Gluten-Free: An Interview with Kelly Courson, an Original Celiac Chick
Celiac Chicks was one of the first sites I discovered when I started going gluten-free in 2005. Informative, positive and funny -- these were fellow gluten-free girls I could relate to. Recently, celiac chick Kelly and I sat down over some gluten-free pasta and talked about all things chick!
SM: When did you discover you were celiac or gluten intolerant?
KC: It took several years to discover gluten was the culprit responsible for my health issues. I suffered with horrible gastrointestinal symptoms, a scary-looking rash on my face and general malaise. I had always been an itchy and sickly person, but for some reason when I turned 21 in 1991 all of my symptoms intensified.
It wasn't until five years later, in 1996, when my mom read a Prevention magazine article called the "Case Of The Suffering Skin" that I got a real clue about my ailments. The article was about a woman who had horribly itchy skin with blisters; she was diagnosed with Dermatitis Herpetiformis. Typically, this skin condition is associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. That was my "aha" moment! The article described all of my symptoms and how going gluten-free "cured" this woman. So, I went gluten-free and, just like the woman in the article, my skin cleared up in two weeks along with my other symptoms. It was amazing!
However, I was never formally diagnosed as celiac. Back in 1996, most doctors weren't aware of how common celiac disease was in the general population and there was no blood test like there is today, over 10 years later. In order for me to be tested now, I'd have to eat a lot of gluten for the tests to come out positive. Basically, I'd have to get sick just to know what I already know.
So I haven't done the formal test: it's a personal choice. Lots of people are self-diagnosed; however, now with advanced testing available, it's wise to take advantage of these tests before going off of gluten in order to get a medical diagnosis. This is especially helpful for people who believe they'll have a hard time staying on the diet or who have asymptomatic celiac disease.
Kelly Courson (left) and fellow Celiac Chick
Kim started CeliacChicks.com together.
Here they are testing gluten-free beer.
SM: So why Celiac Chicks? Why a blog?
KC: A celiac co-worker named Kim and I were having fun discovering new gluten-free foods and Web sites and I realized, "Hey, there are clinical information sites, but no fun ones." We talked to my techie friend about how to create a Web site and he educated us about a new technology, blog software. He followed up on the discussion by e-mail with the subject header of: "Hello Celiac Chicks". We knew that was the name of our new blog.
SM: How has the celiac/gluten-free community changed within the last four years?
KC: More people are getting diagnosed, so the community's growing and there are more events to enjoy and support, like the local Meetup groups. More people are actively supporting the celiac non-profits or helping online with message boards; some are even starting their own blogs about the diet. More restaurants are aware of celiac disease and are accommodating the gluten-free diet. [see this site for a list of restaurants in your area] Also, there are more useful celiac/gluten-free resources and availability of convenient gluten-free foods at stores such as Whole Foods. Check out CeliacChicks.com for more info.
SM: What's the future for the chicks?
KC: Good question! If what has happened steadily over the last four years is a foregleam of what is to come, then I can't wait! For now we'll keep doing what has been working and helping people like supporting the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University by throwing an annual fundraiser in conjunction with the Paul Taylor Dance Company here in New York City and focusing on gluten-free recipes, restaurant reviews and new products.
Created by Kelly Courson and Kim Danyluk in August 2003, CeliacChicks.com has been featured in Time Out New York, The Daily News, The New York Post, Newsweek, and Energy Times along with numerous local newspapers across the nation. Only the best restaurants, recipes, products, events and resources related to gluten-free living are featured on the site.
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