Get Some Help, Mom!

     Get your family to pitch in with chores around the house, especially the kids. Children may not be expert dishwasher loaders and you’ll always be able to do the chores better yourself, but learn to let it go and get them to help you out with some of the things they’ll be able to handle on their own, even if it’s just pairing together and folding socks. Studies show that children who participate in family chores have a higher chance of growing up more successful than other children. It will raise their feels of self-esteem, make them more competent, and it’ll give you some time to do the following energy-boosting tips.

Tina Turbin

Advice, Children's Author, family, Family Time, Helpful Tips, moms, parenting, women

How is Sjögren’s Syndrome Diagnosed?



There are several ways to test for Sjögren’s which I have added below, even though I have an Article on this very topic posted at the Gluten Free Help website.

I personally had the eye test done (brings back memories) and then the blood test done. I have an account with a lab and can order tests through my clinic (Karmic Health), so I will also check to see if there is a simple test that can be ordered.

So, how is Sjögren’s Syndrome diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome involves detecting the features of dryness of the eyes and mouth. The dryness of the eyes can be determined in the doctor’s office by testing the eye’s ability to wet a small testing paper strip placed under the eyelid (Schirmer’s test using Schirmer tear test strips). More sophisticated eye testing can be done by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist). Salivary glands can become larger and harden or become tender. Salivary-gland inflammation can be detected by radiologic nuclear medicine salivary scans. Also, the diminished ability of the salivary glands to produce saliva can be measured with salivary flow testing. The diagnosis is strongly supported by the abnormal findings of a biopsy of salivary-gland tissue.

The glands of the lower lip are often used to obtain a biopsy sample of the salivary-gland tissue in the diagnosis of Sjögren’s yndrome. The lower lip salivary-gland biopsy procedure is easily performed under local anesthesia, with the surgeon making a tiny incision on the inner part of the lower lip, to expose and remove a sample of the tiny salivary glands within.

Patients with Sjögren’s syndrome typically produce a myriad of extra antibodies against a variety of body tissues (autoantibodies). These can be detected through blood testing and include antinuclear antibodies (ANAs), which are present in nearly all patients. Typical antibodies that are found in most, but not all patients, are SS-A and SS-B antibodies, rheumatoid factor, thyroid antibodies and others. Low red blood count (anemia) and abnormal blood testing for inflammation (sedimentation rate) are seen.


Another link with a list of tests, etc.

Sandi Star, CCN


You can read all about Sandi Star’s remarkable story in her 3-part article series available at the following links:  Living Gluten Free – Right to Heal – Part I, Living Healthy, Without Gluten and Dairy– Part II, Living Healthy, Without Gluten and Dairy Part III.  Afterwards, read Sandi’s information-packed article and true story: Going Blind.

About the author: Sandi Star, CCN Sandi is the founder of Karmic Health, specializing in nutrition related to disease where a gluten and casein (dairy) free lifestyle is crucial; working with celiac, autism and all auto immune disorders. Sandi graduated from The Natural Healing Institute with a degree in Clinical Nutrition and is continuing her studies in Clinical Herbology. She has hands on understanding of many health issues and has dedicated her life in helping others reach their optimal health.

For more information related to this article  (or her previous articles) please visit or contact Sandi Star at 760.685.3154.

Tina Turbin

Advice, gluten-free, Helpful Tips, humanitarian, Research, women

Grocery Shopping for Healthy Family Eating

     As the mother of three grown children, I know how hard it can be, even with the best of intentions, to eat a healthy diet yourself and make healthy foods for the rest of the family. With just a few simple tips, you can totally change your eating habits for the better.

     It all starts with grocery shopping, for which you must make like a Boy Scout and “be prepared.” It is best to create a menu for the week with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks determined for each day before you even make your grocery list. Choose healthy recipes that take thirty minutes or less to prepare, unless you know you’ll have more time available for cooking. There are many easy, healthy recipes available online which you can prepare in a snap. Make sure there are enough high-protein foods and snacks, which won’t leave you with low blood sugar and send you to high-fat and high-sugar snacks for a fast blood sugar boost.

      Before hitting the grocery store, eat a big, filling meal, so you won’t deviate from your shopping list by picking out items that look good just because you’re hungry. You can’t binge on foods that aren’t good for you if you don’t have them in your home, after all. This will not only result in a healthier set of groceries, but will save you money, as well!

