Gluten-free options at restaurants and grocery stores are all the rage today. But for some, gluten isn’t just an inconvenience or a preference. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten causes internal damage. Celiac disease is hereditary and affects 1 in 100 people worldwide.
So what exactly is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When those with celiac disease eat gluten, their body has an immune response, attacking the small intestine and affecting nutrient absorption. Left untreated, it can lead to other health problems, including diabetes and anemia.
For children and infants, celiac symptoms are more commonly digestive: bloating, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Some of the common symptoms for adults include anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis and more.
If you or your child are experiencing any of these, have a family member with celiac, or have an associated autoimmune disorder, talk to your doctor about getting tested. There are several blood tests to check for celiac disease antibodies; once found, a biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis. You could also have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which causes symptoms like depression and abdominal pain when gluten is digested.
If you do have celiac disease or NCGS, there’s no cure, but the disease can be managed via a strict gluten-free diet. It may seem daunting, but there are many foods that are naturally gluten free, including fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry, fish and seafood, dairy, beans, legumes and nuts. You can still have a healthy (and delicious) diet while avoiding gluten.
Ready to get started? Try a twist on a favorite – polenta pizza! (What’s polenta, you ask? Yellow or white cornmeal that can be used in a variety of ways, including making gluten-free pizza crust!)
-1 cup of polenta
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-4 cups water
-1 teaspoon salt
-Desired pizza sauce and toppings
Brush a round baking sheet with olive oil and set to the side.
Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the polenta and salt.
Reduce to low heat and whisk 2 to 3 minutes, until mixture is thickened and not sticking to pan.
Cover and cook on low for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread to desired thickness.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour until firm. You can also chill overnight.
Once firm, bake the polenta crust at 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until edges begin to crisp.
Cover the polenta crust with your favorite sauce and pizza toppings. (Some ideas: olive oil, mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil, or pesto sauce with grilled chicken and parmesan cheese.)
Bake pizza at 450°F until cheese is melted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, and enjoy!