Paula Seamster shared her knowledge of Celiac disease and gluten-free diets to a crowd of a dozen people at the Gunn Memorial Public Library on Thursday afternoon.
Seamster began her PowerPoint by defining gluten as a mixture of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, commonly found in products such as wheat, rye and barley, along with most cereal ingredients.
Most people’s immune systems can handle such ingredients, despite their potential harmful effects, but many suffer from what’s known as celiac’s or gluten intolerance.
Time was also spent explaining the difference between celiac and gluten intolerance, two conditions, which Seamster explained, that vary quite a bit.
She told audience members the main difference between the two was celiac’s is an autoimmune disease caused by eating gluten. Symptoms can include constant nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping and bloating.
In addition, Seamster also informed attendees of a few unexpected places they might find gluten, include medicines, supplements, lipstick, toothpaste and even glue on stamps.
Many of the dozen or so people in attendance were health practitioners and they left with a little more knowledge to pass on to their patients.
Which according to Seamster, was the point.
“They’re learning and that’s a good thing,” Seamster. “Many of the doctors and health professionals before didn’t know much about it, but they’re learning and getting new information.”
Attendees had a hard time looking away from the projector screen during Seamster’s presentation. In fact, the first of the two sessions was so well received, it earned some word-of-mouth by the time the second meeting rolled around three hours later.
“It’s been very well received and I was a little surprised by the turnout,” Seamster said. “There were 10 people in the first session and 13 in this one. So, it was received really well.”
Seamster, above the rest, was glad to have the opportunity to clear up some misconceptions between Celiac’s and gluten intolerance.
“Hopefully, the stigma between Celiac’s and gluten intolerance has been erased by those in attendance today,” Seamster said. “Some of the ones who attended the second workshop weren’t coming until they heard the first one was so good.”
People with Celiac’s are often forced to lay off products containing gluten for the rest of their lives. However, those with gluten intolerance, have to follow a bit of a different path.
“Those with gluten intolerance, usually have to lay off the products for about four weeks, then re-introduced them,” Seamster said. “That can get pretty rough at times, switching back-and-forth.”
Another difference between the two is found in the fact that Celiac’s can be diagnosed with a test, while gluten intolerance can’t, providing the reason why those suffering from the later can be so tricky.
Once diagnosed with Celiac, patients are instructed to begin following a gluten-free diet. It can be difficult to follow at first, considering so many products contain gluten, but patients can find support in others in finding flavor-filled foods that meet their dietary needs.
As knowledge of the disease has progressed, many companies are now making gluten-free cereals, pastas and breads for those suffering from either illness. For example, according to Seamster, instead of using wheat flour, people can use potatoes, rice, soy or bean flour.
Plain meat, fish, rice, fruits and vegetables do not contain gluten, meaning those products represent a safe zone for suffers.
Attendees were shocked by much of the information they learned about Celiac, gluten-intolerance and a gluten-free diet.
However, there was one bit that stood above the rest.
“They thought it was a fad, just like everybody else does,” Seamster said. “That it’s not a real condition. That’s it just a way to lose weight, a diet, because that’s what they’ve been told.”
Seamster warned against the assumption:
“It’s not a way to lose weight. In fact, a lot of people even gain weight because of the high amount of carbohydrates they are taking in,” Seamster said.