Tina Turbin

Advice, Children's Author, Children's Health, Cooking, family, healthy eating, Helpful Tips, moms, parenting, women

Learn to Recognize the Difference between Malnourishment and Mental Disorders in Children

     If you’re like me, you’re probably alarmed to hear so much about the prevalence of “mental disorders,” particularly among children. It seems that every year there are more and more disorders are emerging, along with psychotropic medications to treat them. However, as the mother of three grown-up, mentally healthy children and with a strong background and experience in nutritional research, I counsel mothers to be careful before mistaking your children’s odd behavior with a mental illness. It turns out the symptoms of malnourishment and mental disorders are actually quite similar in children.

     Even just the signs of a deficiency in B vitamins will sounds familiar to you as the symptoms of childhood mental disease. Deficiency in Vitamin B1 can result in fatigue, poor memory, irritability, and insomnia. A B2 deficiency can cause depression. Deficiencies of B3 may begin as depression, but untreated may progress to psychosis or even dementia. Deficiencies in Biotin may cause a variety of problems, including skin disorders and eczema, dandruff or hair loss, fatigue, depression, even hallucinations.

     Children can also suffer from a classic case of low blood sugar. Studies show that breakfasts rich in protein keep the body’s blood sugar level higher and more stable than breakfasts such as, say, the American breakfast staple of sugar-packed cereals. Kids are bound to peak in the morning and then crash later in the day, exhibiting hyperactivity and lethargy during the school day.

     The consequences of improperly diagnosing a mental illness instead of treating malnourishment in a child can be severe. If you care about your child and children in general, it is imperative that you and your child’s teachers learn the crucial difference between children’s mental disorders and inadequate nutrition.

Tina Turbin

Advice, Children's Author, Children's Health, Education, family, healthy eating, moms, parenting, Research, women

Creating a Memorable Main Character in Your Children’s Book

As a children’s author, I’m often pleased to find that I’ve inspired children and adults to write children’s stories of their own. A question they wonder is what exactly makes a good children’s book. It’s important that a children’s book have a charming protagonist with whom readers can identify. It seems that children tend to literally identify with characters they love; in their imagination and games, they often pretend they are indeed the beloved protagonists of their favorite movies, TV shows, and books.

So what qualities should a children’s story protagonist have? If you study the most popular children’s stories of the last few hundred years, many characters have a superhuman trait or superhuman power, but at the same time they have a human frailty about them which most people have in common—such as a fear or anxiety about something or something in their life that is causing them stress. In Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack is a regular, poor boy with magical beans, and Harry Potter of course finds that he is a wizard. Jack’s magical beans and Harry’s magical genetic endowment delight children, while Jack’s hard circumstances and the fact that Harry is an unloved orphan earn the sympathy of children everywhere.

In Danny the Dragon, I sought to have these same qualities, and I have met many children who truly love and identify with Danny. Of course, some wonderful children’s books lack a traditional protagonist, such as Goodnight Moon or some very delightful counting and alphabet books. This is why nailing down what makes for good children’s books can be a challenge!

Advice, Children's Author, Children's Book, Childrens' Literature, Helpful Tips, literacy, moms, parenting

Going Blind! by Sandi Star, CCN


I remember using a ton of eye drops and never getting any relief. I was finding pieces of Sclera (the white, dense, fibrous outer coating of the eyeball) inside the lids and I was getting scarring. I was working full time and going to school at night; looking at a computer screen all day and books all night made it much worse! The lights at night were a big blur and I couldn’t focus at all. My eyes were literally drying up. I was having ongoing eye infections. To say the least I was going blind and was petrified.  I couldn’t wear contacts to save my life. They would pop right out or worse, get caught in the corner of my eye.

I saw an eye doctor who never gave me answers. He never thought to test me for Sjögren’s Syndrome. They put silicone plugs in my tear ducts to try and keep what little moisture I had in my eyes. Talk about a scary situation! My general doctor was determined to find out what was going on because it went way beyond the eyes. I was extremely fatigued and had major joint and muscle pain, stomach issues, brain fog and upper respiratory infections often. I was pretty discouraged, but felt lucky my doctor cared, who by the way told me it wasn’t in my head (nice rarity). I knew eventually we would figure it out. He ran some blood work and pulled out the big guns (gigantic reference book) while explaining I had Sjögren’s Syndrome and sent me to a Rheumatologist. I was not in the mood to add more medication to my already long list at the time and decided to look into alternative care. I already had developed hypothyroid – another autoimmune disease. Since going gluten, dairy and soy free, I have been able to wear contacts daily and most of the symptoms from Sjögren’s are gone. I consider myself one of the lucky ones who took control and is able to manage a great deal with nutrition alone.

What is Sjögren’s

Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease.
Although the hallmark symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.

With upwards of 4,000,000 Americans suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, it is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders. Nine out of 10 patients are women. About half of the time Sjögren’s syndrome occurs alone, and the other half it occurs in the presence of another autoimmune connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma. When Sjögren’s occurs alone, it is referred to as “Primary Sjögren’s.” When it occurs with another connective tissue disease, it is referred to as “Secondary Sjögren’s.”

