Elisabeth Hasselbeck brought celiac disease and her gluten-free lifestyle to the national limelight with her first book, The G-Free Diet. Now, The View co-host is back with Deliciously G-Free: Food So Flavorful They’ll Never Believe It’s Gluten-Free (in stores today!), which is packed with tasty recipes that will satisfy any appetite, whether you’re going gluten-free or not.
“I was on a renegade mission with The G-Free Diet,” Hasselbeck tells us. “I wanted to suck people in and get them curious about celiac disease and living gluten-free. But with Deliciously G-Free, I just wanted to create a way to make eating fulfilling for celiacs and their non-celiac friends and family.”
Celiac disease sufferers have small intestines that are hypersensitive to gluten (found in bread, pasta, cookies, soy sauce and certain condiments), leading to difficulty in digesting food. When a celiac patient consumes gluten, her body treats it like a toxin and goes into attack mode, Peter Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, told SELF. While most of us can — and should — enjoy healthy breads, pastas and other grains, some of us are sensitive to gluten and may want to cut back. And Elisabeth swears her recipes taste just like the “real” deal.
“My brownies taste like brownies. They’re not too cake-like or too brittle, and they have a real flaky topping that traditional brownies are known for,” she says. In fact, all of Elisabeth’s G-Free recipes had to pass the taste test from her family, including her three young kids and her former NFL quarterback husband, Tim Hasselbeck.
But it wasn’t just her family’s stamp of approval that Elisabeth was after. “My grandmother passed away over a year ago and she had the ability to effortlessly make incredible food. I couldn’t let my family’s recipes die with me just because I couldn’t eat gluten. I was committed to recreating meals from my childhood, but doing it G-free. That’s why I was so adamant about all of the dishes being really authentic and getting the taste just right. It’s a way to continue my family’s food legacy.”
Making Deliciously G-Free did more than just bring back food and family nostalgia for Elisabeth; it also allowed her to rediscover the joy of cooking.
“Because I was undiagnosed for so long, I spent years agonized by food, getting sick all of the time, not knowing what I could and could not eat,” recalls Elisabeth. “I had ‘food fear’ and as a result my love of cooking disappeared. For 10 years I could be at a table filled with family and friends and I’d feel alone with food, but writing this book helped bring back the fun in cooking. It was so yummy to work on!”
May 5, 2009 — Television viewers know Elisabeth Hasselbeck as a spitfire co-host on the popular daytime chatfest “The View.” But what they may not realize is that Hasselbeck, who is expecting her third child later this year, has an aversion to gluten — the binding element in wheat.
Once she eliminated it from her diet, Hasselbeck found her health improved and the unexplained illness she suffered from for much of her life disappeared.
In her new book, “The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Survival Guide,” Hasselbeck tells her personal story and tells you how you can start living a gluten-free life.
Read an excerpt of her book below, and then find more information at www.gfreediet.com.
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s Celiac Disease Discovery—How She Fought Back
- Discovery of a Disease: Celiac and Survivor
- How Probiotics Can Help
- The Bottom Line
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Celiac Disease
- View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck Shares Gluten-free Odyssey in New Book
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s Gluten-Free Spaghetti and Meatballs
My G- Free Journey
I learned about gluten the hard way. I wrote this book so you don’t have to. Most people with celiac disease, like me, have a story to tell. My hope is that in reading mine, and the pages that follow, you will be able to begin your journey to a better body and a better self—without all the heartache (and bellyache!) that I endured for far too long.
I grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. There wasn’t a single holiday that did not feature “Mama’s” (my grandmother’s) famous baked penne along with a thirty-inch loaf of fresh Italian bread. After dessert, my whole family would even sit around dunking any remaining bread into our coffee. My cousins and I would fight over who got the “end” of each loaf. I remember watching Mama slice into the loaf, waiting to see if it was my “day” or not. The smell of more toasted Italian bread and butter would wake me up the next morning.
In my childhood home, it was all bread, all the time—and that was just the way we liked it.
While some things haven’t changed in my family—we still have baked penne at every holiday dinner—other things certainly have. Since 2002, for example, my mom has made two baked penne: one for everyone else, and one just for me, a gluten-free version that hurts neither my stomach nor Mama’s feelings when she looks over and sees a plate devoid of our traditional family fare.
