Celiac simplified: the Gastroenteroligist’s perspective

In an effort to continue to provide you with rants, reviews, recipes and relevant information, I sat down with a physician to get their perspective on Celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.

Talia Zenlea, an Internist and Gastroenterologist, and I met on Twitter.

After reading her bio, I knew that she was the perfect person to chime in on the medical facts and feelings surrounding treating patients with Celiac.

Talia Zenlea, MD is the founder of bellyblog.ca. She completed her medical training at University of Vermont, residency in internal medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and gastroenterology fellowship at Harvard/BIDMC. She currently practices gastroenterology in Toronto. She has her hands full as the mother of 3 rambunctious boys and a well-behaved Labradoodle. She is committed to empowering women to take charge of their own health and well being.

Talia Zenlea, MD is the founder of bellyblog.ca. She completed her medical training at University of Vermont, residency in internal medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and gastroenterology fellowship at Harvard/BIDMC. She currently practices gastroenterology in Toronto. She is committed to empowering women to take charge of their own health and well being.

Q: What inspired you to become a doctor? Was there any moment or event that drew you to Gastro work?

A: When I was in high school and undergrad, I did a lot of volunteer work in the mental health and addictions fields, so I first went to medical school to become a psychiatrist.

Though I loved psychiatry, I also loved surgery and internal medicine. There wasn’t a specific “ah ha!” moment for me, but gastroenterology was a really good fit because I like the emphasis on preventative care (I do a lot of colon cancer screening and prevention), and I like helping people understand and appreciate the interplay between their symptoms, the foods they eat, and the world around them.

Q: That’s great! What’s your favorite thing about your job?

A: The best part of my job is getting to meet people from all walks of life, and understanding how their unique circumstances have shaped them. It’s my job to understand where they are coming from and how I can help them “make it work” in a way that’s in keeping with their beliefs and individual goals.

Q: I love that philosophy. So, of your patient base, how many have Celiac?

A: A lot! And a lot have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.

Q: That’s actually what my doctor thinks I have, but I beg to differ. For those readers who are still unclear on what Celiac really means, will you break it down for us?

A: Sure! Unlike gluten-sensitivity, Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the small intestine, triggered by consumption of gluten.

By inherited, I mean that people do not get Celiac because of their lifestyle choices or health habits- they carry a gene that made them susceptible.

The autoimmune part means that in people with Celiac, consuming gluten triggers a response where their bodies “wage war” upon the small intestine. This attack damages the parts of the small bowel that are necessary for absorption of certain nutrients.

Q: It’s so fascinating to me that different people can have such different reactions when eating the same foods. My boyfriend eats bagels on the regular yet when I eat even a french fry (with a tiny bit of flour,) I definitely experience that wage war you’re referring to. 

A: Definitely! The autoimmune attack damages the parts of the small bowel that are necessary for absorption of certain nutrients. This is why people with celiac can sometimes have very low vitamin levels, or low blood counts. Because the autoimmune-mediated inflammation is triggered by gluten.

The good news is that for most people, stopping any exposure to gluten also stops the attack, and the bowel can usually heal itself.

Q: Yeah, my doctor says that my bowel has healed itself through years of strictly following the gluten-free diet.

A: Exactly.

Q: What does untreated Celiac (or breaking the gluten-free diet) do to our body? Can you explain the short and long-term impact?

A: Without treatment, there’s ongoing attack on the small bowel. This can lead to impaired absorption of certain important vitamins and nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies in those things.

So, for example, low calcium or vitamin D can lead to low bone density (osteoporosis or osteopenia,) low levels of certain B vitamins can lead to numbness and tingling… You can also have symptoms like belly pain, abnormal bowel habits, headaches, skin rashes, even infertility!

There’s a small risk of a very serious small bowel cancer in people with uncontrolled celiac disease.

Q: Wow. It’s terrifying actually – especially for young women hoping to one day have a child. So what’s one piece of advice that you would give someone who is just starting to follow the gluten-free diet?

A: My advice is – stick with it, and do the best you can.

