Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Farmers Market
Summer is finally here! The sun is shining, the bees buzzing and gardens are growing.  In a perfect world we could step into our back yards and be able to pick the best produce the season has to offer,but most of us are not so fortunate.  The next best thing to being there is only steps away at your local farmers market. The sights, sounds, taste and smell of the farmers market evokes a feeling of excitement that is synonymous celebrating the bounty of summer season.
Fresh local food brimming with vitality and nutrients can be found at farmers markets across the country.  Not only does the farmers market provide access to fresh, quality food, it also provides an opportunity to connect the farmer with the consumer and helps to establish a link from the farm to the plate.  It provides an opportunity to take pleasure in the process of shopping for food while simultaneously supporting the local farmer and economy while reducing your carbon footprint.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the numbers of farmers markets have more than tripled in the past fifteen years.  There are now more than 6,100 farmers markets around the country.

Consumers today, have a growing interest in supporting the local farmer.  There is increasing interest not only in obtaining quality produce that is preferably local and sustainable but also that meat and fish are also sourced locally with socially responsible practices.  According to the National Restaurant Associations Top Trends survey, locally sourced produce, meats and fish topped the list of hot trends for 2011.                                                                        
Visiting your local farmers market is a great way to meet local farmers and discover local food.  For most of us, living off the land, is only just a dream.  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of local farmers, that dream can be woven into reality. Celebrate the abundance of the season and support your local farmers market.

To find locations of farmers markets across the country or find out which local foods are in season  visit the Nation Resource Defense Council’s website at:


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting Diagnosed with Celiac Disease

It’s estimated that approximately 1% of the population in the United States are affected with Celiac Disease.  That equates to about 1 in every 133 people.   Many go on suffering for years without being diagnosed.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition and multi-system disorder which affects genetically predisposed individuals. Celiac disease predominantly affects the small intestine, although it can present with a wide variety of symptoms.  The small intestine is lined with millions of villi whose main function is to absorb nutrients from food. When a gluten intolerant individual with Celiac disease ingests gluten there is an inflammatory response which causes changes in the cells and damages the lining of the small intestines which can result in malabsorption and the inability to digest and transfer nutrients efficiently.

Many people that do not have Celiac disease can also suffer from gluten intolerance.  It is estimated that up to 15% of the population may have an intolerance to gluten.  While these people do not show evidence of intestinal damage they share many of the same symptoms as those affected with Celiac disease.  Hyper permeability of the intestinal lumen or leaky gut syndrome is a shared immune response.  This condition of hyper permeability will allow gluten to cross the blood brain- barrier and can provoke an immune response in any system of the body including cognitive and behavioral disturbances.

Recognizing Celiac Disease : by Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN., is an excellent book that illustrates the complex nature of Celiac disease. This book is a comprehensive manual based on the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference.  It goes into great detail about the complexity of the disease and numerous health manifestations associated with it.  The vast and varied symptoms associated with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance make diagnosis difficult and very often overlooked.   To learn more visit the author’s website at

Early diagnosis of Celiac disease is important.  The longer an individual goes undiagnosed and untreated the greater the risk for developing substantial damage to the lining of the small intestine as well as other health complications.  The only known treatment for Celiac disease at this time is a gluten free diet.   Although many people respond very well to removing gluten from the diet, others do not make a fast and full recovery and can spend years managing their condition and healing their body from the ravaging effects of the disease.  Early diagnosis has the best prognosis for a full recovery.  In addition, maintaining strict gluten free diet can be challenging especially if the affected individuals unknowingly ingests gluten.  While it seems rather simple to avoid, wheat, barley and rye, there are many other products that contain gluten that may be more difficult to identify. Commercially prepared foods often contain gluten.  Other products that may contain gluten can come in the form of modified food starch, food additives and binding agents. Medications and vitamins may also use gluten as a binding agent.

 Staying informed and up to date on new research, labeling laws and product information is an important aspect of keeping the disease well managed.  The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America’s website has a large learning section with PDF downloads that will help to get you started on learning  further about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and provides a complete list of foods which are safe as well as those foods and products which should be avoided.  You can find the list of downloadable documents at:

Being tested and diagnosed with Celiac disease can be complex.  In addition to blood tests, having an endoscopy and small bowel biopsy will usually confirm signs of abnormalities in the small intestine as a result of the disease.  Obtaining a definitive diagnosis as soon as possible is highly recommended.  All of these tests require that there is gluten exposure in order to render positive results.  A definitive diagnosis is confirmed when symptoms resolve on a gluten free diet.  Removing gluten from the diet and reintroducing it can be very difficult and may cause adverse side affects for those suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. 

 In most cases adhering to a strict gluten free diet has shown to reverse symptoms of the disease fully restoring the health of the individual, but the time it takes to heal may vary greatly from person to person.  In addition to removing gluten from the diet, establishing a healthy and nutritious can play a critical role in healing bringing about positive and lasting results.  Additional nutritional supplementation can be helpful in supporting the healing process as well.

Being diagnosed with Celiac disease can be overwhelming and difficult for most to quickly adapt to immediate and permanent change. Becoming involved with a support group can help to alleviate the anxiety of facing the challenges of maintaining a gluten free lifestyle.  For additional information and to find a local branch and partner office of the Gluten Intolerance Group visit: