Gluten Free, What’s It All About?

Nadine Grzesowiak

“The Gluten Free RN”


It is vitally important for everyone to know what gluten free means and how it affects people. Gluten is the generic term for the proteins in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. This also includes all of the sub-species of wheat- including spelt, couscous, bulgar, kamut, etc.

If a person is gluten intolerant or has celiac disease, it is extremely important to avoid gluten entirely. It is not an allergy; gluten actually triggers an autoimmune response that can last days, weeks, or months. Some symptoms people present with are: diarrhea/constipation, headaches, skin rashes, abdominal pain, asthma, gas, and bloating. These are just some of the over 300 signs and symptoms that potentially could go away with a diet change. Even a minute amount of gluten – such as a breadcrumb – can cause a reaction leading to a host of symptoms.

There is no pill to take or surgery to undergo to fix this issue. The only ‘cure’ is a diet change. Furthermore, whether you are gluten intolerant or diagnosed celiac, the treatment is the same.  Remarkably, most people get much better, very quickly, after removing gluten-containing foods from their diet.  It may sound easy to do initially – just remove the bread and pasta, right? But gluten hides everywhere in our lives. It is in most processed foods either as a thickener or a binder. Gluten is in Play-Doh, licorice, fake crab (crab with a ‘K’), soy sauce, and tea. Tea? Some teas, yes – it’s in there. The fact is, wheat is a cheap filler and it is in many, many, products.  This is one of the problems with wheat – its our over-exposure to this protein that makes us sensitive to anything that has to do with it. Try to count how many products you come into contact each day that have some form of gluten or wheat ingredient included.  You will get a long list before noon!

How many people are affected by gluten? The jury is still out on the real numbers because several populations have NEVER been tested. Currently, it is estimated that 1:100 people have celiac disease, but only 1:10,000 are diagnosed. I feel lucky- I was diagnosed by accident.  How many people are gluten intolerant?  The current estimates range from 40-80% of the population. These are HUGE numbers of people. The food industry, pharmaceuticals, and some healthcare providers know that it is the largest untapped market in the world.  Pay attention to what happens in your grocery aisles over the next few months and years. This is not a fad diet and it is not going away.  Please be aware of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, especially if you or any of your family members are experiencing health concerns that do not have an easy answer.

Nadine Grzeskowiak, RN, CEN, began her nursing career in emergency departments and trauma centers across Oregon in 1992. Then, in October 2006, she was diagnosed with celiac disease. At the time Nadine received this correct diagnosis, she had been so ill she expected to only live six months – or less. Additionally, she had been an ER nurse for 16 years and had consulted with many doctors but, until this point, had found no answer to what was killing her. Within just two weeks of being on a gluten free diet, Nadine’s health took a remarkable turn for the better and Nadine’s career also took a dramatic change. In March 2007, after immersing herself in celiac disease research and data, she became a gluten intolerance/celiac disease educator. Nadine realized that she could help more people with this information then she ever could have in the emergency department.

Presently Nadine is a national expert and speaker for the recognition and treatment of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Additionally she is also the CEO of three independent businesses, RN on call, Inc., Gluten Free RN, and Celiac Nurse Consulting.

Nadine is first and foremost a patient advocate and an educator. Her mission is to educate people globally about gluten intolerance and celiac disease: empowering them to improve their health and quality of life with food. She is available for professional speaking engagements focusing on gluten intolerance and celiac disease and is also available for private consultations, professional speaking engagements, and seminars for healthcare professionals.

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