One of the best parts of my job is when I see someone who was in tears at the idea of giving up pizza or bread, but then comes back a month later with a huge smile saying they didn’t even realize how bad they felt before, until they stopped eating gluten, and now they feel like a whole new person.

Q: It’s amazing, right? So do you have any advice for someone who is a bit more seasoned? Someone like myself who has been following the diet for years? Are there any specific foods I should steer clear of, or vitamins I should be taking, to stay healthy?

A: I think something that even “seasoned” individuals sometimes don’t realize is that gluten can be found in things that aren’t even food – like vitamin supplements or even medications, as well as cosmetics like toothpaste, lipstick, body creams…

So, always read labels, and when it doubt, call the manufacturer!

As for vitamins, I sometimes recommend a gluten-free multivitamin, and supplemental vitamin D if levels are low. This is something you should discuss with your doctor first.

While I was horrified to realize that there could be gluten in creams and toothpaste, I was glad to learn that now as I am trying to make a switch to more natural, organic products.

Talia’s advice is definitely helping me to make adjustments as a consumer.

Want to learn more? I encourage you to join the conversation on Talia’s blog!

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The g-f diet vs. the military

Did you know that the United States military won’t accept you if you have Celiac disease?

I only recently found this out, and it was from a new friend (Tom) that I recently met. Tom and I started chatting about health and wellness, and I mentioned that I follow the gluten-free diet. He mentioned his friend Matthew who also was on the g-f diet and even prevented from serving because of it.

ashley-matthew2I froze hearing that. Then I got pissed and knew that I’d have to connect with Matthew to hear his story:

Q: Did you start following the gluten-free diet because of a sensitivity to gluten, or do you have Celiac?

A: Celiac disease. I was diagnosed as an infant. When I was 3 weeks old, I suddenly grew bloated and my abdomen ballooned out. My mother, having been a Neonatal nurse in the Navy, knew to take me to the hospital immediately.

The doctors found that I had an intestinal malrotation and severe inflammation of my small intestine. I had to have a very serious surgery with a high possibility of mortality. The procedure was successful, though, and I went home after a brief NICU stay with the newfound diagnosis of Celiac disease, which was assumed to have been the cause of the episode.

Q: Oh wow, that’s really interesting. I’ve never heard of such a severe reaction. Do you think that your mom working as a neonatal nurse in the navy influenced your desire to serve? 

A: My mom has definitely influenced me, and still continues to. (She’s in her early 60’s and still going strong as a veteran ER nurse.) She has been the main driver influencing me to go into the healthcare field.

I come from a family with a long history of military service. Hearing the stories of family members who have served really makes you proud of your roots.

Q: That’s really interesting. So, have you been following the gluten-free diet forever? 

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A:  I followed the diet off and on since the surgery in ’88. My parents kept me pretty gluten-free while I was younger, but living in the 80’s/90’s in a small town, gluten-free food was hard to come by. Awareness was very low.

My symptoms were also minimal, since the surgery removed a large portion of my intestine that normally would be damaged by gluten. Wanting to be a normal kid in the school lunch line led me to deviate from the diet between the ages of 6 to 20.

During undergrad, I studied health sciences and got back on the gluten-free diet for good. I’ve been pretty strict for 8 years now.  I’m not a “freak” about everything being “certified GF” but that’s kind of luxury due to my minimal symtomology. I still make every conscious effort to be gluten-free.

Q:  Have you seen/can you speak to the increase in availability and/or quality of gluten-free products since you first starting following the diet?

A: We’ve come a long way in my lifetime. My mom would drive 45 minutes away to buy gluten-free, cardboard-tasting bread in the past.

It was tough in the 90’s and early 2000’s. It can still be tough in rural areas, but around 2005 I started to notice increasing awareness, labeling efforts and some mentions on menus at restaurants in Michigan.

Between 2006 and 2010 is when I saw the biggest increase in g-f friendliness (however my perception may be skewed because I spent those years in Ann Arbor).

