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I'm sharing some personal stuff in this post since it might benefit others. I'll also be blogging about prepping stuff from time to time ~ esp as it relates to our personal journey with canning, critters, etc.
Bill and I have been in the preparedness industry since 1996 (shortly before we got married) but prior to that we both always had full pantries and supplies on-hand in case of emergency. For the past 12 years Bill has been battling many serious health issues (will be another book someday), but a few things we learned have really impacted our prepping habits.
Back in 2000, when Bill was 47, his doctor said Bill had leukemia and he needed to have his spleen, gall bladder and half his liver removed. Needless to say we did NOT go that route! Good thing too since it turned out he had a massive infestation of liver flukes (worms) and severe heavy metals. After 7 years of major cleansing and detoxing (including some very scary moments when I wasn’t sure if he’d survive), he started getting a tiny bit better but something was still wrong. The healthier he ate (e.g. oatmeal, pastas, veggies, etc) the sicker he got. He was constantly nauseous, belly would bloat up, joints were severely aching, extreme fatigue, itchy little red sores would pop up, etc. Plus his heart rate and blood pressure started climbing and he was getting the beginning stages of diabetes.
In mid-2007 we visited a naturopath who said Bill had classic symptoms of Celiac Disease. Basically his body cannot handle gluten (i.e. wheat, oats, barley and rye). Bill also had a food allergy test run and reacted to almost every food listed on the chart .. except wheat but that’s typical. Celiac Disease is not a food allergy - it is an autoimmune disease and there are other ways to diagnose it.
The test also indicated Bill was allergic to all nightshade plants (i.e. tomatoes, potatoes, all kinds of peppers, eggplant and tobacco. As fyi, nightshades can cause inflammation and achy joints, similar to fibromyalgia.) His Doc explained once we got Bill’s gluten issue under control, he would probably be able to slowly add back in many foods ... but for a few years we had a very short list of "okay" things to eat.
For those of you not familiar with celiac disease (we had no clue what it was), it’s a genetic issue people are born with and it’s not contagious. When Bill ingests gluten, his immune system creates antibodies that attack and damage or destroy the tiny hairs (villi) lining the small intestine so his body cannot properly absorb nutrients. Even tiny amounts of gluten in foods can affect those with CD and cause health problems. And damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 out of 133people in the U.S. are affected with celiac disease. And CD occurs in 5%-15% of the offspring and siblings of a person with the disease.
In hindsight, Bill’s father, uncle and 2 sisters all died between the ages of 47 and 54 and we feel sure that they all had CD. Also looking back Bill was addicted to sugar his entire life – candy, fruit, sodas, you name it. His body couldn’t absorb proper nutrients but sugars are easily digested so he lived mostly on sugar and adrenaline. And when that type of person gets into their late 40s or early 50s, the body and immune system just wears out leaving it vulnerable.
There’s much more to this story but ... to the main reason we’re sharing all this. When you discover a family member has celiac disease you start reading ingredients. Almost every canned, bottled, processed, packaged, frozen, dried and ready-made food or sauce has gluten in it!!!
In other words about 95% of our stored supplies were like rat poison to Bill! Compound that with Bill’s allergies to tomatoes, potatoes and all peppers (from jalapenos to bell or black pepper to cayenne to paprika) ... we realized we were screwed.
There are many gluten-free vendors on the market including some long-term-storage food and emergency kit vendors who make an effort to carry specialty products. But people need to very careful about the "gluten free" label since many companies package both regular foods and gluten-free foods in the same warehouse or on shared equipment so it can get cross contaminated very easily.
Even though Bill is still battling health problems, he is starting to get a little bit stronger now. We have to be extremely careful with foods since his immune and digestive systems are not 100% yet. We cook everything from scratch and have decided to start canning our own foods, but that can be tough living in the city since you don’t know how meats and produce are handled. Someday we hope to move to a small personal farm with fruit trees and critters.
As mentioned above, I'll be getting a canner soon and will share some of what I learn either here on blog or in USFRA's "Let's Eat" group. I'll also share some prepping tips here and in our Disaster Preparedness groupalong our journey in case it might help others.
One final note regarding celiac disease or other food allergies... please make sure you store special foods in grab & go kits and pantries to accommodate loved ones with dietary issues. Learn more about CD from the CD Fdn, CSA, Mayo Clinic or NIH.