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Gluten intolerance and celiac, no fad
ChefMD and Me

Gluten intolerance and celiac, no fad


What do celebrities Drew Brees, Chelsea Clinton, Zoey Deschanel, Victoria Beckham and Ryan Phillipe have in common with Linda Pfaff, The Barn Restaurant investor and cook? None of them can eat food that contains gluten, and each suffers from a wheat allergy, gluten intolerance or full-blown celiac disease.

“Folks have also come to know that if they can’t tolerate gluten, they can rely on “Mom” to have delicious food that they can eat,” said Pfaff, who has celiac disease. “We have a lot of locals who have some type of sensitivity, allergy or are celiacs. Word of mouth and social media also brings tons of travelers to the restaurant, some returning year after year because they know it’s safe to eat here.”

The Barn, now owned by Pfaff’s daughter Amber Giddings, doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, but all you have to do is ask and Pfaff prepares food gluten-free with great care.

“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and many supermarket foods. I know how debilitating just a touch or taste of gluten can be. I have headaches, stomach pain that doubles me over, diarrhea and weight loss,” said Pfaff, who uses special pans for gluten-free cooking to make sure there is not cross-contamination from the other foods being prepared in the kitchen.

Celiac disease, once rare, is rising dramatically. According to Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, Dr. Joseph Murray, it is becoming a public health issue, with studies showing a quadruple increase in the disease diagnosis since 1950. If untreated, the disease can have fatal complications; indications are it may be caused by new farming techniques in gluten-based crops.

With one of the largest celiac disease treatment centers, the Mayo Clinic says that once diet is addressed most celiac patients get immediate relief. According to Mayo, the disease is an immune response to gluten. The disease is linked to all age groups and if untreated is associated with certain cancers, osteoporosis, infertility, skin rashes and joint pain.

Pfaff talked about the misconceptions she had heard since her diagnosis 17 years ago. “I’ve heard it all. People who don’t have it just don’t understand that it is a serious disease; some thinking it’s a laughing matter. The weight-loss diet craze revolving around gluten didn’t help. Why in the world would you prohibit gluten if you didn’t need to? Gluten makes food have a great consistency and tastes great and is fine in moderation. However, it could be deadly for someone like me.”

The Celiac Disease Foundation cautions that the disease must be confirmed by your physician and cannot be self-diagnosed. If you think you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, talk to your doctor about testing before you start a gluten-free diet.

According to Pfaff, “people can be gluten sensitive with symptoms like ‘foggy-mind’, depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain and chronic fatigue when they eat gluten, just like a person with celiac.” The difference is individuals diagnosed with gluten sensitivity do not experience the small intestine damage or develop the tissue transglutaminase antibodies found in celiacs.

Gluten intolerance, allergies and celiac disease can run in families, with 50 percent of children who have a parent having one of the conditions finding they have the same condition. Pfaff says that is it becoming easier to find foods without gluten but noted that a loaf of bread that she particularly likes and buys in Madison costs between $7-10. She laughed, “And it’s not even a big loaf, it’s a mini loaf.”

For more information about gluten sensitivities and celiac disease, visit for a fact sheet from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. The CDF offers a questionnaire for symptoms and conditions at

Gluten-Free Quinoa Taboulleh

Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Servings: 4

Calories: 317 per serving


1 cup quinoa, uncooked

1 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 cup packaged julienne cut (matchstick) carrots

1/4 cup each: chopped fresh parsley and mint

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in quinoa. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in lima beans; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except feta cheese. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before serving. Top with feta.


Packaged shredded green cabbage or coleslaw mix may replace the red cabbage if desired.

Nutritional analysis

Total fat (g): 10; Fat calories (kc): 92; Cholesterol (mg): 17; Trans fatty acids (g): 0; Saturated fat (g): 3.6; Polyunsaturated fat (g): 1.9; Monounsaturated fat (g): 4.3; Fiber (g): 7.3; Carbohydrates (g): 44; Sugar (g): 3.2; Protein (g): 13; Sodium (mg): 602; Calcium (mg): 169.

Rebecca Powell Hill is a New York Times best-selling author, co-creator of ChefMD and a marketing consultant. She lives in Baraboo.

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