If you have celiac disease, which requires a gluten free diet, or if you are trying to eat gluten free for other reasons, have you ever considered what life is like for your counterparts in other countries–especially in second or third world countries? I confess that I had not until I ran across Jeeva Anna George’s book A Gluten Free Life: My Celiac Story.
According to the World Gastroenterology Organization celiac disease varies around the world from 1 in 100 to 1 in 300 people. For example, in the western hemisphere, Brazil is estimated to have .2 to .6%, Argentina and the U.S.A. 1%, while Mexico has 1.5 to 3.5% of the population suffering. In Europe, most countries are estimated at 1%, but Germany is .2%, while Sweden and Finland are 2 to 3%. India, where Ms. George is from, is at 1 to 1.44%. The only reasons for this wide range are thought to be genetics and the prevalence of testing.
The rate of diagnosis has climbed more than four fold over the past forty years, but it is estimated that in the U.S. alone there is as much as 75 to 80% of the population still undiagnosed. One diagnostic factor is known, however. Having Type 1 diabetes increases your chances of having celiac disease by 6%.
Gluten Hide and Seek
On average, a person with a healthy small intestine consumes 7,500 to 10,000 milligrams of gluten per day. By comparison, celiac sufferers should limit their intake of gluten to no more than 100 milligrams of gluten per day. With all the gluten free products in our super-markets today, you would think that limiting your gluten would not be too difficult. BUT . . . what if you live in a country where there are no standardized food labels? Or what if food of any kind is a precious commodity?
Regardless of where you live, the only treatment currently for celiac disease is a gluten free diet. There are enzyme replacements (similar to the lactase enzyme for lactose intolerance) in various stages of development. Vaccines and other therapies are also being worked on, but so far nothing is FDA approved or on the commercial market. This means that education, planning, and encouragement are the best strategies for celiac sufferers. And this is what Jeeva Anna George’s book is all about.
A Gluten Free Life: My Celiac Story
Ms. George earned her masters degree in Economics from the University of Nottingham, England. She has handled economic and public policy affairs for the Confederation of Indian Industry in Karnataka, and worked for market research firms. But her passion is to create awareness of what it means to live gluten free, and why it is essential for some people. For Jeeva, a gluten free diet is neither a fad nor an allergy, it is an autoimmune disease that controls her life.
Her first bit of advice: “One of the first things a gluten-intolerant person lets go of is spontaneity. Plan like a fiend. Plan your day, your meals, and your outstation trips. Let planning become second nature to you.” Being a Celiac in India, she admits, “is a nightmare.” Not only is finding suitable food difficult and expensive, but there are cultural considerations as well. In India (where many people are starving) it is considered rude to refuse a gift of food. Yet, for Jeeva and other Celiacs, eating unknown food can mean hours and days of pain and digestive upset.
Her second bit of advice: “take control of the situation and empower yourself with information.” Awareness and education is her mantra. She has done this for herself and now is passionate about helping others. From her website www.glutenfreeliv.in you can reach her blog, “Jeeva Bakes Blog,” and her Facebook page. Both have interesting recipes and information. Even if you do not need a gluten-free diet, her perspective on Indian cuisine is fun and refreshing.
The book, too, is easy and conversational in style. The co-author, Sheila Kumar, says, the book, “is Jeeva chatting with gluten-allergic people, struggling to hack it, and sharing her hard-won nuggets of wisdom.” Please see for yourself by ordering it now from Amazon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this different sort of look at gluten intolerance. As always I welcome your comments.