Monday, December 20, 2010

Gluten-free life in Israel

This post was published before in the site Flavours of Israel. Unfortunately "Flavours" is no more. Lately I've been asked about gluten-free way of life by some of my friends and acquaintances so I'm posting it again. It is not as well edited as the one published in "Flavours" but still very informative. Inna this one's for you:

Since we discovered my oldest daughter has Celiac we've grown accustomed to a new way of eating and cooking, not very different from our old ways but still sometimes it feels like we've passed through The Looking Glass where things are similar but not quite the same as before.

Celiac 101
Celiac is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from infancy onwards.  It is not as often assumed by people, a food allergy or intolerance. Celiac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a protein derived from gluten (wheat protein), and by similar proteins found in barley, rye and other grains. Upon exposure to gliadin the immune system cross-reacts with the intestine tissue to cause inflammatory reaction. This inflammation causes interruption in the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients and thus causing a myriad of symptoms that can include: abdominal pains and bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and in young children weight loss and growth impediment (as was the case of my daughter), anemia, lack of vitamin D and calcium absorption and even in some cases skin rash. Celiac is now easily detected by a simple blood test that identifies the antibodies involved in inflammation. A positive result requires confirmation by endoscopy and biopsy of the intestine. The treatment is extremely simple:  lifelong gluten free diet. There are no medications and no effective way to prevent gluten to react and cause bowl inflammation.
The Diet
As simple as it may sound gluten is a major part of our diet in the Western world and getting rid of it is sometimes requires alertness because many products contain gluten without even resembling bread like hotdogs, meat balls and even soy sauce. But today since the law requires food manufacturers to label the products with warning for allergens, one can almost immediately check a product for gluten presence.  The gluten free diet relies on flour produced from other grains such as corn, rice, quinoa, tapioca, on potatoes' starch and legumes based flour such as soy or chick peas.
In order to let my daughter live as normal as possible, we tried to find her favorite food in its gluten free version:
Bread,  pocket pitas, buns and bagels: we buy the kind made by Bar-El bakeries  that is based on soy flour. Their products are available in every organic/nature store such as Anis shops found now almost in every shopping mall throughout the country, Nitzat Haduvdevan, at the new organic supermarkets Eden Teva Market , and at the oldest and one of the best places for gluten-free products of any kind Duchan Gan-Shmuel.  There are other brands that make bread such as AAK Oranim and Natural Cakes but after a long try and error, Bar-El is my daughters' favorite. The gluten-free breads are not subsidized and are not cheap. We tried baking at home many times and many types of breads (corn, rice, mixed gluten-free flours) but our result were always quite poor in taste and texture.  Baking bread once or twice a week is also very time consuming for parents that have full time jobs.
Pasta: we buy a corn based brand made in Rumania, imported by Willi Food and can be found at the regular super-market chains. Same goes for ordinary rice noodles. This enables us to cook any sauce our daughter likes (mushrooms, Bolognaise, Puttanesca, cream and tomato paste), lots of stir fried foods she likes and keep diversifying her menu. If there's a future to this section recipes may be provided. For Asian based cooking we found a soy sauce gluten-free Akita Sauce Soya imported from Canada and found in Duchan Gan-Shnuel as mentioned above.
Breakfast cereals: there are several brands gluten-free like Nature Path Envirokids brand our favorite are the Gorilla and Kuala tastes. These are available at the nature and organic food stores mentioned above. We've recently discovered that Post Cocoa Pebbles which are available in most super-markets are gluten-free so a new option was added to the menu  We are aware that most cereals are made of corn but most brands add malt to improve the crunchy texture and thus add gluten.
Chocolate home made macaroon (gluten-free)

Pastry and frozen foods: a lot of times we indulge ourselves with cakes and pastry that we bake at home and is gluten-free, easy to make and very tasty, like a chocolate cloud cake  or pancakes  and other recipes we've modified successfully.  Sometimes we buy pastry like frozen pizza and burekas that are available from Natural Cakes or from a local brand in the area of Modiin called Or Ve Kinammon (no web site) that is baking very high quality gluten-free goods including cookies, éclairs, quiches and more.
These are the main products that as a gluten-free family we consume. Today living with celiac became a lot easier and many options are available. You can also check the site of the Israeli Society for Celiac  that provides (with payment)  a booklet with all the products from sausages to chocolate, that are gluten free.  You can contact me through the site with any question about gluten free living you come up with.
I want to end this post with the words of our gastro specialist Prof. Wilschanski that said: "I wish you didn't have any troubles, but if you got troubles, Celiac is a minor one…."

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