“What do you mean you ‘can’t have the penne’?” Mama would question me after we sat down at her table. Over and over, I would try to explain to my grandmother, whom I love with my whole heart, and hated to upset at all, that “I am allergic to the pasta.”
“Since when?” she would immediately shoot back.
The answer to that was a bit more complicated.
The trouble began in early 1997, during the spring of my sophomore year of college. I went on two big trips that spring. The first, over winter break, was a three-week-long immersion/teaching trip to the village of Red Bank and the city of Dangriga in Belize. The second, a spring training trip, was within the United States, with my Boston College softball team.
I had been feeling a little under the weather since Belize, and shortly after I returned from the softball trip, I was diagnosed with a severe bacterial intestinal infection—residue, the doctor said, from my trip to Central America. I landed in the school infirmary for nearly a week, with an immensely distended belly and a 103- to 104-degree fever. My memories of that week are hazy at best: I can recall little more than opening my eyes to see my mom standing over the bed. And Tim, my college sweetheart and now husband, looking more than concerned.
Once the initial infection had subsided, I was incredibly relieved, thinking I was finally in the clear. As an athlete, I couldn’t bear the thought of being “off my game” for more than a day or two. Little did I suspect that my game was going to be significantly “off” for quite some time…
After leaving the infirmary, I was eager to get my body back on track again, but my digestive system was seemingly shot. My efforts to regain some of the muscle mass I had lost during my convalescence went nowhere. And though I felt ravenously hungry all the time, the only dining hall option that looked even remotely appetizing to me was soft-serve vanilla frozen yogurt with Rice Krispies mixed in. Food just didn’t appeal to me like it had before.
Regardless, I continued to eat, though nothing satisfied my hunger—and everything seemed to throw my stomach into a frenzy. Each meal left me bloated and gassy, with sharp, explosive pains in my abdomen. No matter what I ate, I would soon be doubled over with cramps, awful indigestion, diarrhea—or all of the above simultaneously. I soon became all too familiar with the location of any and all bathrooms. Half an hour later, I would be too lethargic to move.
What on earth was happening to me? I had always been filled with energy before, and now I wanted to crawl back into bed five times a day. I was always in pain, always uncomfortable—especially around mealtimes.
Food, for the first time to this pasta-loving girl, had become the enemy. I was at war with my own body, and it soon became obvious that I was losing each and every battle.
Early on, I (and everyone around me) attributed my difficulties to stress, combined with a lingering infection in my gut. But as time went on and I made my first career move out of school—working as a footwear designer for PUMA—my health only worsened. I was barely able to get through the day without being sideswiped by extreme pain and overwhelming fatigue. I would retreat to the bathroom every ten minutes or so, locking myself in a stall and pressing on my belly in an effort to get control of the spastic bouts in my intestinal region. To keep my colleagues from suspecting that I was under the weather all the time, I would strategically walk a different way to the ladies’ room each time, to avoid passing the same person twice in a row.
My commute to and from the office was even more distressing. I was constantly pulling over to the side of the road: Intense pain in my lower abdomen made it nearly impossible for me to sit up straight and focus on driving. The pain typically worsened throughout the day. I would get home from work and try different strategies to “move” whatever was causing the pain. After numerous trips to the bathroom, I could only get relief by lying on my side in bed.
“Stress” was just not cutting it as the explanation for my pain. I was twenty-three and supposedly healthy, but I wasn’t. Was I simply doomed to spend the rest of my life in digestive agony? Such a bleak conclusion was not acceptable. My gut instinct (pun intended) told me there was more to learn.
I began to search for answers in earnest, but all my doctors’ appointments stuck to the same script. An identical examination, followed by an identical diagnosis:
“Irritable bowel syndrome.”
“IBS…It’s becoming quite common.”
Over and over again, that’s what I was told. But the only accurate part of the term “IBS,” in my opinion, was the “BS.” Possibly, this diagnosis was “quite common”—because the doctors were quite commonly missing the cause. No mention of a food allergy ever came up, despite my repeated indications that I felt the worst immediately after eating. The doctors refused to see the connection between what I was eating and how I was feeling.
