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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA club educates campus on gluten-free living, offers resources

A UA club reached out to the community on Sunday in the first Gluten-Free Awareness Expo at the Tucson Medical Center.

The UA Gluten-Free Club aims to advocate, educate and support those living a gluten-free lifestyle, whether by choice or due to a medical condition, according to Emily Rich, a psychology senior and president of the UA Gluten-Free Club.

The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about a gluten-free diet, as well as showcase the resources available for those living gluten-free, said Czarina Nafarrate, a journalism senior and vice president of communications for the UA Gluten Free Club.

A gluten-free lifestyle may be best for those battling celiac disease, gluten intolerance or wheat allergies, among other diseases, Rich said.

“It is for anyone who benefits from a gluten-free diet medically,” Rich said. “We wanted to raise awareness that it is not a diet to lose weight, it is for people who have a medical condition in which they need to live this way.”

Celiac disease is a gluten intolerance in the autoimmune system, so a gluten free diet and celiac disease often go hand in hand, Nafarrate said.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and ultimately anything that has flour in it, she added. Almond flour or rice flour might be substituted for flour in a gluten-free diet.

At the event, various vendors and support groups presented samples of gluten-free foods as well as offered support for individuals and families living gluten-free.

Vendors such as Gourmet Girls and Udi’s Glutino offered gluten-free samples and recipes, while support groups such as Cel-Kids, which is a part of the Southern Arizona Celiac Support Group, offered information about their support groups.

“We are here in the community to support and also provide social events for families and children who are gluten-free,” said Elizabeth Sheppard, leader of Cel-Kids, a support organization that offers children a chance to share their experiences living with celiac disease with their peers.

The event also aimed to raise awareness about celiac disease, as there is a rising trend of diagnoses, Rich said.

“A lot of people don’t know how to go about being diagnosed or taking the next step,” Rich said, “which is changing their diet, and the resources available to do so.”

Rich added that one of the most notable accomplishments of the gluten-free awareness initiative is that the Tucson Medical Center is now dedicating an area in its kitchen for preparing gluten-free meals for patients.

“This is great because hospitals, unfortunately, do not have a system set in place to take care of gluten-free patients,” Rich said.

The dedicated area includes appliances, utensils and more.

“We just want people to understand what gluten-free is,” Rich said, “and how to cater your lifestyle to the needs of gluten-free living.”

For Tucson resident Jodie Woodman, who is allergic to gluten, living gluten-free is a learning process.

“When I first started [a gluten-free diet] I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this?’” Woodman said. “But there is so much support. Just look at this event — there are so many resources available.”

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