I have been thinking and reading a lot about autoimmune diseases lately. (I feel this is the time where I apologize to anyone who has been near me when I talk about wanting a hookworm... but a girl has got to dream.) I have been looking for, but haven't found, a really good explanation about what is going on in bodies with autoimmune diseases, and specifically what isn't working. On the whole, I have been disappointed. Information is spotty or so overly scientific, one needs a specialized degree and some medical dictionaries to get through it. (Yes, I have read Dr. Green, and while it is good, it is still lacking a solid and clear definition about what is physically/chemically happening in the body of a human with active Celiac Disease.) I spent some time talking with a scientist this weekend, and what I learned was both clarifying and confusing.
1. In general there isn't a ton of information known about autoimmune diseases or the human immune system in general. (This made me feel slightly better about not really being able to find/understand good information about the processes and problems.)
2. My theory and questions about bone marrow transplants was pretty much dispelled. (Radiation was a form of treatment therapy for lupus, so I thought maybe it would be a feasible - though probably undesirable thing -for persons with other autoimmune disorders)
3. There are multiple possibilities for how and why intestinal damage occurs in persons with Celiac Disease. The specifics of how and why the body attacks gluten AND its own body, the intestines, its 100% known. (This makes a ton more sense to me. Especially considering how many people have non-GI issues, it seems like there are several things happening at once and villa damage is just part of it)
Part of the reason why I really want to figure this stuff out is mostly curiosity and the desire to be able to better explain it to other people. Ideally, I would like a better visual representation of what the hell is going on in bodies that decide to wage war on gluten. (For some reason I always use a military or pac-man analogy.)
All in all, I have to admit that things have been easier for those looking for gluten-free options. I am surprised daily about people who actually know what gluten is, and food establishments with better and better offerings. Here are a few happy surprises:
I used the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix for cupcakes on my birthday and they were good, better than good. Fluffy, dark and not-too-chocolately, I was amazed. They even fooled a few people into thinking they were the traditional kind, when covered in burnt sugar cream cheese frosting. They were so good. Apparently they are even up for an award!
At a very indulgent dinner last month, I was surprised at how wonderful the service remains at Oleana, and at their attention to detail. After letting the server know that gluten was a no-no, he brought out a side plate of fresh cut veggies for me in lieu of the bread basket for the other diners. Not only was it thoughtful, it was a great compliment to their carrot puree - the best thing! - and sported a few sliced watermelon radishes, a personal favorite.
This past weekend, I was excited to find out that Highland Kitchen has a gluten-free menu that is not only extensive, it had offerings that were beyond the "hamburger sans bun." The house-made pickles rule and the braised pork was tender and flavorful. Not to mention their very interesting cocktail list.