The Truth About Gluten




For most of her life, Cathy Berzins suffered from intermittent digestive problems and migraines. She had difficulty staying focused. “I just didn’t feel well,” she says. Doctors found nothing wrong. “I wasn’t making it up,” she says, “but I learned to live with it.”

Her gastric discomfort was particularly frustrating, considering she was a cook devoted to healthy foods. She even ground wheat berries herself to make her own bread.

Then she heard someone talk about celiac disease. When people with the autoimmune disease eat gluten—a protein found in wheat, rye and barley—they experience a reaction that can damage the small intestine. The only treatment is to avoid products with gluten.

Berzins is a believer. “Migraine headaches are not an issue for me now,” she says. “I can think more clearly.” She’s embraced the gluten-free diet to such an extent that in May she opened The Birch Tree Café, a gluten-free restaurant inside Good Earth Market, located just outside Bethany Beach.

The eatery is part of a growing movement. These days, hosts and hostesses are facing as many gluten-free guests as meat- and dairy-free diners. Restaurants, including Ulysses American Gastropub in North Wilmington and Home Grown Café in Newark, have gluten-free menus. Grotto Pizza has gluten-free crusts, and gluten-free products share supermarket shelf space with conventional items.

Janssen’s in Greenville upped its offerings seven years ago, in part to cater to a growing number of consumers with dietary concerns. “Any number of our customers just feel better without wheat,” says Eileen Janssen.

And there, perhaps, is the rub. Does everyone on a gluten-free diet truly need to be? Will it help you or hurt you?

The questions can raise some hackles. “People with celiac disease are pretty incensed that so many people without it want to go gluten-free,” says Sharon Howard, a registered dietitian at Christiana Care’s Eugene du Pont Preventative Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute in Greenville, whose daughter has the disease.

People with celiac disease feel they don’t have the luxury of a choice. Even the slightest bit of gluten—picture a communion wafer—can cause a reaction.

Nevertheless, few would argue that they’ve benefitted from the number of gluten-free consumers who’ve made it a choice. Products are becoming plentiful. Sales of gluten-free foods are expected to top $5.5 billion by 2015, and given the numbers, not all those are going to people with celiac disease.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, one in 133 people has celiac disease in the United States. That’s a relatively small number considering one in three people has cardiovascular disease.

The wide variety of symptoms traditionally made it hard to diagnose. They range from intestinal issues—gas, constipation or diarrhea—to depression, mouth ulcers, fatigue, joint pain and infertility. You may have stomach pain, but you may not, even though the disease affects nutrient absorption.

A blood test now checks for celiac disease, but patients must eat gluten prior to being tested. Rather than go back on gluten, Berzins, who had been gluten-free for a year when the doctor suggested the test, opted for a DNA test. (This disease runs in families, and her daughter also has it.)

Some people don’t have celiac disease, but they still have trouble with gluten. The journal BMC Medicine published a paper that claims up to 18 million people are “gluten sensitive.” They have a reaction when they reach a certain threshold. “They can probably handle a little cereal in the morning but not a big hoagie roll at dinner,” Howard explains.

Irene Soucy, a dietitian in Beebe Medical Center’s Nutritional Services Department, has seen increased interest in gluten sensitivity. “The media, word-of-mouth and the increased availability of gluten-free foods have helped spur this trend,” she says. 

Some gluten-free followers have neither the disease nor the intolerance. They have an allergy or sensitivity to the protein in wheat. They might be fine with barley or rye or wheat’s cousin, spelt.

Then there are those who want to reduce their consumption of genetically engineered grains. “Most of us are eating way too much wheat and grains to process them well,” says April Pedrick of Harvest Market Natural Foods in Hockessin. “Even people without celiac disease might experience bloating. The stuff can sit in the digestive track.

Not surprisingly, some people hope that going gluten-free will cure what ails them. “They eat poorly and want to unscientifically blame a food group,” Howard says. They may decide to play with their diet rather than face a battery of tests. Soucy says about half of her gluten-free clients restricted their diet without a clinical test or biopsy to diagnose celiac disease.

If you’re considering a gluten-free path, be prepared: It’s not an easy road. For one, some of the products have more calories than their conventional counterparts, which is a wake-up call for those whose goal is to lose weight. To make gluten-free products an appetizing alternative, they may contain more sugar or eggs. Consequently, people who grab prepared or packaged substitutes can pack on pounds.

A true gluten-free diet requires vigilance. Regular soy sauce has gluten. So do many vitamins. Malt, Soucy says, is a “hidden” source of gluten. “Barley grain appears as malt or malt flavoring,” she says. Rice or corn cereal, which seems fine on the surface, might have malt flavoring as an additive, she notes.

Cross-contamination is a continual fear. The knife that buttered wheat bread shouldn’t be used to butter rice bread. Some households have two toasters and dedicated cutting boards.

Berzins previously was a partner in Café on 26 in Bethany, which also offers conventional products. She left to devote herself to gluten-free goods because she was too concerned about unintentional cross-contamination. “It’s not negotiable,” she says. “Unless I could ensure no cross-contamination, I had to eliminate gluten from cooking altogether.”

