Living gluten-free

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Living gluten-free

Becky Walz
News Editor


Seven years ago, Dorothy Marhoul of Calmar, finally received the diagnosis for a disease she had been living with for many years – celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, which is strictly diet-controlled.

One out of 133 people in the United States is affected with celiac disease. In fact, it occurs in five to 15 percent of the offspring and siblings of a person with celiac disease.

“I had frequent stomach aches, felt bloated and gas pains. So I went to the doctor and they did a colonoscopy and an upper GI, and they found cilia and villa on small intestine destroyed, which is caused by gluten in foods,” explained the 85-year-old Calmar resident.

Although, Marhoul had experienced the symptoms for many years, she believes that it has been in the last decade that physicians are able to diagnose the disease with the advancement of technology.

“I knew I couldn’t eat certain things because I wouldn’t feel well, but I didn’t know why,” remarked Dorothy. “I had asked the doctors about it several times over they years, but they had no explanation for me either.”

Other symptoms associated with celiac disease include anemia, unexplained weight loss, osteoporosis, bone or joint pain, fatigue, infertility, migraine headaches, and depression.

In order to feel better, she had to remove common cereal grains such as wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives from her diet.

The good news?

All fresh fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, and dairy products are naturally gluten-free.

One of Dorothy’s favorites had to be eliminated as well – barley soup. The grandmother of eight also had to find an alternative to bread and doesn’t bake cookies for her 16 great-grandchildren as often anymore either.

Buying gluten-free bread wasn’t in Dorothy’s small budget, so she utilized the recipes her family found online, trying four or five before she liked one and perfected the recipe.

“I make one loaf every week with soy or rice flour. But I have to use xanthan gum, a powder that keeps the bread from being crumbly,” said Marhoul.

She noted that using the varying ingredients that the bread dough is very sticky and isn’t cohesive with using her bread machine so she bakes it in a loaf pan after it rises for about an hour.

“It isn’t the best-tasting bread because it has a sandy texture like rice,” said the grandmother of eight.

Through careful review of product labels, the Calmar resident has found gluten-free cereals like Rice Chex, Corn Chex, and Rice Krispies.

In fact, when she has found the gluten-free Rice Krispies, Dorothy recalled a friend telling her that they work as an excellent substitute for breadcrumbs or crackers in meatloaf.

“I tried it myself and it was incredibly moist and good,” exclaimed Dorothy. “I have learned to read labels all of the time.”

Living by herself, the retiree has lots of time for trial and error with the recipes her family has found over the years she stored in her 2” binder.

While Marhoul still enjoys baking for the little great-grandchildren, she has become accustomed to not tasting the dough and relies on instincts.

“I have tried to cheat a couple of times and I ended up with a stomachache — it just didn’t work and wasn’t worth it,” admitted Dorothy.

After falling in her home and breaking her femur in her left leg on Dec. 31, 2012, Dorothy was forced to give up her large garden that produced fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers and so much more.

“I still had a small bed of tomatoes, beans and a cucumber plant this year,” noted the elderly woman.

As someone who has lived with this disease for many years, Dorothy advises others who may suspect celiac disease visit with their doctor extensively.

“They would feel so much better. I know that since I have gone on the complete gluten-free diet I feel so much better,” concluded Marhoul.



Frequently overlooked foods that may contain gluten and need to be verified:

  • Brown rice syrup
  • Breading & coating mixes
  • Croutons
  • Energy Bars
  • Flour or cereal products
  • Imitation bacon
  • Imitation seafood
  • Marinades
  • Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Pastas
  • Processed luncheon meats
  • Sauces, gravies
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soy sauce or soy sauce solids
  • Soup bases
  • Stuffings, dressing
  • Thickeners (Roux)
  • Communion wafers
  • Herbal supplements
  • Drugs & over-the-counter medications
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Vitamins & mineral supplements
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