Saint Louis University

Author: Kaylan Reese
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012

If someone has celiac disease, it means that person cannot eat foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains. If a person with celiac disease were to consume gluten, their immune system would respond by damaging villi, which are finger-like extensions on the inside of your intestine that help absorb nutrients. Therefore, if a person with celiac disease consumes gluten it attacks their villi and makes them go flat so they are no longer able to absorb those nutrients. As a result, the only treatment for celiac disease is a life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet.

Going Gluten-Free
Once a person is diagnosed with celiac disease, not only do that have to accept the diagnosis but they also have to figure out how to eat gluten-free, which is a much more difficult task than meets the eye. Going gluten-free means always having to read food labels, not being able to just go to any restaurant your friends want to go to, no traditional wedding or birthday cake, no more of your old favorite cookies, and the most difficult part is finding a good gluten-free bread. Sounds frustrating, doesn’t it? Well not so fast! Over the past years gluten-free products have become much more readily available and companies are becoming much better at labeling gluten-free products to make it easier on the consumer.

I got to experience going gluten-free first hand during my health promotion rotation, last month, at a gluten-free bakery. The bakery makes their products in a dedicated gluten-, peanut-,and tree nut-free kitchen. They also make products free of other allergens such as soy, egg, and casein (the protein found in milk), to name a few. In fact, while I was there, the owner decided that she wanted to make the entire facility gluten-free, which meant that even the employees had to make sure their lunches were gluten-free. I had heard the customers complaining about the high cost of gluten-free products but I never thought anything of it until I went to the grocery store to buy food for my lunches that week. I thought it would be easier to buy a frozen entrée, but it was more than five dollars! So I decided to bake some chicken breasts with gluten-free risotto and it was delicious. Initially I thought it was very difficult, but I realized there are many foods that naturally do not contain gluten and there are many gluten-free options available.

Gluten-Free Products
During this rotation the bakery was also expanding and getting more products to make grocery shopping easier for those who are gluten free. Their idea was that customers can come to the bakery for all of their gluten-free products, that way there is one less thing to worry about at the grocery store. I had the opportunity to go to the grocery store in St. Louis that carries the most gluten-free products and write all of the products down. Then, back at the bakery, I looked up the items in their system to see if the products were available to order, thus the store began to expand.

I really enjoyed doing my health promotion rotation at this gluten-free bakery. I also enjoyed going in on a Saturday that was one of their sampling days. With gluten-free products being so expensive, the bakery likes to give the customers an opportunity to come in and sample things before they purchase them. I got to sample many products as well and they were all very delicious, even their bread! The employees at the bakery are very friendly and do whatever they can to help the customers. For example, they have a list of grocery stores in the St. Louis area that have gluten-free options. They even make wedding cakes! Also, if a customer suggests they want to see one of their favorite products in the store, if it is in their ordering system, they will order it and start stocking it in the store.

Although I only had a small glimpse into the life of being gluten-free, I will now be able to better empathize with my future clients who are gluten-free Overall, it is really nice to know that there are great resources available for those who follow a gluten-free diet. I enjoyed my experience at this gluten-free bakery and I plan to refer my future clients there!