Now, I live in Flint for school and it feels like I’ve regressed a half decade in terms of g-f friendliness, but I still get by. To put it simply, the days of driving 45 minutes to get a loaf of sand are long gone, but the majority of Michigan still has a way to go.

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Q: What is the best gluten-free friendly place you’ve got around you? Any favorites?

A: Michigan has never quite been on the culinary cutting edge, but within the past 5 years I’ve seen some interesting changes. My opinions are slightly skewed having lived in Ann Arbor (which is foodie heaven, and very accommodating).

With the advent of social media, the microbrewery boom here, an increasingly farm to table/organic focus, and the whole Detroit youth culture revival, I’ve seen Michigan come a long way.

Local Favorites include: Buddy’s (Detroit Metro) has the best  gluten-free pizza in the WORLD and g-f beer/ciders always on. Jolly Pumpkin (In Ann Arbor) has a gluten-free menu and a g-f IPA ON TAP! Flint is still in the dark ages when it comes to gluten-free, but the foodie culture is slowly picking up speed.

Q: Thanks for sharing! Buddy’s sounds awesome. Tom mentioned you’ve experimented with brewing your own g-f beer. That’s pretty admirable! How’d that go? Is that still something you dabble in?

A: I did get into home-brewing during undergrad. I bought a 5 gallon pail of sorghum malt, and got about 12 brews out of it before getting too busy with school to keep up the hobby.

My initial brews were awful but as I refined my skills, while living with Tom (his excellent taste in beer rubbed off on me), I began to brew lighter ales with heavy dry hopping and minimal “interesting” adjuncts.

What ensued were mostly IPA style. I even decided to enter a contest with a brew I called “Celiac Soda”. It was my attempt at making a gluten-free beer to replace the tailgate “versatility” of light American party beers.

I was amazed when it got ranked into the “Very good” class. I plan to pick the hobby back up after I finish my Master’s next year.

Q: That’s awesome, you totally should! It’s not easy to make a good g-f beer. So, I know you had your heart on serving in the military but you were rejected due to your dietary restrictions. Can you explain how that process worked? How did you feel finding this out?

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A: This is a complex and personal subject for me. I entered the Army ROTC while in undergrad. I wanted to be a Ranger Medic. These valorous dudes and chicks are like guardian angels for our nation’s grim reapers.

Ironically enough, I currently train side by side with them.

Q: Cool! In what capacity?

A: I currently am training in nurse anesthesia. We’re the majority of the providers who put you to sleep and keep you safe and comfortable during surgery; we also provide safe pain and sedation medication therapy and take charge in emergency/code blue situations.

These are skills that the Ranger and Seal medics must also become proficient at. In an ironic twist of fate, the Special Ops Command has chosen the very same hospital where I am undergoing my training to train their medics (1 of 2 hospitals in the nation).

I even coached one of them through his first intubation a few weeks ago. Here’s a quick read about it.

(Back to story)

I needed to successfully pass DODMERB (Department of Defense Medical Exam Review Board) for medical clearance. At the time, dodmerb listed “any current or history of malabsorption disorders” as a dis qualifier of military service. (They have since adjusted wording to directly state “Celiac disease”.)

I had to apply for a medical waiver. Meanwhile, I was taking this ROTC thing to heart and getting very entrenched in the culture. The people I met were my new found brothers and sisters.

It took 2 waiver applications and 7 months total before I found out I was forever denied. I was heartbroken. The fact that I wouldn’t be there for the exemplary young men and women who might end up wounded on the battlefield in need of help… It was gut wrenching.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I began to realize that, for the first time in my life, I had a physical disability which prevented me from pursuing my dreams. I had never considered myself handicapped until that moment. It was like an aftershock.

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No longer could I fulfill my duty to serve and protect those new-found brothers and sisters fighting bravely for each others’ lives. It was a rough year, and it still bothers me every-time I see soldiers or hear the national anthem. Like a chip on my shoulder with nobody to blame.

Q: It doesn’t seem fair. I feel like we could get a petition going… or something. Do you think there is a solution at all? 

