Have you started noticing a lot more gluten-free items on the Coast? Do you wonder if it’s a trend or something here to stay? Why has there been an explosion of gluten-free eaters and products?
One reason for the increase in GF eaters is the increase of the diagnoses of Celiac Disease (CD) and gluten intolerance, which was virtually unheard of up until about five years ago. Prior to this, if you went to a doctor and complained about stomach discomfort, bloating, rashes or migraines, the answer would likely be a pill or a cream. Now, doctors are more likely to test for either CD or gluten intolerance (which is different from an allergy).
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. One thing that many people don't know is that someone with CD cannot have any gluten whatsoever. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, CD is an “is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition affecting children and adults.”
When you have CD, you have to be very careful with what you eat. Even if an item is gluten-free, it can still pick up gluten from improper handling, also known as cross- contamination. It can occur when a food service worker serves a salad with croutons to a gluten-free diner and just removes the croutons instead of making a new salad. It can also happen if someone uses a spoon or ladle to spread tomato sauce on a regular flour pizza and then uses the same one on a gluten-free pizza. In keeping with the awareness, if you have CD, you should check with the chef or owner first and not make assumptions.
There is another subset of eater which has also become popular in the past few years; those people with a gluten sensitivity. They usually eat a gluten-free diet because it makes them feel better but don’t require a strict diet. People in this group might have minor symptoms in comparison and usually can tolerate small exposures to gluten and generally are not concerned with cross contamination. Symptoms can include gastro intestinal issues, rashes, acne, and “brain fog.” They may ask for the gluten-free pasta but still have a piece of bread. The only issue is if someone confuses a person who has a gluten sensitivity with someone with CD; it’s important to know the difference.
One downside to self-diagnosis is that if you do, in fact, have CD and you aren’t 100% diligent, you may be hurting yourself by being exposed to gluten. You may feel fine but gluten can attack other parts of your body, like your immune system, and cause long-term damage or trigger associated autoimmune diseases. If you choose to get tested later for CD, after you have started a gluten-free diet, you will have to go back on gluten (which might not feel very good) to be tested properly. Consider this before you go cold turkey.
The gluten-free movement is definitely gaining popularity on the coast. Here are stories of some Half Moon Bay residents.
Chrysann Rudig, owner of Abundance Spa in Half Moon Bay, says “Gluten causes cellular inflammation, and cellular inflammation makes me uncomfortable. When I stay gluten free, I feel calmer and more focused. I also feel lighter and more agile, and my energy lasts throughout the day.”
Melanie Dewberry-Jones, a personal spiritual coach, experiences brain fog when she ingests gluten. “At some point, it started to feel like I was wading through cotton candy.” After experimenting, she removed gluten and felt brilliant once again in one week.
Sheri Olsen Beckner, owner of says "I used to be sensitive to many foods with lots of seasonal allergies and environmental intolerances. After several tests, my doctor took me off wheat and gluten products about a year and a half ago and most all my sensitivities went away or were greatly diminished in a matter of weeks. No more puffy eyes, headaches, brain fog and fatigue. I have much more energy, improved digestion, and just generally feel much better. If I avoid wheat and gluten, I can now enjoy eating many types of foods again without feeling bloated, cold and tired after eating. "
Regardless of which category you are in, luckily there are lots of choices now on the coast. Here are some of them:
Celebrating its third anniversary in Half Moon Bay this June, New Leaf has the largest selection of gluten-free items on the Coast from bread and pasta to cookies and cakes. You can also find all of the necessary ingredients to make your own products like gluten-free flours (e.g. brown rice, millet, tapioca starch), xanthan gum and gluten-free mixes to make your own cakes, muffins and cookies.
Upon request, you can order gluten-free pasta to take the place of the regular pasta (except for things like ravioli and lasagna). If it’s been a while since you have been able to eat pasta in a restaurant, you should be very happy with the selections.
At this new restaurant, located in the Shoppes at Harbor Village, you can order any sized pizza with a gluten-free crust. It’s one of the better gluten-free pizzas so give them a try.
This coffee shop in the heart of downtown offers the All-Day Cookie which does not have any gluten ingredients and makes a gluten-free chocolate coffee cake. They also sell baked goods from The Inspired Cookie, a line of gluten-free and vegan cookies and brownies.
Casey Sample was wondering why many of her customers were requesting gluten-free items. After doing some research, she realized it was an important need for her clientele and started offering gluten-free items in both her restaurant and catering business. In the restaurant, the regular gluten-free items include soups, like carrot ginger and clam chowder, or gluten-free pasta upon request. Make sure to check the weekly specials. For example, this week you can order roasted polenta lasagna, crab tacos, gluten-free pancakes and gluten-free mini cheesecakes. Sample eats a mostly gluten-free diet herself.
Besides cookies and brownies from The Inspired Cookie, Cunha’s also offers other gluten-free products like pastas, flours and other cookies like amarettis, the Italian-style cookie made with almonds and egg whites.
Edna's, They don't advertise it but just ask about the macaroons and chocolate whoopie pies. These are all gluten-free!
This is a breath of fresh air for many who now have so many options.
So is this something that is here to stay? It seems that way. As more people hear about it, they are becoming curious. If you have health issues which don’t seem to be able to be “fixed” with medicine, it's possible you might feel better with a diet change. It could be a simple as that. However, as mentioned earlier, self-diagnosis can be tricky, so be sure to talk to your doctor.