Celiac Awareness Month: Interview with Chrystal Carver
Both of your daughters have tested positive for Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance. Can you tell us what that is and what you had to go through in order to find that diagnosis?
It started when my girls got really sick. The doctors didn’t know what was going on and called it a “strange stomach flu”. It lasted for three weeks and afterwards, my girls had a hard time eating regular foods and started showing new symptoms: stomach cramping, headaches, eczema. We had them tested for food allergies, and the gluten intolerance levels were off the charts. Somewhere in the middle of all the testing I was tested. Sure enough, I can’t tolerate gluten. The symptoms all went away within four weeks from removing gluten from our diets. My family and I now enjoy a gluten-free lifestyle.
As an avid lifelong baker, how did this diagnosis impact you? What advice do you have for others who love baking and now need to do so gluten-free?
At first, like with any new change, it was challenging. I had to relearn how to cook and bake using gluten-free flours, and back then there weren’t a lot of choices. Once I got the hang of things I started sharing recipes and I developed a gluten-free cookbook. If I could only share one piece of advice, it’s to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to try new things, new recipes, and new products. We have so many incredible resources and product available to us now, that we are set up for success with enjoying a gluten-free lifestyle.
What are some of the recipes you have made that have surprised you - that you thought might not be able to be made gluten-free but you did it?
When the girls and I were first diagnosed I was scared to make pie crust. I’d been making pies since I was ten years old and I couldn’t see how I could do it without the stretch and give that glutinous flour creates in doughs. With a combination of flours, I was able to replicate the very pie crust recipe that I had grown up making.
What tips do you have for parents that are now managing a gluten-free household or supporting their kids who have Celiac?
Plan ahead and be prepared! We plan our meals the week before and if we’re traveling we do some research in advance to find safe and delicious places to eat. If you have school aged children, you can keep a list of yummy lunchbox options on the fridge and let them pick out what they want for lunch each week so they feel involved and satisfied with their options. For birthday parties, school parties, or rainy days we keep a container of cupcakes ready in the freezer.
What advice do you have for kids who are Celiac?
There was a saying that my parents said when I was growing up: “Don’t knock it until you try it?” Well, my advice is similar. Try new things (and I don’t mean one lick, but a few actual bites) and be willing to try them again. Also, ask your parents to teach you how to cook and bake and help them in the kitchen. Things taste better when you put in the work to help make them.