A: There is no solution. What it boils down to is that the military operates in the most efficient way possible. The brilliant minds behind our military have purposefully cut us out because of multiple reasons: liability, selectivity and MRE chowline.

The only way to get Celiacs in the military would be to get the MRE manufacturers and chowline food/aid conglomerate contractors (Sara Lee, ConAgra, Aramark, etc) to convert to gluten-free options. (In other words, about a snowball’s chance in hell.)

Cider and beer you autumn know

Maybe it’s just me but when I think of fall, aside from pumpkins and golden leaves, I immediately think of football, sweaters, boots and beer.

For those of us with Celiac, coping with the loss of drinking beer can be quite the challenge, especially in the fall (and the summer. And maybe the winter too).

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a big drinker or anything close to a beer connoisseur. I enjoy my fair share of wine and whiskey, but ever since going gluten-free I have come to miss beer.

beer 1Gone are the days of grabbing a Labatt at Thursday at Canalside or sipping on a cold Flying Bison at Thirsty Buffalo while watching the Bills game.

While many a beer lover will say that gluten-free beer just doesn’t taste the same, there’s no doubt that it has come a long way in the past few years.

While the craft beer and hard cider markets have been growing, breweries have been catching on to the prevalence (dare I say trendiness) of the gluten-free diet by brewing kick-ass beverages to suit the varying preferences of the ever-expanding Celiac community.

To kick off the season and help you get through those Buffalo winter blues (aka the Buffalo Bills blues), I have compiled a list of gluten-free beers and ciders that you can enjoy without making your stomach fumble. (see what I did there?)

Beer:

The first step to drinking gluten-free beer is developing an understanding of the beverage. Beer is made using water, starch (typically derived from malted barley and/or wheat,) fermented sugar and hops.

Since barley and wheat are both gluten-based grains, gluten-free beer can be made in two different ways: the first way is to use a wheat base but remove the gluten through processing. The second way is to skip the wheat all together and use an alternative such as sorghum, millet, buckwheat or rice.

RedbridgeSorghum-based beer is by far the most popular due to its close resemblance to generic, gluten-filled beer. While sorghum-based beer can be delicious, it’s usually hard to forget that you’re drinking a gluten-free alternative. Many people remark that sorghum-based brews have a “slickness” that seems to be a dead giveaway to its gluten-free nature.

To test the theory, I had a guest taster (without Celiac) sample beverages with me to provide both the glutenous and gluten-free perspectives on locally available gluten-free beer and hard cider. We gathered at my stomping grounds, the Hotel Lafayette, and got to work.

Here’s what we tried:

Estrella Damm Daura: The Daura, Estrella Damm’s gluten-free beer, contains the lowest gluten levels of almost any beer with less than 3 ppm, making it compliant with the FDA’s latest standards for gluten-free product labeling.

This light, crisp, non-sorghum lager is made using barley malt and has won numerous awards for its quality taste. In 2011 the Daura won gold medals at both The World Beer Championships and the International Beer Challenge. It also won the World’s Best Gluten-Free Lager Award at the World Beer Awards.

daura beerThe Daura’s non-sorghum base results in a beer that smells and tastes like a regular beer. “It’s light, not too hoppy and tastes just like a wheat beer,” remarked my guest taster.

Verdict: Personally ranked as No. 1, guest-ranked at No. 2 of the seven beers tasted.

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Omission: Owned by the Craft Beer Alliance and brewed at Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Omission beer is specifically crafted using a proprietary process that removes gluten.

While the brand is known for being gluten-free friendly, it is worth noting that the beer is still brewed with malted barley meaning that outside of Oregon, Omission isn’t legally allowed to label its beer as gluten-free since barley is a “prohibited grain.”

Regardless, Omission’s use of a malted-barley base is exactly what makes the beer stand out as being one of the best tasting gluten-free beers.

Both Omission’s Lager and their Pale Ale received awards in the 2012 Great International Beer and Cider Competition in the Gluten-Free Beer category.

