Mom and Dad were born in 1887 and had good health for their entire lifetimes. I never knew anyone who suffered from "stomach distress," ulcers or problems with digestion. We ate what we produced on the farm, with a few exceptions.
That’s why, in a health class more than 40 years ago, I made this note: "Celiac Sprue! DON’T GET THAT!"
However, I did get that, and I was shocked to learn that celiac sprue is a genetic disease for which there is no medicine, exercise or treatment. It sometimes mysteriously surfaces when triggered by major surgery, an automobile accident, psychological upset such as divorce - or some unknown incident.
It can attack the immune system, and in extreme cases, celiac sprue can be fatal.
CS is so little known that some doctors have treated it as an allergy or ulcers or other treatable ailment.
When my doctor said, "Try leaving off wheat, oats, barley and rye from your diet," I said "OK, I’ll do that." It sounded easy!
My daughter Nancy and I rushed to the grocery store and began reading labels.
What a shock! Many canned and packaged foods contained "modified food starch" celiacs can’t have that - or barley, which is found in canned soups and in almost all dry cereals. Monosodium glutamate - all glutens, for that matter - is gone from my diet forever.
Some artificial colors could not be tolerated in food - or in toothpaste! I learned to also question furniture polish, various soaps and household cleansers.
Canned soups and dry cereals and even those soft, puffy, tasty marshmallows are out forever - flavored with barley. Not a sliver of bread, pie crust, pasta, cake, or cracker can be ingested without a major digestive upset.
When celiacs - people with CS - get together, they ask each other: "What do you do about the little communion wafer at church?" I drop my wafer into my coat pocket or purse!
Celiacs and mothers of CS children share ideas. Most of us eat at home and "pick and choose" when in cafeterias and restaurants. Few waiters realize that cake, crackers, quiche, pie, noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, pasta - are made of wheat, oats, barley or rye.
Excellent gravy can be made with corn starch or rice flour, both of which are good for celiacs, including me!
Our home kitchens have two sets of utensils - one set for celiacs and separate toasters, stirring spoons, egg beaters, cutting knives, etc. for the family. We share recipes with other celiacs.
"Just this one little cookie," is lethal for an adult or a child! We have to give up the foods we know will destroy the tiny "villi" in the intestinal tract. Villi are there to pick up nourishment. When they’re destroyed, we eat mountains of food that moves through without nourishing us.
There are no medicines or miracles. Our only protection is to adhere strictly to the celiac diet.
Repair takes many months - perhaps years. The villi might eventually grow back, but a few men, women and children have starved while eating really "tasty food" but not enough grain. Rice and corn are our only grains!
Everybody needs five servings of grain daily, and celiacs can have only rice and corn.
Does this frighten us? Absolutely!