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Sarah Fauber of Riversong Farm taught an SOS class on Becoming Gluten Free on April 9. There were eight attendees.
Shannon Depew, who has lived in Spencer County 7 1/2 years, attended the class to learn more about gluten free eating because she and her daughter have milk allergies. Even though they are doing much better, she suspects a wheat allergy also.
Gluten is a combination of proteins found in grains. Barley, wheat and rye specifically cause a reaction in people who are sensitive to gluten.
Gluten can affect people with a sensitivity in different ways. Symptoms can include stomach and intestinal problems, heartburn, headaches, itchy skin, depression and fatigue. Celiac disease, the most well-known complication, is caused by gluten sensitivity. People with celiac disease become malnourished because they can not absorb nutrients.
Depew found it especially interesting finding out how many ailments are connected to gluten sensitivity besides celiac disease, including rheumatoid arthritis. She often finds that people do not believe that she has a gluten issue because she does not have celiac.
“Even though I don’t have celiac, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a gluten problem,” said Depew.
Fauber mentioned that there is a test for celiac disease and wheat sensitivity, but that most doctors do not consider other gluten issues as a problem.
To take the test for gluten sensitivity, one must continue to consume gluten for a month before the test. Fauber said that she tried eliminating different foods from her diet and then adding foods back in to see what was causing her distress. When she realized that she had issues when eating foods containing gluten, she simply removed them from her diet. She has not been formally tested because she does not want to eat those foods again for the length of time needed.
Eliminating gluten from the diet is not easy. The first step is to stop eating wheat, barley and rye, but it is not that simple because grains are included in many products.
“You have to become a big- time label reader and it’s still not easy,” said Fauber. “Secret gluten is everywhere.”
Gluten can be found in such wide ranging products as distilled white vinegar, soy sauce and deli meat, which uses wheat as a binder. Also, almost all meat is fed supplemental grain, and can affect some people with sensitivities. She suggested buying meat from local farms that raise grass-fed beef, such as Big Springs Beef at the Taylorsville Farmers Market.
Eating out in restaurants or in other people’s homes can cause problems for people with gluten sensitivity too. While some restaurants are starting to have gluten free menu items, often these foods are cooked in the same oil as foods containing gluten and become contaminated. Even a small amount of gluten can make some people very sick.
Fauber advises taking your own food when going to other people’s homes and even in restaurants (or meeting up with friends later instead of enjoying the meal with them). She has found it to be frustrating both for the person hosting an event and herself to find that the food they have prepared with her in mind, has made her ill. Often when she takes her own food, she takes extra because people are curious about what she is eating and want to try what she brings for herself.
Fauber stressed that when buying ingredients to make your own food, it is important to ensure that they are gluten free. Even foods that do not contain gluten in themselves, like oatmeal, can be processed in a plant that also processes wheat and cross-contamination can occur.
Fauber recommends substituting quinoa for other grains, spaghetti squash instead of pasta and beans for many things. She also makes omelets instead of sandwiches. She has not found a gluten free bread that she likes.
Participants were glad to get a chance to find out more about gluten sensitivity close to home.
“I think it’s awesome that people are willing to do these classes and that the extension office offers them,” said Depew, adding that she learned things that would have required a lot of research on her own.
Find some of Fauber’s favorite gluten free recipes on her blog: http://cookingitupsarahstyle.riversongfarm.com.
Upcoming SOS classes include: Jinglebell Ornament on April 14 taught by Donna Bulf and Hand Embroidery on April 19 taught by Marcella Hazelwood. Other classes are full, but there is a waiting list. To find out more, contact the extension office at 477-2217.