For those who are extremely sensitive to gluten, I’d recommend taking caution when trying Omission beer for the first time to ensure it doesn’t cause a negative reaction. You can find where Omission is served locally here.

Verdict: We sampled Omission’s Pale Ale and I ranked it at No. 2, but according to my guest taster, “This one is the best of the bunch. It tastes just like a regular beer. I’d buy this.” He ranked Omission at No. 1

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Bard’s Tale Beer Company: Brewed and bottled in Utica, Bard’s is made by creators who felt that the lack of gluten-free beer options was an injustice that must be corrected. Bard’s made it their mission to provide beer for the over 2 million people who are gluten intolerant.

Brewed with malted sorghum, Bard’s has succeeded in producing a medium bodied beer that is rich and similar to Newcastle in its mildly hoppy yet bold flavor. The beer leaves no lingering aftertaste, unlike other gluten-free beer. You can find Bard’s in the following local restaurants or stores.

tweasonaleVerdict: Ranks in at No. 3

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Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales: In January 2012, Dogfish released its first and only gluten-free ale, Tweason’ale. Tweason’ale is a seasonal sorghum-based beer made with hints of molasses and fruit.

This labor-intensive beer was created to provide a healthy, safe and delicious option for gluten-free lager-lovers. The result is a fruity smelling and tasting beverage. The strawberry flavor is not overwhelming and leaves you with a fruity aftertaste.

Worth noting is that Tweason’ale is only released between seasons. Check out Dogfish’s “Fish Finder” to find Tweason’ale in a store near you.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 4

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Redbridge: One of the more popular when it comes to gluten-free beer, Anheuser-Busch’s Redbridge is a light sorghum-based beer with a slightly fruity aroma, a sweet toasted grain flavor and a moderately hopped finish. The beer is sold year round and is one of the most locally available.

While Redbridge is well-known due to its placement in the Anheuser-Busch family, the beer itself is a little flat when it comes to flavor. “There’s not much going on here,” my guest taster remarked.

redbrige2Verdict: Ranks in at No. 5

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Green’s: Imported by Merchant du Vin, Green’s specialty Belgian ales are full-bodied and crisp.

All varieties of Green’s beer have a five-year shelf life and are made with millet, sorghum, buckwheat and rice making them safe for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dieters.

Green’s distinct line of beer includes their Endeavor Dubbel Ale, Quest Tripel Ale and the Discovery Amber. The Discovery Amber won the 2011 Foodie Award from Vegetarian Times and is medium bodied and well-balanced.

We sampled Green’s Amber Ale, which was dark in color and had a lot of head or foam at the top of the glass. “It’s okay but I wouldn’t buy or drink it again,” said my guest taster.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 6greens beer

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New Planet: Based in Colorado, New Planet is a family-owned and operated company that was started by fellow Celiac supporter and sufferer Pedro Gonzalez. As stated on its website, New Planet’s purpose is to help everyone “celebrate life with a great tasting beer and to do good things for the planet.”

New Planet is known for producing a variety of sorghum-based beers for those with varying preferences. Their five flagship beers are: Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Blonde Ale, Raspberry Ale and Belgian Ale. We tried the Raspberry Ale and the Blonde Ale, which were both light in color and taste.

While I commend New Planet for donating a portion of its proceeds to helping improve the planet, I personally think they might benefit more from improving the taste of their beer.

“This is kind of nasty. It sort of tastes like furniture polish,” remarked my guest taster. While I can’t confirm that statement, as I’ve never tried furniture polish, I have to admit that New Planet didn’t sit well with either of us.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 7

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Ciders:

gf ciderFor me, fall and cider go hand-in-hand.

Unlike gluten-free beer, which some dieters are wary of due to the processing involved, hard cider is one alcoholic beverage that is naturally made without any gluten ingredients since it is derived from apples.

Seeing how the Buffalo.com team weighed in on cider during the Hard Cider Challenge, I decided to focus my efforts on the three most popular and widely available cider brands: Woodchuck, Angry Orchard and McKenzie’s.

