Gluten Free

Free Celiac Screening and Gluten Free Care Packages from the Univesity of Chicago

The University of Chicago Medical Center is offering free blood screenings for Celiac Disease on October 17, 2015.   The test is offered for free, but registration is mandatory to qualify. Registration for the test opens on September 14th on the University of Chicago's Celiac Website.

If interested, I would recommend signing up as soon as possible once registration opens.

The University of Chicago also is offering Free Gluten Free Care Packages for people diagnosed with Celiac within the last 12 months.  See this link for more information and to fill out a questionnaire in order to receive a care package.

Healthy Q & A: Cooking for Guests with Food Allergies

Q:  My daughter is bringing her fiancé to Christmas for the first time this year.  I’m excited, but also worried since he has food allergies: he’s allergic to wheat and dairy.  I asked, and my daughter said it wasn’t a breathing reaction he has (thankfully!), but he gets rashes and digestive problems if he eats them.  I’m happy that he’s coming for Christmas, but I also don’t want to get him sick!  Do you have any recommendations?

A:  It is absolutely possible to have a nice, normal holiday feast while hosting a person with food allergies, it just takes a little extra awareness and planning.  The new USDA mandated food labeling lists if a product contains dairy or wheat and is printed at the bottom of the ingredient list in bold, so be sure to check all prepared foods you buy- even if it doesn’t seem if it would contain wheat or dairy since there are often surprise ingredients.


If you are cooking a roast, meats in general are safe, just take care using prepared marinades, since some contain flavorings or yeast extracts which may contain wheat.  When it comes to side dishes, there are lots of delicious choices which are dairy and wheat free.   With potatoes you can make mashed potatoes with dairy free margarine like Earth Balance’s Buttery Sticks and soy or rice milk.  Potatoes (regular white potatoes or sweet potatoes) are delicious roasted in olive oil.  Don’t think you need to have an entirely dairy free or wheat free meal, but just use care in preparing the dairy free and wheat free dishes, washing the counter and cutting board thoroughly and using new utensils.  Also, make sure to have a specific serving utensil for each allergen free dish so there isn’t cross contamination between the different foods. 


Gravy is another dish to be aware of, since prepared gravy (or many gravy recipes) contain wheat.  We do have easy gluten free (and vegetarian varieties if that’s a concern for anyone reading) gravy mixes at the store.  Desserts can be more of a challenge for dairy free and gluten free diets, though there are many delicious recipes which are absolutely doable.  Here’s a list of some fantastic gluten free desserts, many of which are dairy free (and really, it’s easy to convert almost any recipe to be dairy free by just substituting dairy free margarine, and soy, rice or coconut milk).

A nice prepared dessert that we have at the store which would fit the bill for gluten and dairy free are Katz Gluten Free Pies.  They’re delicious, and are nice since they’re one less thing to cook.  If you have any questions, be sure to stop by the store, we’re all very knowledgeable on food allergies and cooking for people with food allergies.


See our recipe review for some more great ideas for gluten free and dairy free holiday dishes!

Why go gluten free?


Celiac disease is probably the best known reason people switch to a gluten free diet.  Celiac disease is a condition where the body is damaged by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  It is also present in many other foods.  Celiac disease is a serious disease where eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine which over time damages the intestine’s lining and can prevents the absorption of nutrients.  It can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea.  Over time the body’s organs and bones can be damaged through malabsorption of nutrients.  Celiac disease is especially problematic in children, since it can affect growth and development.

Celiac disease does not always present itself with GI symptoms; in adults, common symptoms include anemia, bone disease, and neurological issues.   Also, children over age 3 with celiac disease often have non GI symptoms, including iron-deficiency anemia, short stature, or mood disorders.


Cross contamination is also an issue for people with celiac disease, where foods prepared in a factory or bakery containing wheat products can cause symptoms, even if there is no gluten present in the recipe that was used.  People with celiac may also wish to use gluten free beauty products, since gluten in those products can cause reactions as well.


Celiac is different from a sensitivity in that gluten can absolutely not be consumed.  It’s not like being a diet where you can “cheat and have a piece of cake”, since any amount of gluten is damaging to the body.  Thankfully, Celiac disease can be confirmed by a blood test, although gluten must be present in your system for the test to work.


Gluten Intolerance

Gluten Intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, can have similar outward symptoms to celiac disease, but it does not have an immunological component.  When gluten is ingested, the body sees it as a foreign invader, causing inflammation and digestive distress.  When gluten is removed from the diet, the symptoms begin to stop.   Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea caused by inflammation in the digestive tract. Headaches, lethargy, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity, muscle weakness/disturbances and joint pain may be present as well.


Autism, ADD/ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia

A variety of mental disorders respond well to a gluten free diet, particularly a gluten and casein (a protein found in milk) free diet.  Not everyone who switches to a GF/CF diet will see improvements, but many do.  Gluten can take up to a month to leave the body and may take up to six months before all traces are removed, but if you or your child suffer from any of these disorders, it can be worthwhile to see if eliminating gluten can be of benefit.




Foods that can be eaten on a gluten-free diet include rice, quinoa, amaranth, potato, buckwheat flour, corn, fruits, oil, vegetables, beans, tapioca, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, teff, nuts, eggs, and sorghum, among others.  There are also lots of gluten free baked goods, snacks, and prepared meals that we carry at the health food store.