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Format: 04/16/2014
Format: 04/16/2014


AGH Workshop Educates Local Food Pantries on the Need for Gluten-Free Foods

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Many Americans suffer from celiac disease for years before a diagnosis is made. For others who are unable to afford nutritious foods, the struggle continues even after diagnosis.

On Monday, June 14, 2010, Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) is holding a free workshop to help providers of food for underserved populations learn about celiac disease, a life-long digestive disorder that affects children and adults.

The program will educate food providers on the importance of providing gluten-free options and describe the serious impact that foods with gluten can have on the health of patients with celiac disease.

Dee Valdez, who started the nation’s first gluten-free food pantry last year in Loveland, Colorado, will address the group and share her experiences with using corporate and community partnerships to bring gluten-free foods to those in need.

“There is a great need to develop a systematic approach to establishing gluten free food banks across the nation,” says Ms. Valdez, who was diagnosed with celiac disease 17 years ago. “I applaud the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health and local food banks for working together to bring the second gluten-free food pantry in the nation to Pittsburgh.”

According to Paul Lebovitz, MD, Director, West Penn Allegheny Health System Division of Gastroenterology, and director of the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health, more than 2 million people—or about 1 in every 133 people in the U.S.—have celiac disease.

More than 100,000 people receive assistance from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank each month. But, individuals with celiac disease who rely on food subsidies may have a hard time finding enough gluten-free foods to meet their needs on pantry shelves.

When people with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed. Gluten is the common name for the proteins in specific grains that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. These proteins are found in all forms of wheat as well as related grains rye, barley and triticale.

“Even small amounts of gluten in foods can affect those with celiac disease and cause health problems,” Dr. Lebovitz said. “Damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.”

Symptoms of celiac disease may or may not be visibly seen, and some people with celiac have no symptoms at all. To further complicate diagnosis, many of the symptoms resemble other medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. If symptoms are present, they may include unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms such as recurring abdominal pain, bloating, chronic constipation or diarrhea. Other symptoms may include anemia, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and infertility.

Left untreated, celiac disease could cause major nutritional deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and even cancer.

The June 14 program is open to the public and will take place from 8 a.m. to noon in AGH’s Magovern Auditorium. To register, please call 412-359-8956 or email ksepesy@wpahs.org.

The workshop is sponsored by the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health, the Allegheny General Hospital Auxiliary and Giant Eagle.


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