Woodchuck Hard Cider: As one of the top-selling hard cider brands in the U.S., Woodchuck is well known for its quality product and commitment to providing the Celiac community with safe beverages.

“We take Celiac Disease seriously, and since Woodchuck has always, and only, been made from apples (not wheat, barley or rye) none of our cider varieties have ever contained gluten.”

In addition to safety, Woodchuck is dedicated to variety; they produce a number of different flavors including core flavors, limited seasonal releases and private reserves. The six core styles are: Amber, Granny Smith, 802 Dark & Dry, Pear, Raspberry and Crisp.

Woodchuck’s limited release collection contains four varieties available by season and the private reserve collection includes: Pumpkin, Belgian White, Barrel Select and Pink.

woodchuck ciderNot only is Woodchuck committed to providing gluten-free dieters with a beverage proven to be safe, but Woodchuck has one of the most expansive lists of cider varieties that I’ve found. Check out Woodchuck’s calendar for cider availability.

Two of their best flavors currently available are Pumpkin and Fall. We sampled Fall and it was one of the best drinks we tried; the hints of nutmeg and cinnamon make it a perfect fall drink.

“This is awesome! It sort of tastes like apple pie or something. I’m going to buy some of this on my way home,” remarked my guest taster.

Verdict: Woodchuck’s Fall cider ties with McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve for No 1.

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Angry Orchard: Hailing from Ohio, Angry Orchard has produced ciders since 2011. The brand gained recognition early on, making them the second best selling hard cider brand in the North East food region after Woodchuck.

Angry Orchard produces four different cider varieties available all year round: Crisp, Traditional, Ginger and Green Apple. They also have a seasonal flavor which currently is Cinnful Apple, a crisp and refreshing cider with a hint of apple tart and cinnamon spice.

Of all the ciders we tried, Angry Orchard definitely has the strongest apple flavor.

We sampled the Crisp flavor and it tasted just like sparkling apple cider. Click here to find the local spots which serve Angry Orchard.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 3

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McKenzie’s Hard Cider: McKenzie’s, my favorite brand of hard cider, was founded in Buffalo in 2011 by husband and wife Lenny and Julie Ciolek.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the Ciolek’s over lunch at MacGregors’ on Sept. 26 and was blown away by their enthusiasm, humility and excitement to share their story with me.

McKenzie’s came to market in 2011 after Lenny, who had been working for Woodchuck, saw an opportunity to get into the hard cider market. Ciolek approached the Mayer Brothers in 2010 (who he credits for producing “the best sweet cider in the world”) to help make the product.

mckenzies tapsThe Mayer brothers joined the team and within a year the product was booming and available on tap at MacGregors’.

“It usually takes a while to notice how one product affects sales, but we saw cider sales skyrocket as soon as we started offering McKenzie’s,” remarked Chris Spillman, general manager of MacGregors’.

By July 2013, the brand had grown so much that McKenzie’s decided to take another partner outside of Mayer Brothers.

While Mayer Brothers still produces McKenzie’s, Lenny Ciolek remarked that at the time, “Mayer Brothers wanted to focus on their core business which is sweet cider and water, whereas we wanted to expand to make a national and even global brand.”

McKenzie’s currently produces five different flavors: Original, Black Cherry, Green Apple, Seasonal Reserve and Lazy Lemon. All are made using local ingredients and Western New York’s apples; the result is a fresh, crisp and very flavorful cider.

McKenzie’s is widely recognized and applauded for their true gluten-free good neighbor status. “We’re very active in the local community,” said Julie Ciolek.

“It’s important to us that people know that we’re made in Western New York,” added Lenny Ciolek.

Not only is their product locally owned and produced, but the Cioleks are extremely friendly, passionate and dedicated to their brand and customers.

“Our hands-on approach is what makes us who we are,” said Lenny Ciolek.

And this isn’t just talk. The Cioleks commitment to the brand can be seen on their website; Lenny’s direct cell number is listed on the site’s ‘contact’ tab.

“We get out there and talk to our customers,” remarked Julie Ciolek.

