How Long Did It Take For You To Be Diagnosed With Celiac Disease? Your Body Needs Healing Foods: Gluten-Free Junk Food is Still Junk Food

Are you one of many on a gluten-free diet but still experiencing pain and discomfort due to arthritis, headaches, numbness or diabetes? Are you frustrated, rightfully so, because your doctor wants to prescribe medications that mask the symptoms but don’t cure the problem? The average length of time it takes for a symptomatic person to be diagnosed with celiac disease in the U.S. is four years. Imagine if you are asymptomatic- the time could be double, even triple. In Dr. Fasano’s landmark prevalence study on celiac disease (1), 60% of children and 41% of adults diagnosed during the study were without symptoms. A lot is happening in the body during those undiagnosed years and it takes more than replacing wheat bread with gluten-free bread to heal the damage and achieve good health.

For years your body was a war zone- literally. If you have an autoimmune disease like celiac, your immune system launches an attack on the lining of the small intestine. The small intestine is lined with tiny fingerlike projections called villi, which secrete digestive enzymes and absorb nutrients. With celiac disease, the villi are damaged or destroyed, resulting in the poor absorption of nutrients such as magnesium and zinc, which can lead to collateral damage in other systems because everything in the body is interconnected. Think of a spider’s web- if there is a kink in one area, there is tension and stress somewhere else- and then that area affects another part until the whole web is contorted and out of balance. This phenomenon explains why people who are gluten intolerant experience over 200 symptoms such as headaches, skin rashes, thyroid problems, fatigue, and fertility issues.

All this destruction takes place in the form of inflammation because the immune system battles invaders by releasing toxic chemical molecules. In the gastrointestinal tract, the release of these chemicals causes inflammation of the gut lining, and as the gut lining becomes inflamed large foreign particles, such as proteins, bacteria, viruses and yeast, are allowed to slip through the damaged intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. The body then recognizes these substances as foreign and releases further antibodies in an attempt to expel the intruders from the body, causing more inflammation, further increasing the permeability of the intestinal wall, and resulting in a leaky gut.

A growing body of evidence suggests that virtually the same trio of factors underpins most, and perhaps all, autoimmune diseases: an environmental substance that is presented to the body (in the case of celiac disease the trigger is gluten), a genetically based tendency of the immune system to overreact to the substance, and an unusually permeable gut. Going gluten-free will repair you intestinal villi, but what about the rest of your battered war torn body?  Once diagnosed it is important to eat not only gluten-free, but an anti-inflammatory diet of healing foods so your body can repair, rebuild, and rejuvenate. Restoration could take years depending on the damage done due to years of misdiagnosis.

How can you eat a healthy healing diet? Eat more plants! Focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein, whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat, and good fats such as coconut oil- not a diet filled with gluten-free processed foods made from oxidized oils. Junk food is junk food, whether made with refined gluten-free flours or wheat. Yes it takes planning, time and a little extra effort but the reward is fewer sick days and doctor visits. Once you feel better, you will have the time and energy to continue to eat healthy. The tension and stress on the spider web will begin to release and you will experience a high quality of life. Feeling good is happiness.  And luckily, there are more and more gluten-free, vegan and raw food options available to help make us happy. For more information go to and

(1) A. Fasano, I. Berti, T. Gerarduzzi, T. Not, R.B. Colletti, S. Drago, Y. Elitsur, P.H.R. Green, S. Guandalini, I. Hill, M. Pietzak, A. Ventura, M. Thorpe, D. Kryszak, F. Fornaroli, S.S. Wasserman, J.A. Murray, K. Horvath. Prevalence of celiac disease in at-risk and not-at-risk groups in the United States: a large multicenter study. Arch Int Med 2003;163:286-292.


Can a Gluten-Free Diet Benefit Migraine Sufferers?

Migraines are severe, recurring and disabling headaches, usually affecting only one side of the head; they often are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, a sensitivity to light and visual disturbances. They occur more frequently in women than men. Approximately 6% of men and 18% of women experience a migraine headache during their lifetime and 30 million Americans experience multiple migraines every month. Many sufferers report that their migraines were moderately or very disruptive to their families and friends (1).

