated.  Also, with the separate fridge, it was easier to keep track of how much insulin we had on hand and set up a plan to store enough for a year (you can do that if you keep the insulin cold).

But now, oh brother.  Right now I have several hundred pounds of wheat, barley and canned soups that will only help a part of my family to stay alive; the other part could get very, very sick from eating what should normally be life sustaining.  It’s called Celiac disease (pronounced: silly acts – sort of), but there is nothing silly about it.

Celiac disease is not an allergy to wheat, but instead it is the body’s reaction to the gluten protein – and it can be deadly.  It actually destroys the small intestine.  The way that I had it described to me was that the inside of the small intestine should look like a shag carpet with all the villi standing up so that they can absorb the nutrients.  When you have Celiac disease, the gluten destroys your small intestine and it looks more like a tile floor!  Very few of the nutrients can be absorbed and you can become malnourished, start losing hair, and just feel lousy all the time (no wonder!)

It took a long time to diagnose my daughter correctly because only a few of her symptoms were typical; most of them were atypical – even the doctor was surprised when the diagnosis came back.  Fortunately for her and other celiac patients, when you start eating a gluten-free diet, your small intestine will heal and you will start feeling better.  Thank goodness for small favors.

Now, back to the gluten-free diet.  All that wheat!  Do you realize how many things we eat that have wheat, barley or rye in them?  While investigating this disease, I read a story about a woman, who suffers from celiac, that was on vacation on some island and while she was there they had a terrible storm.  The storm cut off all of the islands power and they couldn’t get to the mainland.  During that dangerous time the hotel was able to feed everyone – but her.  The only foods that the hotel management was able to offer were items that had been cross-contaminated with some form of gluten.  Fortunately she had packed a pound cake (which seems like an odd thing to bring) and she was able to live on it for three days until they were able to get fresh food.

That was when I started thinking about all of that wheat and barley that we used in our daily diet – what would my daughter do in an emergency?  Yes, she can eat meat and fruit and vegetables, but I have found that there is gluten in a lot of things that you would never consider.  Take soy sauce for instance; soy sauce has gluten in it.  Not the real soy sauce that is aged over time, but the commercial soy sauce that is created for the masses.  We now use Braggs Amino Acids – it is a very acceptable alternative.  And French fries, you would think that being a potato they are okay, but if they are fried in the same oil that fries onion rings and other breaded items, then they are off the menu.

Actually, we pretty much eat gluten free except for the obvious bread and crackers, but I found that the biggest help is that we bottle a lot of our own fruits and vegetables and we cook most things from scratch, so we don’t worry about gluten contamination.  We have also found a very acceptable pasta made out of brown rice and several other good tasting alternatives.  We have even found a very good homemade gluten-free “flour mix”.  I used my Mile High Biscuit recipe to experiment with and I found it very acceptable.  The only thing that I have to remember is to add the xanthan gum so that the biscuits will hold together.

The thing about feeding someone with celiac, is that it can be more expensive – especially if they still want to eat the pastas, cakes, cookies, bread rolls and other items that typically contain gluten (and who wouldn’t), but it is very doable – you just have to plan your menus and know what you need to have on hand to sustain yourself for three months, six month or a year.  Well, I guess it is back to the Food Storage Worksheets for me!

If you want to learn more about celiac disease, and more people have it than you would expect, there are some really good websites you can visit.  Here in Utah you can visit www.gfutah.org and get some really good basic information that will tell you just about everything you need to know about celiac and it will give you a lot of help and hope.

Another one of my favorite gluten-free websites is www.glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com.   This is a blog that is just fun to read.  Shauna Ahern writes about how she found out she had celiac and then what she did about it.  If you are interested, I would start at the beginning of her blog and work your way forward.  Not only does she do a lot of musing, but she and her husband, Danny, who is a professional chef, whip up wonderfully delicious, gluten-free food.  You will find that most basic food doesn’t have gluten in it and it is all delicious.  That is the website where I found the flour mix and several other delightful recipes.  Check her blog out and in the meantime, try their wonderful homemade gluten-free flour mix:

The Aherns’ All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix

300 grams superfine brown rice flour
250 grams sweet rice flour
150 grams tapioca flour
100 grams sorghum flour
100 grams potato starch
100 grams cornstarch

Mix them all up in a large container. Put on the lid. Shake it around. You have flour.

If you look at this combination, the brown rice flour and sorghum flour make up 40% of the mix by weight. The sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and cornstarch make up 60% of the mix by weight.

Here’s the important part: if you keep to this same ratio of whole grain to starches, you can use other flours you like more for your all-purpose mix. Use millet instead of the sorghum, or amaranth. If you can’t eat corn, use more potato starch in place of the cornstarch. Stick to this ratio and mix up a big batch of flour. You’ll have all-purpose flour again.

You can bake almost any one of your old baking favorites now, substituting this mix for the all-purpose flour in the recipe. It’s easy. (Recipe taken from www.glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com)

I have found this flour combination to be really quite good and certainly a lot cheaper than buying mixes off the shelf.  Here is to healthy eating and figuring out what to store. (Oh wow, now I need to figure out how long I can store sorghum flour – what is sorghum anyway?)

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