Now available in 13 states, McKenzie’s is rapidly catching up to the high-profile status of its two main competitors, Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. They have received several awards including Double Gold Medal for Black Cherry and Silver Medals for Original and Green Apple at the 2012 New York Wine & Food Classic.

They also won ‘Best Specialty Beverage’ at the Buffalo Zoo’s Wines in the Wild and Polar Bites events.

CioleksIt’s exciting to see McKenzie’s rapid growth right in our own backyard. Not only have the Cioleks succeeded in creating a quality product, but they have done it using local ingredients.

While all of their flavors are delicious, my personal favorite is the Seasonal Reserve which is available from September until late February and tastes like apple pie in a glass. (Seriously. I don’t joke when it comes to pie.)

McKenzie’s is widely available at local bars and restaurants; click here to find a list of places where you can get it.

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There is no doubt that as Celiac disease becomes more prevalent, gluten-free drink options will become increasingly available at local stores and restaurants.

So, treat yourself to a nice fall drink by visiting one of the stores listed below:

Wegmans: While the availability and quantity of gluten-free beer and cider varies by location, Wegmans is usually stocked with almost every variety of hard cider. In terms of beer, they usually have Green’s, Estrella Damm Daura, Omission, New Planet, Redbridge and Tweason’ale. Even better is that Wegmans offers a “craft pack”, allowing shoppers to mix and match by choosing six different beers for $9.99.

Tops: After calling a number of different locations, I was surprised to learn that the only gluten-free beer available is Redbridge. However, Tops does have a number of different hard ciders available including Woodchuck, McKenzie’s and Angry Orchard.

Village Beer Merchant: With locations on Elmwood and Hertel, the Village Beer Merchant is always stocked with at least two brands of gluten-free cider and beer each. They have incredible customer service and let you buy by the bottle, which is great for those of us which like to sample different kinds of beer. When I last visited on Sept. 22, they had Dogfish’s Tweason’ale and multiple varieties of Angry Orchard, Woodchuck and Blackbird. Worth noting is that they usually carry Omission but were sold out due to popularity.

gf beer aisleConsumers Beverages: Consumers has a wide selection of gluten-free beer and hard cider. Although you can’t buy by the bottle, the majority of the gluten-free offerings come in four or six-packs and can be purchased for around $5 to $10 per case. Consumers typically carries New Planet varieties, Tweason’ale, Estrella Damm Daura, Bard’s, Redbridge, and varieties of both Green’s and Omission. Similarly, they always have Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, Crispin and McKenzie’s varieties.

Dash’s Market: While availability varies depending upon the store, Dash’s typically has Redbridge, McKenzie’s, Woodchuck and Angry Orchard.

Premier Gourmet: Located on Maple Rd., this place is fully stocked with virtually any beer or cider you might be looking for. In terms of gluten-free beer, they have New Planet, Bard’s, Redbridge, Tweason’ale, Omission, Estrella Damm Daura and Green’s varieties. Premier Gourmet also carries around 30 different cider brands of which McKenzie’s, Woodchuck and Angry Orchard are the most popular. When I visited for my first time, I was shocked by the enormity of the place. I also appreciated the clearly labeled rack of non-alcoholic and gluten-free beer. Like the Village Beer Merchant, Premier Gourmet sells their gluten-free beverages by the bottle and they are very reasonably priced.

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In my experience, the availability of gluten-free beer and hard cider can change quickly depending upon the season and the popularity of the specific brand. I recommend calling places beforehand to see if they have what you’re looking for.

Regardless of what type of beer or cider you like, or where you live in the city, there is something out there for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to sample and try new things. I guarantee there will be at least one beverage that you’ll fall for this season.

[Green’s beer photo courtesy of Flickr/allaboutgeorge. Redbridge and Bard’s photo courtesy of Flickr/sanbeji.  Redbridge bottle top photo courtesy of Flickr/rachelpasch. Daura beer bottles photo courtesy of Flickr/dearbarbie. Woodchuck hard cider photo courtesy of Flickr/nikokaps.]

