Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Oh-So-Easy White Spinach Personal Pizza, and Celiac Awareness
Today is National Celiac Awareness Day, so I thought I'd share with you our celiac story - along with my current favorite quick lunch. This meal is incredibly simple, so anyone feeling overwhelmed as a newly diagnosed celiac can make this with confidence.
Our celiac adventure began about a decade ago - though we had no idea it was celiac at the time. My husband's annual physical and blood tests resulted in elevated liver enzymes each year. Over the years, he went to three general practitioners and a handful of specialists to determine the cause of the elevated liver enzymes, to no avail.
CT scans, ultrasounds, liver disease tests kept coming back normal, but the enzymes were always elevated. The doctors felt he was in otherwise good health and weren't too concerned because the levels weren't at alarming numbers yet, so they'd test again the next year. Eventually an internal medicine doctor decided he wanted to try a liver biopsy on my husband to see if that produced any results. It was a procedure they wanted to do just because they couldn't figure anything else out - and they weren't guaranteeing any answers would come from the biopsy, either.
We both felt like this biopsy was too risky for a grasping at straws approach just because all else had failed, so he canceled the biopsy. A couple of years prior, I'd researched the liver enzyme thing online and something called celiac was mentioned a few times. He didn't really have any other symptoms, so I filed it away for future reference and then kind of forgot about it. After he canceled the biopsy, I began my research anew, and seriously.
Celiac kept coming up, so I mentioned to him that I thought he needed to be tested for it. He gave me a vague "Okay, I'll try to remember at some point" type of answer and it wasn't discussed again for a long time. In fact, he pretty much forgot about it.
A little time went by, and my father-in-law began to get ill. Stomach issues and terrible join pain plagued him, and he began to get more and more sick. Doctors couldn't figure it out, and joint surgeries were discussed. I suspected the stomach and joint problems were related somehow. He eventually went to an internal medicine doctor who did the proper testing for him, and celiac was the answer, confirmed with a biopsy.
My husband listened then (fall of 2008), and got tested for celiac. He requested the test. The blood tests were very high for celiac, and a biopsy confirmed it. His liver enzymes went back to normal after going gluten-free. A bone scan showed that he was close to osteoporosis (which of course has improved with diet).
Not one doctor or specialist over all those years had thought to test him for celiac. We were happy with those doctors, and thought they were good doctors (well, with the exception of two of them). My husband still goes to one of them. But none of them knew enough about celiac to make the connection.
Thinking back on his health over the years pre-diagnosis, we realized some little things that weren't a big deal and he figured were part of life and getting older were in fact related to the celiac. Little things that people think nothing of every day. Being tired more easily. Having an upset stomach every once in a while - blame it on the meal. One that really stood out in his mind was canker sores. He'd had a problem with them since he was a child, and had even gotten prescription ointments that didn't phase them. Every time he accidentally bit himself, hit his gums with a toothbrush, ate too much citrus, or sometimes even for no apparent reason, he'd get a sore that would have a hard time going away. That issue is no longer an issue.
Eventually our daughters were tested - and their genetic testing led me to also be tested. Tests showed a reaction to gluten, so both daughters and myself went strictly gluten-free. We didn't need a biopsy to convince us to get off and know we were gluten sensitive. We were going to be about 95% gluten-free anyway because of my husband. When we went completely off gluten, health issues started getting better. Our youngest had eczema clear up. My "ulcer" that constantly plagued me and had been treated twice went away. I get very sick if I accidentally eat gluten now.
So I share this information with you now, because celiac awareness is so important. At least 1 in 133 Americans have celiac, and most of them don't know it. I've seen some estimates closer to 1 in 100. The medical community is beginning to listen and become more educated in celiac and gluten sensitivity. (Did you know that non-celiac gluten sensitivity has now been proven as a medical condition? Estimates are 1 in 20 Americans are affected by it.)
Individuals need to educate themselves. If we hadn't, my husband would likely still be having elevated liver enzymes, osteoporosis and who knows what else by now. Untreated celiac (only treatment is a gluten-free diet) is a very serious condition that can lead to cancers and many autoimmune disorders, just to name a couple of things. The list is nearly endless of the associated conditions and symptoms (more than 300!) linked to celiac. It's also hereditary - if someone in your family (even if they aren't a first-degree relative) has it, you have an increased chance of having it. You know individuals with celiac or gluten sensitivity, even if you don't know it and they don't know it yet. Education is so important!
Do you want to help with awareness? Go to 1in133 and let the FDA know that gluten-free standards are necessary NOW in the United States. We are way behind other countries in this area.
Want more information? I have a resources page linked at the top of this blog, or you can click here.
Living gluten-free can seem overwhelming at first, but it's really not once you get used to it. There are so many good foods that are naturally gluten-free, and most of your favorite gluten goods can be made gluten-free so well that no one can tell the difference. In fact, many times the gluten-free version is preferred.
This personal "pizza" is my current favorite for a quick lunch. It could also be a heavy snack. It is so easy and quick, you can have it from prep to plate in under 15 minutes.
Projected total time: Under 15 minutes
1 gluten-free tortilla (I usually use corn tortillas)
1/4 c. ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed
Black pepper or cayenne pepper
Mozzarella cheese (shredded is easiest)
Place tortilla on toaster oven baking sheet, or regular baking sheet in large oven if you don't have toaster oven.
Mix ricotta with minced garlic clove.
Spread onto tortilla. Heat in toaster oven (or oven) at about 400 degrees for about four minutes.
Sprinkle a little kosher salt and black or cayenne pepper (either are good - it's up to your taste) over the ricotta mixture
Top with fresh spinach, piled high.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of spinach and return to oven until cheese is melted.