Baker with gluten intolerance

by Rebecca
(Poultney, Vermont)

I'm a baker in Vermont with a gluten intolerance. I also have epilepsy. I did not figure out that I was sensitive to gluten until 6 months ago. I created a bakery in my home, before knowing I was gluten intolerant, so that I could stay at home with my children. Now, I have the bakery and a good reputation and following but, I am trying to figure out if working with wheat affects me. Does anyone have any experience with gluten intolerance and working with wheat flour and how it affects them?


I'm not sure where to go from here. I think that the whole gluten intolerance gave me epilepsy by causing calcification deposits in my brain and I can't help but think it will effect me in other ways. Does anyone have any input or knowledge?

Thank you,
Vermont baker


Carol responds...
Oh I am sorry to hear this, Rebecca.

The problem with baking with wheat is that it hangs in the air and it is quite possible that you are ingesting some of it while you work. You would also need to be scrupulous about washing your hands, to help to avoid any extra contamination.

Is there any way that you could change your products so that they are made with gluten free alternatives instead of wheat flour? You may find that there is a whole new market to tackle. Are you up for the challenge?

Local to me, we have a number of establishments where the owner is a celiac and they therefore have knowledge of how to prepare and cook safe food. I would much rather eat somewhere like that, or buy their products to take home, than those of a large faceless company.

At home, I prefer not to use wheat flour in the kitchen. The family have managed very well by eating the gluten free versions that I cook, which means that I am not faced with the contamination issue. If they really fancy some "normal" cookies or cake I buy ready made products.

I wish you all the best for the future, and hope you are able to come to a decision on how to move forward, as soon as possible.

Regards,

Carol

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by: Anonymous

Rebecca,
Have you thought about selling your bakery and moving on? Make some money out of the sale and start a GF bakery. (I know it takes a lot)
I feel you are emotionally attached to the bakery, which is a common feeling amongs us Bakers/Pastry chefs/ owners or small business owners in general, but, as long as you have your health, you can start over and over and over. :) good luck.

Chef V.

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Another idea?
by: Carol

I understand the dilemma.

Something did come to mind that I thought I would pass on. Have you considered using a face mask to help prevent you breathing in flour particles?

It may also be possible to wear vinyl gloves such as surgeons wear, when baking to prevent you actually touching the dough etc..

Just thought I would throw these out there in case they are helpful.

Regards,

Carol

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by: Rebecca

Hi Carol,
Thanks for your quick response. I have been experimenting a lot with qluten free breads, cookies, etc. The problem that I have with changing my product now is that I have been building my business for that last 8 years and now have all the equipment and supplies. My youngest will be entering kindergarten this fall and my goal was to expand my business when all three kids were in school.

I make my own puff pastry. I get up at 3am to make fresh danish, croissants, and almond bearclaws before the farmers markets start and for several businesses. Two years ago I started having problems with my left shoulder. My husband and I assumed it had to do with me rolling out puff pastry by hand and making it totally by hand. The only thing that was strange about it was that I am right handed. I went to several doctors and had lots of test done trying to figure out what was going on. I was thrown pain medication like it was candy. I told doctor after doctor that I needed to know what was wrong rather then trying to cover up the problem with medicine. We decided to buy a sheeter. This is a very expensive piece of equipment that rolls out the puff pastry for me, except for the evening of the corners. It cost about $5000. Then, my hands and feet started to go numb and I couldn't sleep. I also became in love with the toilet, if you know what I mean. I began to lose weight not trying, my hair started to fall out, and my gums begain to bleed. At this point I had customers asking me if I was ok. This was when I knew I had a problem. I finally went to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical center where they suggested that I try a gluten free diet and try it for 3 months to see how my body reacts. It has been great and most of my symptoms have been relieved due to the diet changes.

I thought about changing to a gluten free bakery but I have a sheeter now that I could not use and my reputation truly revolves around my puff pastry (which is made with a pound of Cabot butter). My symptoms have improved greatly since I changed my diet. I just can't help but worry that something else will begin to fail.

Thanks,
Rebecca (Vermont baker with gluten intolerance)

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gluten intolerant bakers
by: Alison

Hi Rebecca,

Fifteen years ago, I realized I was allergic to wheat. I thought I had carpal tunnel from whisking 75 creme brulees every morning! Well, one week off of wheat and I was all right. I immediately removed wheat from my diet but kept working with it professionally as well as for my family.

Years later, for the past two, I have been suffering from very painful hives. NOT eczema! Serious, painful oozing swelling awfulness. No one has been able to diagnose me, my doctor of oriental medicine, dermatologist, PA, regular doctor, etc.

Putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, I am convince that breathing and touching the wheat is the reason for my health issues. They also include joint pain(shoulders in particular), depression, fogginess, exhaustion, all things that are not in my usual nature.

I am only now researching it all and responding to you, so hopefully you will not end up like me, but can make changes before you begin to suffer:)

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