Malcolm Sickels MD P.C. 210 Little Lake Drive, Suite 10 Ann Arbor, MI 48103 734-332-9936 206-666-2989 fax
With many of my patients sensitive to wheat (the overall incidence of classic celiac disease is 1 in 110-133 depending on who you ask, but serum antibodies occur in 1 in 9 and stool antibodies occur in more than 1 in 4, while 39% of the population has at least once gene associated with celiac disease), I'm gathering information on what can make life easier for eating gluten-free in Ann Arbor. Celiac disease isn't a true allergy, but rather an auto-immune disease triggered by gluten. While intestinal biopsy was considered the gold standard for diagnosis, some blood tests correlate 100% with biopsy results. However, biopsy only picks up people with advanced celiac disease where these is clear damage to the gut and when there damage gets too severe it may not be able to heal completely, so there is a need for earlier diagnosis. It is also possible to have an allergy to wheat or another sensitivity to it, as well.
Remember that gluten is in wheat (all regular breads contain wheat: white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, etc), rye, barley, triticale, spelt, and kamut. Oats don't make gluten, but are usually shipped in the same containers, so only oats labeled "gluten-free" should be considered safe (but the protein in oats, avenin, is similar enough to gluten that half of celiacs will react to it - so be careful). Hemp is rotated with barley, so may be contaminated with gluten (yes, even if it's labeled gluten-free).
Click on each heading to see the information about that heading. Feel free to email me with suggestions for more things to add to this, but remember that it may take a long time for me to get to it. This page will continue to evolve, so check back occasionally.
A quick web search will find a multitude of GF resources. Once place that has a lot of info is celiac.com, so it's a good place to get started. The NIH even has a celiac awareness site. To get started here's a nice article about cleaning out your kitchen. There's a nice Yahoo! group, gluten-free Ann Arbor that is worth joining if you are in the area. Once you ask to join, the moderators will let you in fairly quickly and then you can search the archives for lots of good local information. If you are newly diagnosed with celiac disease, Connie Sarros has written a Newly Diagnosed Survival Kit that has all the fundamentals in it. She is a bit over-reliant of low-fat things, so you can take her admonitions about avoiding fat with a grain of salt since everyone needs a decent amount of fat and many low-fat foods are overloaded with sugar to compensate. Another nice resource for the newly diagnosed is a series of videos about cooking GF on Schar's website (they do make GF foods, so watch out for product placements): Better Without: your guide to a gluten-free life videos. For children diagnosed with celiac, there's a great book: The GF Kid. If has instructions and helps newly diagnosed children realize they're not alone and some of the realities they will face in a light-hearted way. Written by a celiac kid and her family, it packs a good dose of humor into a subject that can be painful for newly diagnosed kids. According to the publisher, it's been out of print since 1/3/08, but there are still copies to be had if you poke around. You may also want to check out this page about 504 plans and school lunches. There are a multitude of GF websites, blogs and recipe pages out there, but one I've come across that hadn't turned up readily otherwise is Nourish This. Also, there is a nice web page about hosting a dinner with a celiac (good to forward to friends). If you'd like to get a real paper-and-ink magazine about living with celiac disease with recipes and everything there are two: Living Without and Gluten-Free Living. If you are taking medications, a kind pharmacist has built a website of gluten-free drugs, both prescription and OTC. A good thing to check before taking anything. Who would have thought that Synthroid isn't guaranteed to be GF while most of the other thyroid replacements are?
You can find gluten free things at any store by getting things to cook from scratch (in the produce section, etc.), but for when that's not practical, here are some stores that make things easier. If you're in the market for GF bread, I've found that Udi's GF bread is the closest to regular bread. If you want freshly baked GF bread, try Great Harvest off Ann Arbor-Saline road. They only bake it every couple weeks and you need to pre-order it, however.
Located on Stadium, Arbor Farms has nice shelf tags sticking out from the shelves to help you find gluten-free foods. In addition, they have put some extra work into finding things that are gluten-free, including freshly baked gluten-free cookies and even vegan GF cookies.
On the east side on Ann Arbor in Arborland off Washtenaw, Hiller's has lots off food from all over the world and a considerable amount of GF foods, with wheat-free labels on some things and a selection of gluten-free cereals, baking mixes and crackers, as well as a dedicated GF freezer in the frozen section on the end with all kinds of fun stuff. They're trying to be the premier GF store in the area and they may just be.
In the natural foods section of Kroger's there are gluten-free choices and then shelf tags identifying some things, however the shelf tags are sometimes wrong so always double check. In addition, it's a regular grocery store (despite their trying to sell more non-food items), so you have all the regular options from any grocery store, like the now gluten-free rice and corn Chex (even some of the Kroger-brand rice Bitz are GF), as well as the GF Bisquick (though I like the Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose Baking Flour better).
The two Meijer stores in Ann Arbor have been having more GF foods. The one I'm familiar with (on Jackson Ave) has a good number of shelves with dedicated GF foods in addition to part of a door of the freezer with GF foods and the infamous Betty Crocker baking mixes and Chex on the conventional shelves.
Plum has a reasonable amount of gluten-free stuff (including xanthan gum, a somewhat difficult to find ingredient for wheat-free baking), but the labeling is inconsistent. It's not a cheap place, but it is nice inside and the sales are good.
People's Food Coop
PFC's selection of gluten-free stuff is somewhat limited (no xanthan gum) but their prices are pretty good. There is a nice selection of bulk flours and stuff, but bulk foods (particularly the flours) are quite risky for celiac as there could easily be cross-contamination.
With 2 Whole Foods Markets in Ann Arbor, we can go on either side of town. They have a list at the customer service of GF things. They do have some GF foods that I didn't see elsewhere, including a frozen section of GF baked goods (Whole Foods has a dedicated GF baking facility for their GF frozen baked goods). Their bulk section includes some potentially GF things 2 bins away from the wheat gluten bin, so I'd avoid the bulk things unless you like to live on the edge. As far as WFM's reputation for being expensive, it's hit or miss. I tracked the prices on 2 items at 4 stores: for Lara Bars they were the cheapest and for hemp milk they were the most expensive, so go figure.
With fresh GF bagels near the front, Trader Joe's has some different selections, but I was frustrated by the many Trader Joe's brand foods that could be GF but say they were made in a facility that processes wheat. They do have a GF list for easier shopping if you ask at the front desk.