Three million Americans of all races, ages and genders suffer from a serious but little known disease called celiac. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, at least ninety-five percent of celiac cases are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As the National Celiac Awareness Month of May draws to an end, local entrepreneurs, Kim Wirth and Kristen Erdem decided to take action to continue raising awareness about the tasty choices for people who are required to eat a gluten-free diet.
The owners of World Wise Grains are working to help celiac patients have a healthy, tasty and easy food choice. Prior to opening World Wise Grains with her partner Kristen Erdem, Kim Wirth spent nearly 20 years working as a nurse at Alton Ochnser Medical Foundation in New Orleans, Louisiana, where a large part of her job was reinforcing and supporting patients with their dietary restrictions. She met Erdem when both families were relocated to Austin after losing their homes to Hurricane Katrina.
“In the beginning, we wanted to create a healthy alternative for children,” said Wirth, “but we soon realized we could do more. We could offer hope in dietary adjustments for those suffering with celiac. We searched the world and found inspiration in a Turkish dessert. The result is an incredibly healthy food, gluten-free, naturally high in fiber, high in protein, low in fat and low in sodium. We call it ARZU, the Turkish word for hope. It takes only minutes to prepare and can be served in an endless variety of ways.”
ARZU has a mild nutty taste and is packaged as a grain meal mixture that can be used to make cereal, muffins, cookies, stuffing, and side dishes by simply adding water and flavoring to taste with fruits, nuts and condiments to make the dish of choice. Recipes include Bourbon Balls, Banana Muffins, Middle East Flavored ARZU, Peanut Butter Cookies and much more.
As a Wellness Specialist at Peoples Pharmacy in Westlake, Colleen Morris is grateful to have ARZU for people who must remove gluten from their diets. “A lot of times, people are overwhelmed because they don’t know their options,” said Morris. “Their question is, ‘what am I going to eat?!’ The hard part is not having bread and things they are used to eating. At Peoples, we have a good gluten-free section with a nutritional focus that includes many resources such as shopping guides, restaurant guides and gluten free food products including ARZU.”
Healthcare providers recognize the benefits of ARZU as gluten-free, whole grain, heart healthy and diabetic friendly. ARZU is available at Dell Children’s Medical Center in the Holy Roast Café and Perks gift store, Peoples Pharmacy, retail outlets and online at www.worldwisegrains.com.
Celiac disease is a genetic auto immune disease which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Current medical research reveals that statistically 1 out of 130 individuals will test positively for celiac disease. Once a patient is diagnosed with celiac disease, a diet free of wheat, barley, rye and oats will alleviate the symptoms, usually within weeks, and will help prevent the onset of related illnesses.
Five out of six people with celiac disease have yet to be diagnosed. Undiagnosed people will exhibit a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, mouth ulcers, fatigue or anemia. If undiagnosed, the disease can lead to serious illnesses such as osteoporosis and bowel cancer.
Current information on CSA and celiac disease is available at the CSA website, www.csaceliacs.org or by calling toll free 877-CSA-4-CSA.
The Celiac Support Association (CSA) is a member-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis worldwide through research, education and support.