Thursday, May 3, 2012

Celiac Disease Foundation Annual Education Conference

I was thrilled to be invited to the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) Annual Education Conference in Los Angeles, CA this year.The Celiac Disease Foundation is who gave me my start as a Support Group leader and helped me get on my feet the first year. They have also been wonderful with helping me find resources to draft the legistlation to recognize May as National Celiac Disease Awareness month here in Alaska. The Celiac Disease Foundation's campaign "Are you the One?" is also well known throughtout the Celiac and gluten-free world. 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease. Founded in 1990 by Elaine Monarch, they have since been at the forefront of Celiac information, advocacy, awareness, education, and support services. They also help to fund vital research to advance the medical knowledge of Celiac Disease.

The Conference took place on Saturday April 28th, however, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the leaders meeting Friday April 27th. The leaders meting was attended by all support group and chapter leaders around the country. It was a celebration of all their efforts in supporting those with Celiac Disease throught their community as well as a chance for the Celiac Disease Foundation to unveil some of the excited events that they were planning to unveil in the near future. I spoke with the group about the legislation Seantor Geissel and I worked on in order to establish May as National Celiac Disease Awareness month in Alaska and told them a little bit about my pageant platform and the opportunities the Mrs. International state title had provided for me. It was such a delight to meet all of them. Below are a few group pictures!

 Later Friday night, there was also a VIP party for some of the vendors and speakers. It was there that I was able to meet some of the heros of the Celiac Disease field. Elaine Monarch herself was present along with her husband Selwynne (below left) and I was able to spend a few minutes talking with Dr. Green, author of Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic and a Director at the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center, Dr. Guandalini, also a Director at the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center, and Shelley Case, the world's leading expert on Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet. I felt like I was at a Hollywood party filled with Celiac Disease celebrities!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Deb Wheaton, who was essential in helping me formulate and present the legislation. She was pivotal in having the same legislation passed in California. Deb has her own non-profit and gluten-free campaign, Not Even a Crumb, that supports gluten-free lifestyles and gluten-free awareness. She is also owner of a new company, Gluten Free Prairie, that specializes in a new kind of oat! (see details below)
The 2012 CDF Annual Education Conference & Food Faire's goal was to provide its attendees with a greater understanding of Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, associated conditions and how family members are affected, dietary compliance, future therapies and the promising hope of a cure. Network with other attendees following the gluten-free lifestyle, meet with exhibitors, sample and discover the latest gluten-free foods and services.
Here is a photo of Dr. Guandalini and two of his slides during his lecture "Connecting the Keychain". He had wonderful information to share and was a great speaker!
I met Barbara Elliot, host of Celiac TV, and spoke with her about my title and my efforts to raise awareness for Celiac Disease throughout the nation (below left). My favorite part was speaking with the attendees about my platform and hearing their stories of their indivdual journey's to wellness after diagnosis (below right)

 The day was also filled with wonderful samples from various gluten-free vendors. Kinnikinnik had some new mixed to display. They also were handing out samples of their new bread! They claim it can sit on the counter like regular bread and retains it mositure and taste. I had a piece and it was delicious!

Kraft foods is hoping on the Gluten free train as well. They have two new items that they gaurantee are gluten free. Most of the gluten free world has used these two products without issue but now the company is gauranteeing to uphold the gluten-free standards requested by the Celiac community of containig less than 20 part per million (PPM) of gluten.
 Gluten Free Prairie was one of the new products I was excited to sample. Family owned and operated, Gluten Free Prairie oats are special because it is naturally hull-less, it requires minimal processing and has not been soaked or steamed. Bonus: there is no hull debris to remove prior to packaging. Additionally they have an 18 month shelf-life. Their new variety of hull-less oats, developed at Montana State University, is also higher in protein than many other varieties. Most oats are approx. 13% protein, while Gluten-Free Prairie Oats consistently test out between 17 & 22% protein!

Growing Naturals was also another company I was excited to discover. If you are gluten-free and vegan, they make multiple products with brown rice! They believe that "from proteins to milks, baked goods and meal replacements, whole grain brown rice has endless possibilities for people at every stage of life."

Rudi's was cooking up quesadillas with their new tortillas. They have three different flavors to offer. All tastes fabulous and I did not witness any of the typically issues of the tortilla falling apart or being to try that can occur with your average gluten-free tortillas.

The Good Cookie, a local LA bakery, was kind enough to give me two sets of free samples! The good cookies use all natural, organic ingredients in their baking. No sugar, no butter, no dairy and all gluten-free! They were so good, I ate an entire bag that same day! I saved the rest for the plane ride home but if I lived closer to the bakery, my waist line would be in trouble!

There were plenty more vendors and free samples to try but there is just not enough space to tell you all about it. However, my support group was elated to get the benefits of all my wonderful finds! I highly recommend attending next year if you get a chance!

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