After more fruitless examinations than I care to remember, I was completely fed up. I was also in unbelievable pain around the clock. At that point, I was willing to try absolutely anything to get answers. After undergoing a “recommended” sigmoidoscopy—a minimally invasive intestinal procedure that yielded no clear diagnosis—I began to feel even worse. None of the medication I was prescribed for my stomach seemed to help, and I was tired of relying on doctors for solutions that never seemed to come. One doctor actually put me on an antianxiety pill. The reason? One of the medication’s side effects was that it numbed the stomach lining. The doctor had completely missed the mark.
That day set me, fuming, on a more determined search. There had to be a more direct means of treating whatever was going on with me. I refused to spend the rest of my life bouncing from doctor to doctor—or taking serious prescription drugs hoping for their side effects to kick in. If my own physicians were not helping me, I was going to get to the bottom of this mystery on my own.
From that day forward, I dove into research. I met with a holistic doctor in a neighboring state, who put me on a dairy-free, lactose-free, yeast-free program. Under his care, I went on a whole regimen of supplements and vitamins, and I lived off these special bars, which I was allowed to eat three times a day. I ate apricot seeds every day, as he told me they would help. The seeds were the most vile-tasting things I had ever tasted, but I kept on eating them in the hopes of feeling better. Even though they seemed to burn my tongue, I was willing to give them a shot. To my dismay, not even these extreme measures brought about any significant changes in my condition. Still, I resolved to do whatever it took. If that guy had told me to stand on my head for ten minutes every hour, I would gladly have done it for eleven.
As we were about to begin the phase of removing wheat from my diet, I applied to become a contestant on the reality show Survivor: The Australian Outback. Throughout the selection process, I hid my symptoms from the producers, saying nothing about the stomach pain that I was experiencing. As I went through extensive physical exams, I was amazed that no one could tell that the inside of my body was a complete disaster. I held back tears during one exam, which entailed the doctor pressing on my stomach. I held my breath as the doctor told me I was “good to go”…secretly counting the seconds until I could race to the bathroom.
Early the next morning, miraculously enough, I was picked as a contestant on Survivor, and so off I went, pain and all, into the Outback. My Australian adventure was nothing short of life-altering. It was an incredibly rich, rewarding time—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Not surprisingly, it was the most physically grueling experience of my life. I was also given the most wonderful opportunity to investigate how my body works. Though exhausted on every level, I felt awakened. I learned how to live off the earth, to respect its boundaries, to work and bond with strangers, and to get by without any creature comforts. I also learned what mattered to me most, and what I relied on in extreme circumstances. One other remarkable thing happened to me Down Under, too: For the first time in about three years, I felt no pain in my stomach.
I remember thinking on multiple occasions, “Even though I haven’t showered in thirty-nine days, I feel clean and pure.” I was fairly certain that this sensation had nothing to do with my skin or hair or scent, and everything to do with my internal system. I was completely detoxified—without pain, without cramping or bloating, without any intestinal symptoms at all. I felt like I had before I had checked into the college infirmary so long ago. That person seemed to be nearly forgotten.
Shockingly, it took starving in the outback of Australia to feel like myself again. I remember joking that “I must be allergic to the United States.” That was not the case.
I had lost about twenty pounds, but though my belly was empty, I left Australia full of answers. I left knowing that without God, I had nothing; that my family was the most incredible source of support; that I never again wanted to be away from Tim. I left knowing that for the past three years, my body had been fighting something that I was eating at home, and that if I didn’t take it upon myself to figure out what that food was, no one else would do it for me.
Once I was back home, the scope of my quest narrowed.
Energized with the sense that I was on the trail of the culprit at last, and with a clean slate, I decided to reintroduce one item at a time back into my diet. But after thirty-nine days in near-starvation mode, I was absolutely ravenous, and I wasn’t about to give up my favorite foods without a fight. Soon, despite my best intentions, I had returned to my pre-Australia diet, and the consequences were dire. After the relief of having had my gut repaired, now I was suddenly feeling worse than ever, spending day after day in my room, unable to get out of bed, except to race to the bathroom.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and this horrible time finally clued me in to the cause of my long illness. I noticed that the moment I ate a starchy food, all the symptoms returned, and with even more fury than before. I went on the Internet to research what this reaction might mean, and soon after thought I had discovered the cause: Wheat! Out it went from my diet.
