Living With Celiac Disease: Part Two

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Monday we told you about a medical epidemic being deemed one of the most misdiagnosed problems Americans face. It's called Celiac Disease.

Currently, more than 3 million Americans are living with it, but only about 25 percent are aware they have it!! For those living with Celiac, there is no cure or medical treatment, the only relief is in a gluten free lifestyle, which can at times be very difficult.

But as Volunteer TV's Stacy McCloud explains, East Tennesseans and those around the country are making it alot easier!

For 19 years, Roman's Pizza has been bringing a slice of New York to West Knoxville. They've got the recipe for their hand tossed favorite down pat. It's an item coming soon that they're working hard to perfect.

"This is something very new to me," owner Dave Iannucci said.

Celiac and gluten are words David Iannucci had never heard of until a few months ago. So making a gluten free version of his fresh from the oven classic will take much more than substituting a different kind of dough.

"This back area is going to be set up just for gluten free pizzas," Iannucci said.

The staff at Roman's has to make sure that cross contamination won't be an issue.

"We want to make sure it's in the realm of gluten free criteria," Iannucci said.

That means not just the ingredients, but anything the pizza comes into contact with can't contain even a trace amount of wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Sounds simple enough, right? Not exactly.

"You have to be a good label reader," nutritionist Mary Sue Walker said.

Nutritionist Mary Sue Walker guides new Celiac patients through what can be a very frustrating few first few months after diagnosis. Hidden glutens are one thing she warns them about. They're the ones not so obviously stated on your food labels. The ingredients may look fine but too often gluten filled foods are making it into the bags of those thinking they're adhering to their new diet.

"This is something dietary so you're going to have to ramp up learning, but you can eat well," Walker said.

Hidden glutens are something Roman's pizza will definitely have to look out for. From their marinara sauce, to the pepperoni they pile on, even spices and cheese. Each ingredient will have to be confirmed gluten free before the first order is complete. A detailed task Iannucci says he doesn't mind to master.

"I don't think people should have to suffer or do without, when, if someone wants to take a little extra time and love and effort so everyone else can enjoy the same thing," Iannucci said.

It's not just local businesses jumping on the gluten free bandwagon, big restaurant chains are making sure they can serve every customer that walks through their door. Outback Steakhouse workers say they can't keep enough gluten free menus printed.

"We started getting requests for one or two a week and now it's up to 35 a week easy," Outback manager Jim Disanto said.

The families that need a night away from their gluten free kitchen couldn't be more grateful.

"It's nice to be able to meet friends, have a place to go and have a meal you know tastes good and they know what they are doing so we don't have to explain everything and hope we don't get sick," said Alisa Weeks, who has a gluten intolerance.

Especially the kids who sometimes have a harder time understanding what they can and can't have.

"The Boomerang Cheeseburger, you have to order it a certain way and the dessert," said Meggie Weeks, who has a gluten intolerance.

One thing that is known, dozens of new cases are being diagnosed each month, meaning Celiac isn't far from becoming a household name.

Until then, if you have any of the symptoms Celiacs suffer from, listen to your body, talk to your medical provider, and ask them to consider that a few changes in your diet could be the answer to the medical mystery that's ailed you.

"These are folks that were miserable before and now we have a treatment to make them feel better," said Dr. David Lee from Gastrointestinal Associates.

Another way our community has helped Celiac patients is with a support group. Members share things like concerns, suggestions, even recipes.

Also, just recently the FDA is taking steps to make it easier. It's asking companies to voluntarily include all gluten ingredients in their allergen statement, currently wheat is the gluten included.


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