There are many foods that can trigger headaches including aged cheese, red wine, food additives and chocolate. Research also shows that gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, may be a cause of recurring headaches (2). Wheat contains gluten and many of the other trigger foods are eaten in combination with wheat based products: cheese and crackers, red wine and pasta, hot dogs and lunch meat containing food additives and bread, and chocolate cake, In fact, the medical community has known about an association between migraines and gluten intolerance for years. Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged (villous atrophy) from eating gluten. It is estimated that 4% of migraine sufferers have celiac disease, equal to approximately 1.2 million Americans (3).  Celiac disease is just one type of gluten intolerance and affects 1 in 100 people. Non-celiac gluten intolerance affects an estimated 1 in 10 and is only recently being recognized as a gluten sensitivity without villous atrophy. Could 40% of migraine sufferers have non-celiac gluten intolerance? Could 12 million people go on a gluten-free diet and experience fewer and less severe headaches, maybe even no headaches? No bagel is worth the pain to you or your personal life. To understand the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance, go to

Going on a gluten-free diet no longer means giving up your favorite foods. And contrary to many reports in the news, a gluten-free diet of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts, seeds and gluten-free grains (including oats, quinoa, and brown rice) is very healthy and nutritious. The Food Philosopher website is filled with delicious gluten-free options for bread and pancakes. One of my favorite summer pasta dishes is Penne Pasta with Feta, Tomato and Basil. Serve it with grilled chicken and vegetables. For a complete dinner menu with gluten-free recipes go to


Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish

1 pound gluten-free penne pasta* (such as Tinkyada®)
½  cup chicken stock
½ cup prepared pesto
8 ounces feta cheese cut into cubes
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup corn, cooked until just tender
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. In large mixing bowl, toss cooked warm pasta with chicken stock and pesto.
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with pasta. Adjust seasonings.
  4. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Keep tightly covered until ready to serve.


(1) “Migraine frequency and health utilities: findings from a multi-site survey,” published in Value in Health, surveyed 150 migraine patients in the U.S. to study how migraine frequency affects quality of life. The study was co-authored by Jeffrey Brown, PhD (Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care), Peter J. Neumann, ScD (Tufts-New England Medical Center Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy), George Papadopoulos (Schering-Plough Corporation), Gary Ruoff, MD (Westside Family Medical Center), Merle Diamond, MD (Diamond Headache Clinic), and Joseph Menzin, PhD (Boston Health Economics, Inc.).

(2) American Academy of Neurology (2001, February 14). Gluten In The Diet May Be The Cause Of Recurring Headaches. Science Daily. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from­ /releases/2001/02/010213072604.htm.

(3) Gabrielli, M., Cremonini, F., et al (2003). Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 98(7):1674. Retrieved from

My Top Gluten-Free Foods

When you first start the gluten-free diet, surviving the first two weeks can be tricky for many reasons, most of all, you are hungry! The diet is a process- substituting old favorites and traditions for new. Here are 12 gluten-free staples to ease the transition.

My 12 Favorite Gluten-Free Brands:

1. Udi’s Pizza Crust: in the frozen food aisle. Days when nothing but pizza will do and there is no time to make a homemade crust!

2. Fayeh Greek Yogurt: in the  dairy/yogurt section of most supermarkets. For breakfast, for a snack, whenever your hungry; it satisfies. I love it with honey, flax seed meal, cinnamon and fresh fruit.

3. Bob’s Red Mill GlutenFree Rolled Oats: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. Great for breakfast and for homemade breads and pancakes.

4. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Flax Seed Meal: usually in the baking/flour section in most supermarkets. I sprinkle in oatmeal and yogurt, mix in homemade breads and muffins, as a filler for meatballs. This wonderful functional food is filled with omega 3 oils and fiber to help neutralize chronic inflammation in the body.

5. Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pancake Mix: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. Great for lazy Sunday mornings and large crowds.

6. Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. A kid favorite and my go to bread when I don’t make my own.

7. Food For Life Brown Rice Tortillas: in the frozen food aisle or refrigerated breads. Must have breakfast for time strapped families with hungry teenagers. Buy 2, they go fast.

8. Mary Gone Crackers Original: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. Complex and satisfying. Wheat who?

9. Crunchmaster Rice Crackers: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. The new kid on the block with lots of texture and taste. Perfect for dips and cheese.

10. Glutino Chocolate Wafers: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. This slim wafer gets you through the first two weeks. Best with a cup of green tea.

11. Hail Merry Blonde Macaroons: only in Texas, but that is where I live. Gluten-free, vegan, no refined sugars; need I say more. Anywhere else, your favorite dark chocolate here.

12. Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta: usually in the gluten-free section of most supermarkets. Delicious and the best gluten-free value for your money and taste. Stock up when there is a sale.