There were some days when I didn’t feel so bad. Still, every so often, I would get tripped up after eating sushi or teriyaki chicken, and I couldn’t put my finger on what was making me sick. After more and more online research, I stumbled upon some information about gluten intolerance and celiac disease. In 2002, five years since the onset of my symptoms, I diagnosed myself with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten, the protein found in everything from pasta to bread to cookies. The only known treatment for celiac disease—which can cause acute damage to the small intestine and the digestive system as a whole—is a lifelong gluten-free diet.
Since celiac disease seemed to cover each of the symptoms that had been plaguing me for so many years, I set about eliminating all wheat, then barley, oats, and rye—the main gluten-containing foods—from my diet. In the beginning, the road was rocky: There was so much I still had to learn about gluten, and finding desirable alternatives was not as easy as it is today. I also found myself repeatedly rebelling against my self-diagnosis, and bingeing on gluten-containing foods just to prove that I could have them if I wanted to. Despite these repeated slipups, I nevertheless persevered…And my body would soon thank me.
Even after this breakthrough, doctors resisted my self-diagnosis. Though I was convinced that I had celiac disease—and armed with plenty of specific examples to back up my claim—I still could not find a physician who would run the necessary diagnostic tests on me. Dismissing the theory that my diet could cure me, doctor after doctor kept on prescribing medications that did little more than mask my symptoms, if even that.
I began to wonder why so many doctors ignored my theory—and why I had to spend months learning about celiac disease on my own. There had to be a reason why such a common disease, which affects an estimated 1 out of every 100 to 200 people worldwide, was not on medical radar at all. The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that there was no money in researching gluten intolerance, because there was no medication to treat it. No noise, no advertisement, no call to diagnose. Was this the result of some conspiracy? Neglect? Straight-up ignorance? Whatever the explanation, I had to struggle for eight long years before I found a physician who was willing to listen, willing to run proper tests, and willing to join me on the voyage that I’d been on since 1997.
Ironically, I had to travel all the way to Australia to gain real insights into what was hurting me in the United States, and when I moved to New York City, it was an Australian, Dr. Peter Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, who confirmed what I’d suspected for years. The moment he told me I had a disease—celiac disease—I enthusiastically thanked him. This reaction might seem a little bit odd, but I had been searching for a clear-cut diagnosis for almost a decade by then! I had consulted innumerable experts in the hopes of finding out what was wrong with me. For all those years I had waited in vain for an explanation that made sense. Dr. Green was the first doctor to look for the cause, not simply treat the symptoms. My gratitude to him is beyond measure.
Once Dr. Green confirmed that I had celiac disease, I became even more committed to what I called the G-free lifestyle. With Dr. Green’s help, I deepened my knowledge of where gluten is found, and how I could most effectively avoid it. With the encouragement of my loved ones, I became more adept at shopping for and preparing delicious G-free alternatives to what had once been my favorite foods.
In no time at all, I found that living G-free wasn’t so bad at all! In fact, I’ve never felt better in my life. I cannot imagine ever returning to eating gluten—even if I didn’t have celiac disease. The G-free diet gives me the stamina and strength I need to manage my increasingly hectic life.
It turns out I have a lot of company! Apparently, I am not alone in benefiting from the G-free diet: According to the University of Chicago, 1 out of every 133 otherwise healthy adults in the United States has celiac disease—that’s nearly 3 million of us.
But a gluten-free lifestyle can help countless others as well. People suffering from a wide range of diseases—from autism to osteoporosis, from diabetes to rheumatoid arthritis—can often benefit from this change in diet. Even people with no health issues have a great deal to gain by giving up gluten. The G-free diet can help with weight management. It can elevate your energy levels, improve your attention span, and speed up your digestion.
Whatever your motivation for going G-free—whether you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, or a basic desire to live a healthier, longer life—this book will help you achieve your goal. It’s an all-inclusive, easy-to-read survival guide to living without gluten and loving it. I will define gluten in all its particulars, and teach you how to spot it in the unlikeliest places. I will also help you navigate social situations, and instruct you in the art of reading both food and beauty product labels. You will learn how to target gluten-free products, both at restaurants and your local supermarket, how to stay on your diet even in a foreign country, and even how to keep your kids G-free in the school cafeteria. By the end of this book, you will be equipped with all the information you need to get through the world without gluten. My guess is that you will only wish that you had done it sooner!
Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s Celiac Disease Discovery—How She Fought Back
Known for her outspoken ways on “The View,” Elisabeth Hasselbeck lived in the dark with some strange symptoms for the better part of a decade.
