Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of The View and participant on Survivor Australia, has written an extremely informative book about surviving on a gluten free diet titled “The G Free Diet”. Hasselbeck has compiled a wealth of information that describes her experience with years of gastric suffering, a self-led search to finding answers to her intestinal issues that doctors where unable to solve and a hopeful approach to living a gluten free life.
Hasselbeck has celiac disease, which in her case, causes severe intestinal pain and distress any time she consumes gluten products. Prior to being diagnosed with celiac disease, Hasselbeck was told she had an underactive thyroid. Autoimmune thyroid disease and celiac disease, also an autoimmune disease, commonly occur in the same person. Even if a person does not have celiac disease, making a choice to reduce gluten intake can be very beneficial to improving overall health.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and sometimes in oats, that is responsible for causing damage to the small hair like structures called villi that line the walls of the intestine and prevent nutrients from being absorbed by the body. Hasselbeck describes symptoms of celiac disease, which can range from absolutely no symptoms at all to extreme abdominal pain, intestinal distress, headaches and anemia. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to further complications such as thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, fertility problems, Type 1 diabetes and intestinal cancers. There are no medications to cure or treat celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The solution is total avoidance of gluten.
Hasselbeck describes the process and tests that are involved in diagnosing celiac disease. She provides information on why doctors are so uninformed about gluten intolerance and celiac disease. There is also a discussion about the lack of interest in supporting celiac research by the powerful pharmaceutical companies.
Throughout the book, Hasselbeck refers to the research and expertise of Dr. Peter Green, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. Dr. Green provides the technical medical knowledge to complement Hasselbeck’s extensive first hand experience.
Dr. Andrew Weil also makes valuable contributions to the book, including my favorite description as to why gluten intolerance and celiac disease is on the rise. “One possible explanation for the increase is that we’ve been breeding wheat for higher and higher gluten content, so there’s been greater exposure to gluten. Another explanation is that the increase in incidences of celiac disease is one aspect of a general toxic overload in the world today.”
Let’s face it, gluten products are everywhere in our diet – bagels, cereal, bread, pasta, pizza, coatings on fried food, cakes, cookies – you get the idea. Consuming such high amounts of gluten can cause gluten intolerance to develop. Avoiding gluten for six months and then gradually and infrequently adding gluten back into the diet is a possible solution for those with gluten intolerance. However, as Hasselbeck describes, for those with celiac disease, the only solution is lifelong gluten avoidance.
Hasselbeck has done a wonderful job describing the many terms that are used on ingredient labels to indicate gluten is present in a food, and as she describes, in items you may not suspect at all. Hairspray, lipstick, moisturizers, envelope adhesive and even some prescription and over-the-counter medications may all contain gluten. Hasselbeck’s detective work in finding products that are contaminated with gluten is stellar – and she informs the reader how to take responsibility for their own sleuthing skills.
Most importantly, Hasselbeck provides a wealth of information on gluten free products that are available to replace traditional food items. She is an example of the struggles and successes that occur on the path to living a gluten free life. She provides very detailed information on creating a gluten free environment, including cleaning out the silverware drawer to ensure there aren’t any bread crumbs coming in contact with the silverware. She also provides product and restaurant recommendations, as well as tips on traveling and suggestions for caring for children with celiac disease.
Overall, Hasselbeck has provided an inspiring account of living gluten free. I believe everyone can benefit from decreasing the amount of gluten that we consume on a daily basis. There are many excellent alternatives to the traditional gluten laden products. Whether you have gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or simply want to experiment with decreasing your gluten consumption, I definitely recommend “The G Free Diet.”
I purchased this book with my own money. The review was not solicited.
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