Kathy Smart, and the importance of vegetables

I recently came across Kathy Smart on Twitter.

after a quick glimpse at her website, I knew I had to speak with her to learn more about her.

As detailed in her Twitter bio, smart is North America’s Gluten-Free Expert.

Smart is a TV host, chef, best-selling author and Owner of “Live The Smart Way” Expo.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Smart to learn more about how she got started in the business, and what her journey has been like.

Q: Kathy, how did you get started with this business? Did you always know that you wanted to be a chef and/or TV host?

kathy1A: At the age of twelve, I was diagnosed with Celiac. As a child, I made the connection that if you change what you eat, you can change your life.

This realization impacted me in such a huge way that it determined my career.

I decided early on that I wanted to become a nutritionist, chef and personal trainer so that I could help as many individuals as possible that suffer from food intolerance and/or allergy issues.

I grew up watching Julia Childs, and always wanted to have my own TV show. I still have cassette tapes (I’m really showing my age here) of me at six years of age pretending to be the host of a TV show.

Q: That is so endearing! I love old home videos. So, where did you start: TV or behind the blender? Can you explain a bit about how you got to be doing everything you are? It sounds like you must be so busy!

A: [chuckle] I first started at four years of age. My mom taught me the style of French Canadian cooking. The way that I got on to TV was almost a total fluke.

kathy6I did a charity calendar cookbook back in 2008 for the City of Ottawa to raise money for the food bank.

CTV and Rogers TV heard about it, and I was asked to go on TV. I kind of “fell in to TV,” as it felt very natural for me.

I feel very comfortable in front of a camera, and my behavior and demeanor doesn’t change when I’m in front or behind it…I’m just myself, and the camera seemed to like it!

Q: That’s great! What is your favorite thing that you do: is it cooking, writing recipes, being on air, running the Expo?

A: My favorite thing to do hands down is writing recipes.

I love putting on classical music, yoga pants and literally creating art with food in the kitchen. It is therapy for me.

Q: I totally agree. Cooking is therapeutic for me as well. What was the first year you did the Expo? How has it changed over the years and what are you most looking forward to seeing at next year’s event?

kathy4

double fudge brownies

A: The first year of the expo was 2015. Many people think it has been going on longer due to the tremendous success that it has had.

In regards to next year, I am most looking forward to seeing the individuals that own incredible businesses again. They felt like fast-friends when we met at the expo, and I can’t wait to reconnect next year!

Q: When did you publish your first book? How was it received in the market?

A: I published my first cookbook in 2008. It sold out in one month. The next cookbook that I published was in 2010, and I remortgaged our house to do it, as I self-published first.

kathy2

Smart meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and talks to him at 24 Sussex after receiving the Leading Women’s Award for bringing gluten-free awareness across Canada

At the time, I had recently found out that my husband and I were unable to have children, so I decided to give life through a different means on this earth – through the creation of delicious recipes!

Q: Wow, that is so touching. Thank you for sharing that with me. So, what happened after that? 

A: In 2010, I did the first “Live The Smart Way” cookbook and filmed the TV show at the same time with Rogers TV.

The book has sold over 25,000 copies since, and has been the passport for me to travel and teach all over the world, from Bali to Italy, to Aruba and even getting to be on the Dr. Oz Show!

protein pancakes

protein pancakes

Q: Wow. That’s incredible. So, I have to ask – what is your favorite recipe in your cookbook? 

A: Protein Pancakes! I love pancakes.

Q: You are obviously very passionate about living a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. What is the best piece of advice that you could give people struggling with work-life balance or struggling to adopt a healthy diet?

A: Eat vegetables like it’s your job.

Start with that; it’s a simple and sure-fire way to get you on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

Q: Do you have a favorite brand when it comes to gluten-free products? 

kathy5A: I have many favorite brands, so it is hard to choose! If I had to pick one, I would say my favorite is my own personal brand.

I have a line of gluten-free cereals and flours that are low glycemic, high protein and healthy!

To learn more about Kathy, I encourage you to connect with her on Twitter!