Mysterious and severe abdominal pain, bloating, and exhaustion plagued her for years without any hope of discovering the reason. She would leave doctors’ offices frustrated as yet another test came back with no answers.
It was a role on a popular TV show that gave her the answers she had been seeking. And ever since she has been raising awareness of her disease to help others in a similar situation.
Discovery of a Disease: Celiac and Survivor
Whilst taping the 2001 season of ‘Survivor,” Hasselbeck noticed that her symptoms had all but disappeared, and anything that did show up was minor. This prompted her to do some research and a few trial and error experiments with her diet.
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During filming she consumed very little wheat or gluten-based foods, so she assumed this to be the culprit. Her research paid off, and she was able to diagnose herself with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body is unable to properly digest gluten. Hasselbeck discovered a dramatic difference in her health when she switched to a gluten-free diet.
She has since shared her discovery and information with the public to help increase awareness for this strange condition. She even produced a gluten-free diet book for those finding themselves in her situation.
Celiac disease can present as a variety of symptoms that can resemble other gastrointestinal troubles. This makes it difficult to identify.
The culprit is gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When identified in the body, an immune response is triggered. The attack is launched towards your own intestines and causes considerable damage.
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The villi that line your intestine wall are responsible for absorbing nutrients and this process is impaired once these projections are damaged.
The symptoms vary from person to person and vary in severity. The common digestive symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, gas, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and fatigue.
In addition to these, many adults also suffer from non-gastrointestinal problems associated with the disease.
♦ Anemia, an iron deficiency resulting from poor nutrient absorption
♦ Loss of bone density
♦ Joint pain
♦ Acid reflux and heartburn
♦ Mouth ulcers
♦ Damage to dental enamel
♦ Itchy and blistery skin rash
♦ Going Gluten Free in Your Diet
Hasselbeck was able to turn her health completely around by switching to a gluten-free diet. Many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon because they think it is a way to improve their health.
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While this may be true in some regards (sticking to any planned diet can be healthy), it is not necessary to give up gluten if you do not have celiac disease.
Whether you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or think you have a gluten sensitivity, you should speak with your doctor and a nutritionist to make sure you follow a healthy diet plan.
Most people don’t realize that gluten is a binding agent, so cutting out bread, crackers, and cakes is not going to cut it. Many manufacturers use gluten-based extracts to enhance the tastes and textures of food, so it is hiding in several unexpected places.
Surprising foods that contain gluten include chocolate and candy bars, beer, salad dressings, gravy, sauce mixes, pudding mixes, and soy sauce. The only way to really be sure is to check the labels before you dig in.
The best foods to include in your diet to maintain balance and good health are below. These are completely gluten-free, and you can enjoy as much of them as you want.
Vegetables: Eating raw or cooked vegetables is perfect for any gluten-free diet, delivering plenty of nutrients. Be careful of frozen mixes, which may use gluten-containing sauces, and always stick to homemade sauce when you can.
Fruit: A natural source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You need to avoid processed fruit products and always pick fresh instead.
Starches: Choose rice and potatoes to get your starch. You may be able to eat oats too, but some people with celiac disease do have adverse responses to oats. With trial and error, you can determine if oats are safe for you or not.
Meat and Fish: All meat and fish are gluten-free so long as you steer clear of breaded varieties.
Dairy: All dairy is safe to eat if you have celiac disease, but make sure you avoid products that have been manufactured with gluten additives.
How Probiotics Can Help
The microbe community living within your gut is made of millions of friendly bacteria that help to keep harmful pathogens away. Your health depends on a balance of these microbes in which the bad are unable to overwhelm the good.
| Related: The Top 11 Probiotic Strains for Good Health |
Any imbalance can increase your risk of serious disease. Excessive numbers of harmful bacteria can make your stomach more sensitive and less tolerant to proteins like gluten.
Also, because there is a genetic component to celiac disease, predisposed individuals become more likely to develop this condition.
The link between bacteria and gluten sensitivity brings hope that probiotics can help with the symptoms of celiac disease. This would allow additional support for those following a gluten-free diet.
Achieving a completely gluten-free lifestyle is not always easy because of the hidden gluten in everyday products. A probiotic supplement can deliver backup help in the event any gluten is consumed.
The microorganisms in probiotic supplements can reach your gut to help increase the numbers of beneficial strains. Once you have a healthier balance, your tolerance to gluten can increase.
