A Gluten-Free Food for Thought - The New Indian Express

A Gluten-Free Food for Thought

Published: 27th April 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 25th April 2014 04:25 PM

It has been four-and-a-half years since Jeeva Anna George bit into a glazed doughnut. Pizzerias and patisseries don’t figure in her food trail. Wheat and barley are pariahs and so are frozen food items. Sounds unpalatable? Well, George is one among every 96 people in India who have celiac disease (Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2011). A genetic disorder, celiac forces the body to reject gluten—a protein abundant in wheat and variants. Four years after George was diagnosed with celiac, a brief relocation to London in 2012 acted as a boon and transformed her into an activist. She got a chance to work with the Cherie Blair Foundation and the Celiac Disease Foundation. Armed with a wealth of research, George returned to Bangalore in 2013 and set up Jeeva Glutenfreeliv.in—Bakes, Initiates and Guides.

The challenge with celiac is in diagnosis. Often, it is misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance.

Under Bakes, George makes gluten-free goodies for celiacs, crafted from flour mixes that she has put together after months of research and experiments. She works with retail stores on stocking gluten-free products and as a food consultant, she has been working with several lounge bars and restaurants in Bangalore, helping chefs put together a menu that considers the needs of people with food allergies.

George and her initiates have been strongly working towards acceptance for celiacs. “People with celiac are considered fussy because we cannot eat half the things at a restaurant and sometimes carry our own food to social gatherings. Other times, when we stay away from gluten, many say we are following some health fad that a celebrity is on. What they don’t understand is that celiac is an auto-immune disease. It cannot be clubbed with allergy that can be treated,” George emphasises.

She also aims to be involved in drawing up curriculum for hotel management and catering courses. George soon plans to approach hospitals with her idea of making gluten-free food and medicines available to patients and is also working on a book for the diabetics society of Nizam Institute of Medical Science, Hyderabad.

What is Celiac Disease?

The rejection of gluten manifests itself in constant diarrhoea resulting in weight loss, skin rashes, hair fall, joint pains, depression, fatigue and finally gastrointestinal cancer if undiagnosed. Celiac-causing genes, though dormant in many, are often triggered by weather, stress, trauma and miscarriages.

The biggest challenge in living with celiac lies in its diagnosis. Often, it is misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or lactose tolerance. Living with celiac warrants support in all forms for it is unfamiliar territory. “Depression exists before and after diagnosis; before, when you don’t know why your health is failing you and after because you cannot go back to the earlier life,” George warns.

The biggest crusade before celiacs today is getting the government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to label allergens in products. ZeroGluten, a Facebook group comprising adult celiacs and parents of children with celiac, have been successful in getting Cadbury and Nestle to have allergen labelling on their products for a year now but this is only a small step.



Asafoetida, soya sauce, lipsticks and eye make-up that contain wheat protein or starch, playdough for children.


Rice, ragi, jowar, corn, amaranth, buckwheat, tapioca flour, potato flour, quinoa, all nuts, water chestnut flour, potato starch, xanthum gum, chia seeds


Online stores: www.foodbury.com, www.wheafree.com, www.gourmetco.in. Alternatively at outlets of Nilgiris, Namdhari’s, Nature’s Basket, Auchan, Gourmet Westside.

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