LaFollette Medical Center will host LaFollette’s first Gluten Free Get Acquainted Celiac Lunch on Sept. 26 at noon.
The purpose of the meal is to raise awareness of celiac and gluten sensitivity.
Ninety-five percent of the people in the United States who have celiac remain undiagnosed, said Carolyn Acuff, from the Celiac Spruce Association.
“People just don’t know about some of these things,” she said.
Acuff has celiac, and didn’t know what it was when she was diagnosed.
“It’s an autoimmune disease,” Acuff said. “It attacks your immune system.”
People with celiac don’t receive their nourishment, Acuff. There are a wide variety of symptoms including intestinal damage, but people are affected differently.
“Once you’re not getting your nourishment properly, that’s when the symptoms happen,” Acuff said.
People with celiac might experience diarrhea, malnourishment, dermatitis, have trouble absorbing calcium, which could lead to osteoporosis and can also develop lymphoma.
People with celiac don’t take medicine, but need to make adjustments to their diet, mainly by removing gluten from it.
“You have to analyze your food and your vitamins, and your lipstick and any medicines you take (for gluten),” Acuff said. “The body turns on itself when it’s an autoimmune disease. So it turns on itself when we eat the wrong things.”
When Acuff was first diagnosed, she had to go to specialty stores, like Earth Fare, because there weren’t sections for gluten free bread and crackers, she said.
“Gluten free products are improving in their taste and texture,” Acuff said.
Companies have begun to adjust products to suit the needs of people with celiac, and those who are gluten sensitive, Acuff said.
Many normal products are being changed to remove the gluten so we can have them,” Acuff said.
People who are gluten sensitive may experience some of the same symptoms as people with celiac, but don’t have damage to their intestines, Acuff said. While doctors are still researching gluten sensitivity, they estimate about six percent of the population is gluten sensitive.
Because of the general lack of awareness about celiac and gluten sensitivity, Acuff devotes her time to educating people about its symptoms and associated problems.
“I thought, this is unacceptable, I’m going to do this all the time,” she said.
Acuff arranges gluten free meals in Knoxville, Sevierville and Johnson City to raise awareness.
“We call it ‘get acquainted’,” Acuff said. “It’s a time when everyone eats gluten free. It’s a social time where we can share information.”
In other cities, these meals can be arranged at restaurants, where there are gluten free menu options available, Acuff said. In LaFollette, there isn’t a place that provides such options. Tennova is allowing Acuff to arrange a gluten free meal in one of the conference rooms at LMC, as well as providing a meal of gluten free tacos. The meal will cost $8. Those wishing to attend need to contact Annie Caldwell at 494-5801.