In studies with mice, the administration of probiotics was able to reverse the adverse effects of celiac disease and the idea is that this will work the same for humans. Symptoms such as diarrhea and indigestion disappear even when gluten has been eaten.
The Bottom Line
As Elisabeth Hasselbeck found out, celiac disease can thoroughly disrupt your life, especially when you don’t know you have it. If you can take away anything from her story, you should remember the symptoms and request a blood test to confirm a celiac diagnosis.
There is no cure, so the only way to live with the disease it to stay ahead of it. Hasselbeck follows a gluten-free diet and lives a healthy and full life.
You can too, and it doesn’t hurt to throw some beneficial probiotics into the mix.
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Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Celiac Disease
Perhaps best known for her outspokenness on the ABC show “The View,” Elisabeth Hasselbeck lived for a decade with mysterious and severe abdominal symptoms – bloating, sharp stomach pains, and exhaustion, just to name a few. Test after test revealed nothing; she’d leave her doctors’ offices frustrated, with a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and prescriptions for drugs that didn’t help.
When she joined the cast of “Survivor” on CBS in 2001, she realized that during the show’s taping, her symptoms were minor – perhaps because she’d hardly eaten any wheat. After a lot of research and trial and error, she diagnosed herself with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects one’s ability to digest gluten.
In 2003, Hasselbeck went gluten-free for good. Her new book, The G-Free Diet, is full of practical advice for those wishing to try a gluten-free diet – whether you have celiac disease or just want to try a healthy and energizing way of eating.
Hasselbeck talked to Everyday Health about her struggle with celiac disease and what others can learn from her experience.
Everyday Health: What are some of the most common symptoms of celiac disease, and why is it so hard to diagnose?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: The most common celiac disease symptoms are similar to IBS, where you have cramping – typically right after eating to a few hours later – and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Constant bloating was something that I always battled … and irritability. That’s what led me to be misdiagnosed with IBS at first. Also, migraine headaches, depression, lethargy – those are things people don’t expect. They don’t expect something in the head to have to do with something in the gut.
Everyday Health: Could you talk about your experience with celiac disease?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: The easy thing for someone to tell me was that I had IBS. Well, as I say in the book, that was absolutely on target – in terms of the BS part. It’s like walking into the doctor’s office and telling him that you have a head that hurts, and him saying: “Well, you have a headache.” It’s like, yeah, I know I do, but I want to know why.
Sometimes I would find myself under my desk or pulling over on the side of the road to lie on my side in my beat-up Jetta. I felt as though I kept hitting roadblock after roadblock with health, and at the age of 23, there was no way I should have been feeling the way I felt.
Something I urge people to get are blood test results. If you’re not absorbing vitamins and minerals, it might be that your intestinal wall is so damaged and inflamed that it doesn’t absorb like a healthy intestine would. When I had my records sent and looked back at all of my blood work, all of those signs were there.
Everyday Health: Why do you think celiac disease is so underdiagnosed?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: The fact of the matter is, there’s not a ton of money being put into research for autoimmune diseases. What’s happening is that 80 percent of the medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies. That’s the thing with celiac disease: At this point, you don’t need a pill for it. You just need to change your diet. So it sort of seems like a conspiracy theory, but these pharmaceutical companies aren’t backing up research for autoimmune diseases. That’s something that bugs me on a daily basis.
Celiac disease is a gateway disease. If you leave it untreated, you’re asking for intestinal cancer or diabetes or some other form of malfunction in your body. And those things end up costing our system so much more. So if we treated autoimmune diseases earlier, we’d end up preventing those diseases – and save a whole lot of money.
Everyday Health: What are some other reasons someone would go on the gluten-free diet besides celiac disease?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: I need this diet, and I definitely found out about this diet because of celiac disease, but there are millions of people whose systems are being attacked every day by the foods they eat. The gluten that people are eating nowadays is so processed that our bodies are putting up defenses to it – our systems look at this overprocessed food as an invader. I’m often asked if I’d eat this way if I didn’t have celiac disease, and I say “absolutely.” I have so much more energy. Even if you go g-free in one part of your life, you’ll notice more energy.
