Sunday, December 18, 2011

GF at UConn

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I have posted, but I’ve been busy up at UConn So far, college is much different from high school, but in a good way. The most noticeable change is the sheer number of students. UConn’s undergraduate student body is composed of about 17,000 students; Westbrook, my hometown has less than 10,000 residents, and my high school only has 300 kids. Despite this drastic change, I am fitting in well and have met many new people. The atmosphere is also much different, as one would expect. I feel much more independent and in control of my own life, which I love.

Fortunately, the GF food situation is amazing here at UConn. I expected gluten-free eating choices in college to be repetitive and not too great. They have been just the opposite, in fact. All foods are labeled with nutrition cards; at the bottom of the card, there is a line of text that lists the common allergens present in the food. If I see “wheat” or “gluten” listed, I simply don’t eat the food provided. Following this method, I have not felt “gluten-sickness” (as I like to call it) since I’ve been here. The variety of gluten-free foods available is also impressive. For the most part, the meals I consume are regular foods available to other students – they just happen to be gluten-free. There is generally no separate part of the cafeteria with GF meal foods. This prevents students from standing out for being GF eaters, although this has never really bothered me.

In addition to the cooked foods, the dining halls also have frozen gluten-free bread products (and a dedicated GF toaster) that I can access on my own terms if I want a sandwich, bagel, or toast. If in the mood for pizza, the dining hall gave me a number I can call within a half hour to request a customizable freshly baked GF pizza. They will also cook GF pasta with a request. I’ve been to all eight dining halls on campus and have always had something to eat.

Other methods are also employed to assist students with Celiac disease or gluten-intolerance in picking safe food choices. For example, all dining halls have coolers with different tubs of ice cream. The labels on the ice cream usually list the allergens, or there is an easily accessible book of nutrition information (including allergens) available. The ice cream scoops sit in a water bath, which helps to eliminate cross-contamination from other ice creams, cones, etc. UConn even provides GF students with a list of gluten-free foods available at the retail dining locations in the Student Union area. This combination of factors has made the transition from home-cooked meals to UConn’s cafeteria pretty effortless (although, of course, my mom’s food is always better.)

All in all, I would strongly recommend UConn to any GF students considering it. I guarantee if you come here, you will have no problem finding good food to eat, and will not stand out. I’ve already met a few kids on a gluten-free diet. UConn is very GF friendly!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Update on Experiment/ College Status

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to give a quick update on my college acceptance and experiment status. Thankfully, I've been accepted into the University of Connecticut Honors Program. I'm very excited about this acceptance because UConn is one of my top choices and they have an outstanding gluten-free cafeteria.
As for my experiment, I just finished the first official test! Unfortunately, the electrophoresis technique that allows me to visualize the presence of the Celiac genes was unclear an inconclusive. I've made many adjustments to the procedure along the way, and will continue to test and adjust until I'm confident with the results. Stay posted! I'll provide soon provide an update once I've achieved a better set of data.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Interesting Experiment!

Ever since my diagnosis, I have been amazed at the science and cause behind Celiac disease. I am currently enrolled in an independent class at my high school called “Advanced Topics in Biology.” At the beginning of the semester I had a choice from a wide range of topics – basically anything relating to biology. My fascination with Celiac disease led me to choose to design an experiment investigating the genetic factors involved in the inheritance and activation of the disorder.

Although I have not yet started the experiment, I have conducted a considerable amount of research and already learned a great deal of information. I think some of this information, although fairly straightforward, is not known by many Celiac patients. Scientists have not yet discovered the definite cause of Celiac Disease, but they have determined several genetic factors that increase the risk of acquiring the disease. These genetic “markers” or alleles are different forms of a series of genes present on chromosome six, and are involved in the reaction of the immune system to different antigens. The genes are called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLAs) and one of two types (HLA-DQ2 and HLA- DQ8) is carried by virtually every person with Celiac disease. Conversely, however, the fact that one has the allele(s) does not mean they will have the disorder. These forms of the gene are present in about 30% of the white population, many of whom don’t have any form of gluten intolerance. While these alleles are considerable factors in the genetics of the disease, there are many other genes that also have a major effect.

In my experiment, I will take DNA samples from several groups of people and test for some of the most popular HLA alleles, in an attempt to find some sort of correlation between the alleles and the presence of Celiac Disease.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cool GF Bakery in NH!

