Review of Elaine Gottschall's diet in relation to celiac disease

   Fax to: Elaine Gottschal
   From: J. Stenberg, RR #1, Holstein, Ont., NOG 2AO, Canada

   November 6, 1996

Dear Ms. Gottschall:

After reading not one, but two scathing reviews on your book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, I want to let you know that I disagree with both of them, and would like to have my say in your defense.

The reviews in the Canadian Celiac Association newsletters (Spring and Summer, 1996) are irresponsible and in my opinion, enough to alarm any starving gluten intolerant soul in to bypassing your book and robbing themselves of an opportunity to get well.

First a bit about me. After eight years of mysterious symptoms, dozens of doctors, gruelling, and often humiliating tests and general misery I discovered I was gluten intolerant. I probably would never have figures it out if it hadn't been for my sister.

After checking herself into a psychiatric ward in Vancouver, an observant nurse and doctor deduced that all my sister's miseries were linked to celiac disease. (A positive biopsy confirmed that she was indeed celiac.) Because of her history, my doctor and I discovered that gluten was also the cause of my maladies. I had no desire to go back on gluten to have the biopsy done. My doctor and specialist are both aware of my condition and the decision not to have the biopsy. Since my "assumptive" diagnosis, there have been two more positive biopsies in our family. My eight-year-old daughter has also since been diagnosed a celiac. My gastroenterologist and I decided the biopsy was unnecessary and unless further problems developed, she should remain on a gluten-free diet too.

Unfortunately, for both my daughter, another sister (in Manitoba) and I, the gluten-free diet did not work. Some symptoms were arrested, but none of us were thriving and we just weren't absorbing food. (My sister in Vancouver and a niece in Alberta have been successful with the fluten-free diet however.)

A friend of mine (suffering from M.S.) recommended your book. She told me that although it wasn't curing her, it was definitely helping her live a healthier life.

To make a long story short, we found the diet (for whatever reason) to be a godsend. Contrary to J. A. Campbell's point (#4), "The diet is very restrictive and difficult to prepare...", I find all but the pizza recipe (where you have to squeeze water out of a zucchini a snap to cook) very easy. The almond muffins are no more difficult to prepare than any other kind of muffin. (In fact, easier, because you make the whole thing in one food processor - no dishes, no fuss.) I can make the yoghurt in my sleep and everyone (including guests) loves it. As for the zucchini, if I'm organized, I just let it drain from a strainer for ages and sill end up with a good pizza.

As for not being nutritious, I have never been healthier. My daughter, once a sicly (often whiney) withdrawn child with thin heair and dark circles under her eyes is outgoing, rosy cheeked and happy. Everyone has noticed her thick, shiny hair. In fact, she ran a marathon in Owen Sound this year and placed 15th out of 79 children. Last year she ran the same race (before the diet) and placed 53rd, arrived weepy and slept all the way home in the car.

Tackling the diet is overwhelming to be sure. Anything different is a challenge. Instead of diving in headfirst, I tried one recipe at a time. My sister (skeptical of your diet) visited me last summer and I showed her how to change her kitchen, shopping habits and cooking. She loved the food but didn't notice that some of her symptoms had disappeared until she went home and went back on the gluten-free diet. She is now back on your diet and happy with it.

In #1, in the review by Mavis Molloy, she states that " is both expensive and time consuming to prepare." Good food is time consuming to prepare, no matter what kind of diet it is. As for expense, again good, real food costs more than convenience food, but I find you need less real food than what most of us are used to eating to get the right amount of nutrition. And has she ever priced gluten-free bread? Rice flour? Not to mention the new gluten free treats that are being churned out (many fo them heavily-laden with new and exciting (untested) ingredients?

She also says "...that it is unnecessary to eliminate... starches such as corn, rice, potato, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, etc." So far I haven't met any celiacs who don't have problems with corn, and buckwheat isn't exactly a hit either.

The most important fact about your book is totally missed by both reviewers. It boils down to common sense. I find you are very careful about explaining why and how things don't and do work - right down to common sense things like if you have four muffins at once, no matter what they're made of, they're not going to work. You'd be amazed at how many people don't have enough common sense to see why moderation is so important. If you're not absorbing nutrients it doesn't matter what your disease is called or who has researched what, it's time to try something else, before drugs and scalpels are necessary. As we know, radical surgery and drugs often cure the immediate problem but open the doors to others.

I have been on the diet since January, 1996, still have a way to go, but my life has changed drastically since. I have much more enery, cirtually no pain anywhere (before my list of symptoms was endless) and no longer spend half my life in the bathroom where my life was literally going down the drain. I was underweight, had dry pale skin, dull-looking dry eyes, suffered from hair loss and was generally miserable. Now I am actively pursuing my art interests (something I always had inside me, but didn't have the energy or drive to tackle it.)

Had I seen and heeded the alarming "Celiac Beware" headline in the CCA Newsletter before I tackled "Breaking the Vicious Cycle", I'd be too tired to even write a letter like this.

Feel free to use my letter (or me for that matter.) There's enough unnecessary suffering out there and there is nothing to lose by trying this book. Sincerely

Jennifer Stenberg.

If you wish to get hold of the book, read here.

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