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Spotlight Interview: Amy Leger from The Savvy Celiac

Spotlight On: Amy Leger
Visit her at: The Savvy Celiac
Blogging Since: October 2008
Other Blogs: I blog about running on RunningMoms website, for moms (or any women) who are trying to fit running into their busy lives.
Occupation: Freelance writer/communications professional
Volunteer & Advocacy work: Volunteer for Raising our Celiac Kids, Volunteer singer at Grace Lutheran Church. I bothered (annoyed, pestered, worked with) my child’s school district enough during the 2007-2008 school year that they started a gluten-free menu for all children in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota last October.

Once diagnosed, it’s okay to grieve, whether it’s you who was diagnosed, or your child. Take time to feel bad, but then pull up your bootstraps and get going with the gluten-free lifestyle change.

How long ago where you diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease? 

It actually is my daughter who has celiac disease. She was diagnosed in June of 2000 at the age of 15 months. She had the typical symptoms you see with kids: distended belly, vomiting every 9 days, frothy diarrhea. She was so crabby all the time that my husband and I wondered – is this what we will have to endure for the rest of our lives?

Does she suffer from other allergies or intolerances? She does not.

What made you start The Savvy Celiac? 

Two reasons…celiac started to impact my family beyond my daughter: last summer my brother was diagnosed with celiac and then in August we also took in an exchange student from Norway who has celiac disease. I felt like I had enough reason – just to help the three celiacs in my life.

The other reason also happened over the summer. I wrote an article about how the Rochester, Minnesota School district is feeding nearly two dozen kids daily with their gluten-free menu. I showed how it all started with one question from a mom and it boomed from there. It was picked up by Food Service Director magazine and published in September 2008. I got a great response from it, as did the Rochester School District. (Food Service Director Magazine: A Gluten Free Solution) That’s when I knew I could have a positive impact on this cause. About a month later I started The Savvy Celiac, with the goal of really bringing out some issues, research, and maybe things people hadn’t thought of before.

What are the first 3 tips you tell people who come to you who are in the initial stage of diagnosis? 

I come at it from a parent’s perspective:

  1. If you haven’t had your biopsy yet, don’t go gluten-free. You could end up with a test result that implies you don’t have celiac.
  2. Once diagnosed, it’s okay to grieve, whether it’s you who was diagnosed, or your child. Take time to feel bad, but then pull up your bootstraps and get going with the gluten-free lifestyle change.
  3. Start slow with your diet change introducing only the most basic foods (eggs, vegetables, meat, fruit) at first. More complex foods (processed, gluten free but not prepared in a gluten-free facility (like mainstream things: Cheetos, Doritos, etc)) should be introduced one at a time. This way if you have trouble with a particular food, you’ll know which one it is right away. Emma was 15 months old. She lived on eggs and formula until I learned how to make bread. And we slowly worked our way up to a full complement of food. Of course that’s easy to do with a 15 month old, and not as easy with a 30 year old.

What was the most surprising thing about going “gluten free”? 

Two things: Once you get the hang of the gluten-free lifestyle, it really is not that tough to do

And you find that nothing is immune to the potential for gluten involvement: ie Rice Krispies, lipstick, even my daughter’s bubble bath.

What are you most proud of? 

My celiac daughter who even questions me to make sure the food I’m giving her is gluten free.

What are you passionate about? 

Equality. I don’t like it when my celiac daughter feels left out at snack time during an activity (sports or school). I know life won’t be that easy for her, but if I can help educate the masses along the way (like my daughter’s school and the gluten free lunch options) maybe I can help make the gluten-free lifestyle more acceptable among a majority of people.

What’s your favorite food? 

Glutino Pretzel Sticks. Perfect for snacks: plain or with cheese. But also serve as a great substitute for crunchy Chinese noodles that go in Chow Mein. I use these for all of the above all the time as do my daughter and our exchange student.

To learn more about Amy, visit her WEGO Health page.

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