On a family vacation I recently traveled to Bristol, New Hampshire, a quaint town bordering Newfound Lake. As usual on any long trip, my family and I prepared a cooler full of gluten-free foods, alleviating us of the worry of not finding things I could eat in the area. Because Bristol was unfamiliar to all of us, my mom decided to search for gluten-free stores in the area. Surprisingly, she found a gluten-free bakery called “Cornucopia Bakery” right in town, a mere five-minute drive from our cottage. Although the shop was closed for the majority of the trip, we were able to visit them on the last day of our stay. I couldn’t believe the extent of their selection of gluten-free baked goods. There was an abundance of breads, scones, cookies, pastries, and even a carrot cake whoopie pie (which was incredibly tasty). The sourdough bread was so delicious that I thought I had purchased the non-gluten-free product by accident!
Anyway, the point is that you should always search online for gluten-free shops before traveling somewhere. You never know what you may come across. Had we not searched for this bakery, we would’ve never known it existed. I had a similar experience last year on a trip to Sedona, Arizona. A gluten-free pizza place was right at the end of my street, but I only knew of it because of a Google search. Gluten-free living is becoming more and more popular as an awareness of gluten intolerance has increased and many people are choosing it as a healthy lifestyle. Shops with these kinds of foods are springing up all over the place, even in unlikely areas.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gluten-Free Breakfast and Lunch: What to do?

As a junior in high school, I know how difficult it can be to make (and eat) a gluten-free breakfast and lunch every day, let alone meals that are nutritious and hearty. While most of my classmates can simply grab $2.50 to buy lunch, I have to labor over what I’m going to eat each day at school. Some schools are beginning to offer gluten-free options, but many, including mine, do not. I also need to make sure I eat breakfast before school to make it through the day. Trying to coordinate my gluten-free eating habits all in a 45-minute time period before school, while also making sure I’m prepared for school, can be a very challenging task. Here are a few of the things I do to keep my mornings from becoming too hectic.

If at all possible, I try to get my lunch together the night before. This saves time in the morning and keeps me from having to worry about it too early. I often make deli meat sandwiches for lunch. I use a bread maker to make gluten-free bread then slice it and freeze it, so all I have to do is pop a frozen piece in the toaster. This keeps it quick and easy. I also make sure there are plenty of healthy snack foods around, like pretzels, carrots, fruits, nuts, granola bars, and chips. It’s convenient to purchase packaged foods like granola bars, pretzels, and crackers in bulk because it’s cheaper, and there is a long-lasting supply at home. If not in the mood for a sandwich, another option is to put leftovers in a Tupperware container or Thermos and microwave them at school. I realize this may not be convenient for everyone but if a microwave is available it‘s certainly a good option.

Now that lunch is covered, what about breakfast? There are endless options for breakfast, time allowing. If pressed for time, a simple bowl of cereal (Panda Puffs, Koala Crisp, and organic corn flakes are all good) will do, or even a bowl of yogurt. Many flavors of Yoplait and Stonyfield Farms yogurts are gluten free. If you have more time, however, there are other tasty options. Bob’s Red Mill now offers gluten-free certified oats, so oatmeal is a good choice. Also, eggs, in any form, are nutritious and good tasting. One of my favorite meals is to toast a Gillian’s or Trader Joe’s French roll, melt cheese on it, and make a breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs and salsa. The options are endless. So, the next time you get stressed out about what you’re going to eat for breakfast or lunch, calm down and think about it. You never know what you might come up with.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gluten Free Colleges

AAAHHH!!! Searching for a college with a good gluten-free meal plan can be extremely frustrating. With some thorough research, however, it's not as tough as it seems. I recently traveled around the east coast to look at colleges I might be interested in attending. Most of the school chefs said that if I ended up attending the school, they would sit down with me at the beginning of each week to plan out my meals. Most seemed very accommodating. Some even had gluten-free or allergen-free sections of the cafeteria designated for kids with food allergies. Here are my suggestions for finding a good gluten-free college:
  1. Check it out: You won't truly know about the school's meal plan until you visit for yourself. Go to the cafeteria and see how many choices you have for gluten-free food, and how difficult it is to find something to eat.
  2. Make contact: Ask for the contact information of the dietitian at the school. They will be able to tell you anything you need to know about the school's food.
  3. Talk to the students: Roughly one in a hundred people have Celiac disease, so there will likely be several students already attending the school who have gluten-free diets. See if you can talk to one of these students in person or ask for his or her email address. They will have had firsthand experience with the meals there.
  4. Where is it?: If the university is in a college-friendly town or a big city it will probably be relatively easy to find things to eat off-campus. If not, it might be more of a challenge .
  5. Be Patient: It will take a lot of work to find a college with a good gluten-free meal plan. Remember, you'll be there for four full years of your life, so you want it to be a place where you can conveniently get safe and nutritious food.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Warning: Snickers Minis!!!

BE CAREFUL!! I recently ate several of the Snickers Minis on Easter and became terribly ill. I was vomiting for nearly three hours. Strangely, I often eat the Fun Size and regular Snickers bars and feel fine. Also, I have even eaten the minis before with no reaction. Interestingly enough, I have read articles and online forums in which people complain about reactions they've had to the minis. Although the manufacturer lists no gluten-containing ingredient on the package, it is highly likely that there is a high level of concentration. As a matter of fact, I probably consumed a highly contaminated batch of the candy. If you are even somewhat sensitive to gluten I would strongly recommend you not to eat this form of Snickers. There have been numerous discussions on, a gluten free forum, in which people talk about whether or not they contain gluten. I did eat some from a mixed bag of Snickers, however, which contained dark chocolate and normal Snickers, so that might have had some effect.