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December 22, 2013

Gluten a holiday grinch for some

PLATTSBURGH — When Peter Zielinski was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, he had mixed feelings.

Naturally, the Cliff Haven resident was relieved to learn his symptoms, which included severe anemia, massive weight loss and a potassium deficiency, weren’t being caused by something much worse.

But on the other hand, Zielinski couldn’t help but feel embarrassed to have a condition that, at the time, so few people were familiar with.

People with the autoimmune disorder are adversely affected by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Over time, ingesting the allergen causes damage to the small intestine and prevents absorption of some nutrients.

This, of course, can make dining difficult for celiacs, especially in situations where they haven’t prepared the food themselves.

At first, Zielinski felt guilty having to inform his dinner hosts that he couldn’t partake in the delicious, gluten-riddled meals they had gone through the trouble of making and so eagerly wished for him to enjoy.

“You’d go over to their house, and you really couldn’t eat anything they had,” he said.

While celiacs are bound to encounter such situations year round, they tend to do so even more frequently during the holiday season, when sharing baked goods and homemade feasts is tradition.

And the best way for those with a gluten allergy to navigate the edibles at a social gathering, is to not be afraid to “ask lots of questions,” said SUNY Plattsburgh senior Maria Dominguez, who was the president and co-founder of a food allergy nutrition group on campus that worked with the college’s dining halls to provide more meal options for students with food allergies.

People are typically friendly, she added, and willing to field inquiries about the ingredients in the dishes they have prepared.

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