Everyday Health: Do you have any advice for someone diagnosed with celiac disease – especially someone who doesn’t have any symptoms?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: My symptoms were so bad that I look at something with gluten in it, it’s just the reverse of the Pavlovian response: I don’t even want to be near it. It’s almost like an abusive relationship that I want no part of. For those who have no symptoms, I think it’s sort of like the philosophy behind flossing: Your teeth look great now and they’re not hurting, so it’s more of a long-term health plan. And if you have someone you love – a spouse or a partner or a child or a good friend – and you want to be there for the long haul, then you’ll do it.
Everyday Health: I was surprised by all the different foods that contain gluten – even coffee. Are there any foods that surprised you?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: Things can be sneaky sometimes. Bulk spices, for example. Sometimes if you’re eating out at a restaurant, they might be using bulk spices, and those can have gluten in them as a filler. And tortilla chips. They’re made of corn, so I thought I was safe at this one restaurant … and then I found out they were being made in the same oil as the flour tortillas. Not such a good way to find out! Cross-contamination can get you. I used to order hard-boiled eggs all the time from a restaurant, and then I found out they were dropping the eggs into the same water they used for the pasta. That was also a painful bit of information, but I needed to know it.
Everyday Health: What’s next for you?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: Well, I’m desperately seeking some sleep! I’m getting back to “The View” in October, and I may be doing another book. Also, I’m working on some gluten-free products, working with manufacturers, and hoping to get something launched soon.
I would never really admit it until now, but with a third baby, I feel pretty busy – good busy. The book was a lot of work, but when I finished it, I had tears in my eyes. It was emotional and cathartic and rewarding, but finishing it felt kind of sad. I thought, “Now what am I going to do?” But it was the right time because there was no way I would have been able to do it in this time frame with a newborn.
Everyday Health: What has the response to your book been like?
Elizabeth Hasselbeck: It’s been really great. I just gave it to a 17-year-old guy who was just diagnosed, and his mom said to me: “You know, it kind of makes celiac disease almost cool.” Apparently, he said it made him feel less weird … and you know, so many people have celiac disease. And many people are eating this way even if they don’t have celiac disease. It’s a special diet – a powerful diet in terms of energy – and the response has been great, which is fun.
And the great news with this diet, if you have celiac disease, is that I’m not telling you that you can’t have pasta, pizza, a cookie, or a protein bar. You can have all those things, and the kind that you can have is actually better for you. It’s a good-news diet. It’s not so much about removing something. It’s about replacing it with something better.
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But the other side of the coin is that there isn’t a lot of research yet to support the link. In studies that have been published, results are mixed. A Finnish study found 4 per cent of women with unexplained infertility in a clinical trial had celiac disease. But another study from the University of California at San Francisco found celiac disease was not more common among women with unexplained infertility than the rest of the population.
Hasselbeck’s story has a happy ending. It was about three months after meeting Green that she became pregnant. The Hasselbecks now have three children, and the TV co-host is glad she gave her body time to heal before attempting more “severe” techniques for conceiving.
“I’m on the better end of the spectrum because I found out when I was just starting to have kids,” she says. “It’s so important that women know the ramifications of not being gluten-free if you have celiac disease. I really hope the percentage of people properly diagnosed goes up.”
First published in Allergic Living‘s Fall 2009 magazine. Learn about the e-magazine here.
¬© Copyright AGW Publishing Inc.
Celiac.com 05/06/2009 – Like so many people with celiac disease, Elisabeth Hasselbeck of ABC’s The View has a story to tell. Like so many people with celiac disease, that story involves a long, slow, painful journey from suffering to understanding, to self-empowerment and recovery. In between were periods of confusion, doubt, isolation and malaise. Hasselbeck describes that journey in her new book: The gluten-free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide.
Hasselbeck’s odyssey began during her sophomore year of college, when she fell ill after returning from a three-week-long trip to Belize. She was diagnosed with a severe bacterial intestinal infection which, her doctor said, was a result of her travels in Central America. The illness put in the school infirmary for nearly a week, with an immensely distended belly and a 103+ fever. Once the initial infection subsided, she was naturally relieved, and thought the worst was over. Little did she know that a long road lay ahead.
As an athlete, Hasselbeck was eager to get back into shape after she was discharged. Her body had other ideas. During this period, she says she felt absolutely ravenous, yet the only dining hall foods that seemed appealing were soft-serve vanilla frozen yogurt and Rice Krispies. Food had lost its appeal.
