When you have a diet that must be restricted of certain items because of a medical condition, it’s vital to know what you cannot eat as well as what you can. That’s where a Registered Dietitian can help. I’ve talked about consulting with Registered Dietitians for years on this blog and in my book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Wiley, 2011) However, not all Registered Dietitians know nor understand food allergies, celiac disease, food sensitivities or food intolerances. That is why it’s extra vital to make sure your consult a Registered Dietitian knowledgeable in your medical diagnosis.
Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in gluten- and allergic-related disorders, is an expert in celiac disease from both professional and personal experience. I had a chance to interview her about living her best gluten-free life.
Allergic Girl: Briefly, tell us about you, your practice and your specialty?
Rachel Begun, MS, RDN: I am a registered dietitian nutritionist living with celiac disease. My business consists of three pillars: counseling patients with gluten-related disorders and food allergies; consulting for the food industry and health organizations in a variety of ways, from research and development, to program design and implementation, to product and service positioning to marketing and communications; and public speaking, writing and media spokesperson work.
AG: Briefly tell us about your personal history and diagnosis with celiac disease?
RB: Most people think I became a dietitian because I have celiac disease, but actually I was a dietitian long before being diagnosed. Like many, I was misdiagnosed with IBS and lactose intolerance for many years. My symptoms gradually became worse and hit an extreme in Winter of 2008. I was well-versed in food sensitivities and thought I might be having an issue with gluten. That's when I went to see my gastroenterologist and started the testing process to detect for antibodies to gluten and then an endoscopy to take a biopsy of my intestines.
AG: What are some common misconceptions about celiac disease?
RB: People think that because you don't have an immediate reaction to gluten that the consequences of eating gluten are not serious. The reaction to gluten can take several hours to days and is quite debilitating for many for several days. In addition, the long-term consequences of celiac disease can be serious, including anemia, osteoporosis, other auto-immune disorders, infertility and even intestinal cancers.
AG: What are the three most common questions you get from clients about a maintaining a gluten-free diet?
RB: The most common questions are about how to find safe gluten-free options in the supermarket and when dining out and traveling, as well as how to eat to overcome nutrition deficiencies due to malabsorption or lack of nutrients in the gluten-free diet. Every person lives a different lifestyle with different eating patterns and preferences. I work with each individual to help them achieve their best gluten free life.
AG: What is your one top tip for someone newly diagnosed with celiac disease?
RB: I actually have two top tips. Focus the diet on whole, naturally gluten-free foods. This is the best way to help heal the intestines and get on the road to recovery. Next, learn basic cooking skills so you can prepare healthy gluten-free foods at home and be prepared when gluten-free options may not be available.
AG: What are your three top resources for easy, whole food-based, gluten-free recipes?
RB: Delight Gluten-Free magazine, Gluten Free Living magazine, Carol Fenster's gluten-free cookbooks.
AG: What’s your one splurge?
RB: A really good gluten free cupcake.
AG: Final thoughts?
RB: Many people think having to go gluten-free means that you can no longer enjoy good food. That is simply not true! In fact, many people find that their eyes (and taste buds) are open to a whole new array of foods they may have never tried before. With an open mind, going gluten-free can expand one's culinary options.
Thank you, Rachel Begun, MS, RDN for all that you do!