St. PETERSBURG, Florida. — Debra Cooper has been baking since she was seven. He likes the chemistry behind creating the perfect flavor.
“It’s pretty labor intensive, but I put everything I’ve got into it,” Cooper said. “I love doing it and everyone else appreciates it too, so that makes it worthwhile.”
Above all, Cooper loves the finished product. These days, she mostly bakes bread, something she hasn’t been able to enjoy since 2004. Cooper was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to go on a gluten-free diet, the only treatment for the condition.
“I was very sick and couldn’t hold anything down,” Cooper said.
After her diagnosis, Cooper stopped eating bread for more than a decade because she didn’t know there were options for people with celiac disease.
“Actually, when I went to Paris, I found gluten-free bread,” she said. “That’s when I realized that this is what I want to do, is to bake bread and what I can’t eat and haven’t been able to eat.”
Health professionals are paying attention to the increase in celiac disease diagnoses. According to a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, the number of new cases has increased by nearly 8% over the past few decades. In celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten can trigger an immune reaction that causes inflammation in the small intestine. Gluten is found in foods such as pasta and bread, but it can also be found in products such as vitamins and toothpaste.
“If they continue to use gluten, the concern is the long-term inflammation over time,” says Sabrina Prabakaran, MD, a gastroenterologist at AdventHealth Tampa. “In addition to causing all these vitamin deficiencies, which can have their own problems, it can also cause long-term cancer.”
Prabakaran said the increased availability of testing and greater awareness of celiac disease may help explain the rising number of diagnoses. She added that there can be a difficult learning curve for people newly diagnosed with celiac disease.
“For some patients, they are very able to make that adjustment, but for others it can be very difficult,” Prabakaran said. “Just knowing what gluten is or what foods contain gluten can be difficult. The other thing is that a lot of people don’t realize that sometimes there is cross-contamination.”
For the past three years, Cooper has been baking celiac-friendly breads, cookies and other baked goods out of her home. His storefront is now open in the Grand Central district of St. Petersburg. It’s called Adieu-glu, which means “goodbye gluten.”
“I never would have believed it could be true, and it is,” Cooper said. “Now I’m helping other people, which I think we should all be serving, and now I feel like I’ve found my purpose.”
Cooper was afraid to open his storefront and feared he might not be accepted by the community. But she felt a calling to help other people with celiac disease overcome the same challenges she faces.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “Actually, I don’t even let it bother me because now there are so many foods and products that you can eat and enjoy and you’re not missing out on something that’s not gluten-free, and that’s what I try to provide as well. “.
Adieu-glu is open for limited hours. Cooper hopes to have the bakery fully open by January and eventually wants to ship her celiac-friendly products.
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