Hasselbeck grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood in Providence, RI, in a family that prized all things bread and pasta, so she wasn’t about to give up the appetite and food battle without a fight.
However, no matter what she ate nothing satisfied her hunger—and everything seemed to upset her stomach. After nearly every meal, she had the classic bloating, and sharp, gassy pains in her gut that are all too familar to most celiacs. Cramps, indigestion and diarrhea were familiar companions; sometimes all at once. Often, she would become too tired to move.
It was about this time that she became a contestant on Survivor: The Australian Outback. While enduring the trials of surviving in the outback, Hasselbeck was deprived of her normal, gluten-rich American diet, and forced to subsist on things she would never willingly eat at home. Yet, her symptoms were gone, and she had never felt better. Once she returned to the U.S., she narrowed the scope of her quest. She eliminated nearly everything from her diet and introduced items one at a time.
After nearly forty days basically starving herself, she sought solace in her pre-Australia diet, with dire consequences. After the joy of knowing a healthy, happy gut for the first time in years, she suddenly found herself feeling worse than ever, and spending days in her room, bedridden, save for urgent trips to the bathroom.
She saw a doctor and received a diagnosis of “irritable bowel syndrome.” Suspicious of what she saw as an acknowledgement of symptoms masquerading as a diagnosis, she began to look for connections on her own.
Fortunately for Hasselbeck, she began to make a connection between the illness she had suffered for so long and the food she was eating. She noticed that when ate starchy foods, her symptoms returned with a vengeance.
An Internet search told her that she might be suffering an adverse reaction to wheat. She quickly moved to eliminate wheat from her diet. Her experience, as so many with celiac disease know all too well, was an educational one, filled with occasional episodes that left her feeling inexplicably ill.
Unable to figure out exactly what was making her sick, she undertook more research and stumbled upon some information about gluten intolerance and celiac disease.
In 2002, after five years of suffering, Hasselbeck diagnosed diagnosed herself with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
Celiac disease can cause acute damage to the small intestine and the digestive system, and, left untreated, it can leave sufferers at risk for certain types of cancer and other associated conditions. The only known treatment is a lifelong diet free from wheat rye and barley gluten. Once she realized what had been tormenting her for so many long, she set about eliminating all wheat, barley, oats, and rye from her diet.
Still, even after she made her diagnosis, she faced a long line of skeptical doctors. In fact, it was eight years after her symptoms first began until she found a doctor who was willing to listen, and who had answers.
Her move to New York City put her into contact with Dr. Peter Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, who confirmed what she’d suspected for years: Elisabeth Hasselbeck has celiac disease. After waiting for years for a sensible explanation to her symptoms, Dr. Green was the first doctor to look for the cause, not simply to treat the symptoms. Despite the same mistakes and accidents that most of us celiacs have also experienced, her perseverance paid off in the end and she remains gluten-free to this day.
You can watch Elisabeth Hasselbeck daily on ABC.com’s The View. Hasselbeck’s book is now available at Celiac.com.
Source: ABC News
Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s Gluten-Free Spaghetti and Meatballs
Prepare the meatballs: In a small bowl, combine 1 ½ tablespoons water with the grits, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs. Mix to moisten; the grits/cornmeal/crumbs should be damp but not wet.
Place the ground chuck in a large bowl. Add the egg, garlic, parsley, grated Romano or Parmesan, salt and black pepper, and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the moistened grits/cornmeal/crumbs and mix, first with the spoon and then with your hands, just until the ingredients are combined. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs about the size of golf balls.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the olive or canola oil. Working in batches so as not to crowd the skillet, and adding more oil as needed, cook the meatballs until they are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a plate.
Prepare the sauce: Cut the sausage into 2-inch pieces. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, and brown the sausage on all sides in the oil. Add the minced onion and cook it with the sausage until the onion is soft and light brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add 1 can crushed tomatoes to the pot. Fill the can about one-quarter full with water, swish it around to rinse out the can, and pour the water into the pot. Stir, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining 2 cans of tomatoes, rinsing each can with ¼ can of water as before and adding the water to the pot. Add the sugar, salt, black pepper and basil leaves and stir to mix. Add the meatballs and stir.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, or longer if desired. (I like to simmer the sauce until I see that the oil has risen to the top.) Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain, and serve topped with the pasta sauce.