Eating out presents a problem for gluten-free diners. What happens if the kitchen delivers the salad with croutons? Howard has a friend who hides a sugar packet under the lettuce before she sends a dish back to the kitchen. When the new salad arrives, she checks for the packet to see if they just removed the croutons instead of making a fresh salad.

Although Home Grown Café offers a gluten-free menu, there’s no way chef-owner Eric Aber can guarantee an item isn’t unintentionally contaminated. “It’s a can of worms,” he acknowledges. “We won’t use regular soy sauce on a gluten-free dish, but I’m constantly worried about diners and food allergies.”

Those testing the gluten-free waters should also up their food budget. The items aren’t cheap. Gluten-free bread might cost $3 or $4 more than regular bread. Shop around. Products are available at a variety of sources.

Followers also need to make up for the minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and nutrients that gluten products provide. You’ll miss out on the benefits of enriched wheat flours or whole grains, for instance. “It’s nutritionally a mistake to unnecessarily change your diet,” Howard says.

If you’ve gone gluten-free for some time and you’re not seeing results, you could have an issue with fructans, not gluten. Fructans are present in garlic and artichokes, along with wheat.

For a period of time, many people may experiment with gluten-free foods to see if they notice a difference in how they feel. Marianne Carter tried a gluten-fee diet upon her doctor’s recommendation. (Her issues actually stemmed from thyroid medication.)

Director of the Center for Health Promotion at Delaware State University, Carter was thrilled that there were so many choices, but she was glad to learn she didn’t have celiac disease.

“There is a role for gluten-free products, especially for those who really need it,” she says. “But people shouldn’t feel it’s nutritionally superior if you can handle wheat.”

For Berzins, gluten-free foods are not a passing phase. They’re an important part of her lifestyle. “Natural whole wheat is a good food,” she says. “It’s just that my body doesn’t recognize gluten as friend. It’s a foe.”

And it’s one she’s happy to live without.

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February 2017

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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More information

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Telephone: 302-658-9111
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4840 Kennett Pike
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
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More information

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Cost: free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

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4840 Kennett Pike
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More information

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View map »


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Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

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Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »


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More information

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Cost: $18-$20

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Cinema Art Theater
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
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Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
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Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
820 N. French Street
2nd Floor, Carvel Building
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

February 3 – 25 Group Show featuring still life paintings in oil by Rosemary Castiglioni; gestural animal paintings by Gay Freeborn; and plein air landscapes from Zion National Park,...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
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Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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JOHNNY WINTER ALL STAR BAND The Johnny Winter Band has been wowing audiences everywhere with incredible music played by Johnny's band and guest artists. Join Paul Nelson and The JW Band in a...

Cost: $20 ADV + $22 DOS + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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Now in its 8th year, the PAWS for People Conference/Annual Meeting is designed for those who love their pets, are pet enthusiasts or who want to learn more about the world of Pet Therapy. This...

Cost: $45 through 2/14; $50 after that date; $5 discount for PAWS members.

Where:
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE  19803
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Sponsor: PAWS for People
Telephone: 302-351-5622
Contact Name: Clarice Ritchie
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February 3 – 25 Group Show featuring still life paintings in oil by Rosemary Castiglioni; gestural animal paintings by Gay Freeborn; and plein air landscapes from Zion National Park,...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

The Wilmington & Western Railroad's Hockessin Art Festival is a fundraising effort to benefit the railroad. Over 25 artists will be displaying and selling limited-edition...

Cost: $3 for art show admission; $5 for train fare (children under 2 are free)

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
606 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE  19707
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Sponsor: Wilmington & Western Railroad
Telephone: 302-998-1930
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Are you interested in learning more about what volunteer opportunities the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation has to offer? Consider attending our Volunteer Open House at our shipyard in Wilmington, DE from...

Cost:

Where:
Kalmar Nyckel Foundation
1124 E 7th St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Website »

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Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

DCM Guests will experience, engage in, and take home different STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathmatics) activities run by Science Ambassadors from the Charter School of Wilmington...

Cost: $8.75

Where:
Delaware Children's Museum
550 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890
Contact Name: Joe Valenti
Website »

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Build a hydraulic-powered machine while learning about pressure, water, and power. Families work together to solve science mysteries and engineering challenges. Activities are included in regular...

Cost: Adults: $14, Children 6-14: $5, Children 5 and under and Hagley Members: FREE

Where:
Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
View map »


Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
Website »

More information

An evening of entertainment and hope at the 2017 Wilmington Heart Ball. Each year, community members, medical professionals and corporate leaders come together to celebrate the lifesaving work of...

Cost:

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
815 Justison St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Website »

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Join us for an unforgettable evening of entertainment and hope at the 2017 Wilmington Heart Ball.  Each year, community members, medical professionals and corporate leaders come together to...

Cost: $175

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
815 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: American Heart Association
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We are a mixture of some of the best and hardest working musicians in the Philadelphia area specializing in a mashup concept, fusing the music of The Allman Brothers Band and The Grateful Dead....

Cost: $10 + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live- Wilmington
500 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE
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Mo Lowda & The Humble is a three piece Indie-rock group from Philadelphia, PA. The band has created a unique musical style combining various genre's ranging from garage rock to jazz fusion;...

Cost: $10 + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live- Wilmington
500 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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