Elisabeth Hasselbeck and I finally have something in common. In her excellent book, "The G-Free Diet," she writes about her discovery that she has celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive condition. The finger-like villi of the small intestine become damaged as a result of eating gluten, which is the plant protein found in wheat, common cereal grains and flour, resulting in a lack of nutrient absorption. Without absorbing vitamins and minerals, the immune system is ripe for autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, even cancer.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 out of 133 people suffer with celiac disease and 97 percent of them don't know they have it!
Recently, by a series of good fortune events, I had the ultimate physiological "aha!" moment leading me to my own diagnosis of celiac, originating from something completely nonrelated. There was a clear bell of destiny to the whole thing. For a short, exhilarating time, I became my own intense medical investigator, on the case of a life-changing truth.
Sometimes a puzzle demands to be solved, in spite of our having other plans. Suffice it to say that, like any good mystery, this one involved intrigue, medical corruption, history, JFK and a lifelong passion for fabulous food.
I am on the celiac diet, and in spite of many skeptics who insist this is a fad, take my word for it: It is very real, if not surreal.
Here's my take on why this remains an invisible, undiagnosed disease by the medical community. There is no money in it. There is no pharmaceutical prescription that addresses the disease.
This is because the only cure for celiac disease right now is to stop eating all products containing gluten.
It seems as though there is nothing to gain for doctors to investigate a celiac disease diagnosis. It is my understanding that most people are misdiagnosed and prescribed inappropriate, even harmful medications that distract and cover up the core sickness they are experiencing. Does this mean that we all are on our own and have to be our own doctors when we have what may be a celiac condition?
My own journey has been what feels like a hairpin race around blind curves inevitably leading to the arrival at a foreign and flourless diet, the unfamiliar trip down food aisles bearing amaranth, greens and quinoa. Glancing over in those aisles to my fellow food travelers, we smile and I realize: I have become one of those people who speak in gluten.
For sure, this doesn't mean I am 100 percent fundamentalist on the prescribed nondairy, meatless, 3-day-a-week fish regime. To wit, the 10-layer dark, ganache chocolate hazelnut cake someone recently surprised me with. Sigh. But that's a gleeful/guilty anomaly. Most of the time, the highlight of a food day involves some fascinating variety of seaweed.
On the one, most important hand, I am incredibly lucky. I have comprehensively cracked the case and the reward is health!
I could also teach a small seminar on what it means to have the celiac condition, having lived with it undiagnosed all my life, and now researching it, literally, to the bones.
Having had a childhood eating preference diagnosed by my mother as "picky," she also, to be fair, took me to stomach doctors who adamantly proclaimed my vibrant well being. The diagnosis was the fallback medical explanation for all unknown symptoms: stress.
This undiagnosed condition has never come in the way of a lifetime of fabulous food adventures. My friends call on me as their personal restaurant intuitive. I know the great from the no good without stepping foot in a place. While always being sensitive to the quality of ingredients with a stomach that spoke to me loud and clear, I just never knew what that meant.
I'll always be a person who reads room service menus with the excitement of inhaling a great piece of literature. I've been to four and five-star food destinations all over France, have passionately pursued and discovered great food and creative, extraordinary, mostly unstarred, restaurants everywhere.
I'm bound to deliberately bracket this awakened, necessary change of diet on rare occasions, most probably while traveling. Yet I am thrilled by the clarity of knowledge and the opportunity to heal and live the highest quality, healthiest life possible.
It is comforting to be in great company with generous people who share their own stories.
Robin Quivers wrote a recent HuffPost blog that I love, expressing her joyous adventure in dietary renovation. That was nourishing to read. Thank you, Robin! And thanks to Elisabeth Hasselbeck for writing her terrific book.
As I troll drolly, (most of the time), into deeper raw food territory, the "Annie Hall" scene where Woody Allen travels to L.A. to hopefully win Annie back to New York and they meet at a health food restaurant, (which was then an actual wonderful restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, called, The Source), springs to mind. He ordered a plate of mashed yeast. I know exactly how he felt.