All instances of Sjögren’s syndrome are systemic, affecting the entire body. Symptoms may remain steady, worsen, or, uncommonly, go into remission. While some people experience mild discomfort, others suffer debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their functioning. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are important – they may prevent serious complications and greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.
Since symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome mimic other conditions and diseases, Sjögren’s can often be overlooked or misdiagnosed. On average, it takes nearly seven years to receive a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. Patients need to remember to be pro-active in talking with their physicians and dentists about their symptoms and potential treatment options.


There is no single test that will confirm diagnosis. Rheumatologists have primary responsibility for diagnosing and managing Sjögren’s syndrome and can conduct a series of tests and ask about symptoms. An international group of experts formulated classification criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome which help doctors arrive at a diagnosis. These criteria consider dryness symptoms, changes in salivary (mouth) and lacrimal (eye) gland function, and systemic (whole body) findings.


Blood tests your physician may perform include:

ANA (Anti-Nuclear Antibody)
ANAs are a group of antibodies that react against normal components of a cell nucleus. About 70% of Sjögren’s patients have a positive ANA test result.

RF (Rheumatoid Factor)
This antibody test is indicative of a most often performed for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)  but is positive in many rheumatic diseases. In Sjögren’s patients, 60-70% have a positive RF.

SS-A (or Ro) and SS-B (or La)
These are the marker antibodies for Sjögren’s. Seventy percent of Sjögren’s patients are positive for SS-A and 40% are positive for SS-B (these may also found in lupus patients).

ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate)
This test measures inflammation. An elevated ESR indicates the presence of an inflammatory disorder, including Sjögren’s syndrome.

IGs (Immunoglobulin’s)
These are normal blood proteins that participate in immune reactions and are usually elevated in Sjögren’s patients.

The ophthalmologic (eye) tests include:

Schirmer Test
Measures tear production.

Rose Bengal and Lissamine Green
Eye drops containing dyes that an eye care specialist uses to examine the surface of the eye for dry spots.


The dental tests include:

Salivary Flow
Measures the amount of saliva produced over a certain period of time.

Salivary scintigraphy
A nuclear medicine test that measures salivary gland function.

Salivary gland biopsy (usually in the lower lip)
Confirms inflammatory cell (lymphocytic) infiltration of the minor salivary glands.

Your physician will consider the results of these tests along with your physical examination to arrive at a final diagnosis. Further research is being conducted to refine the diagnostic criteria for Sjögren’s syndrome and to help make diagnosis easier and more accurate.


The treatment of patients with Sjogren’s syndrome is directed toward the particular areas of the body that are involved and complications, such as infection. There is no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome.

Dryness of the eyes can be helped by artificial tears, eye-lubricant ointments at night, and minimizing the use of hair dryers. When dryness becomes more significant, the ophthalmologist can plug the tear duct closed so that tears cover the eye longer. Cyclosporine eye drops (Restasis) are recently approved medicated drops that can reduce the inflammation of the tear glands improving their function. These however  are painful to use and have side effects. Signs of eye infection (conjunctivitis), such as pus or excessive redness or pain, should be evaluated by the doctor.

The dry mouth can be helped by drinking plenty of fluids, humidifying air, and good dental care to avoid dental decay. The glands can be stimulated to produce saliva by sucking on sugarless lemon drops or glycerin swabs. Artificial saliva preparations can ease many of the problems associated with dry mouth. Many of these types of agents are available as over-the-counter products, including toothpaste, gum, and mouthwash (Biotene). Vitamin E oil has been used with some success. Infections of the mouth and teeth should be addressed as early as possible in order to avoid more severe complications. Diligent dental care is very important. Saltwater (saline) nasal sprays can help dryness in the passages of the nose.  Vaginal lubricant should be considered for sexual intercourse.

As mentioned, each person is different in how they are affected by Sjögren’s. Because I know first hand I would say first and foremost – GO OFF GLUTEN. Once you have that under control you can talk to your doctors about complimentary treatments if needed. The biggest thing with any auto immune disease is inflammation. Make that your number one goal to have that under control. Consider a holistic approach which has no side effects and is a lot safer.

Some essential survival tips for Sjögren’s patients:

  • Avoid stomach upset.
  • Never feel guilty about seeking a second opinion.
  • Join a support group if needed.
  • Listen to your body. Do not take on more than you can handle, and pay attention to new symptoms, or symptoms that get worse, and tell your practitioner.
  • Do your research.
  • Make sure you coordinate all of your care in Sjögren’s and head your “medical care team.” You want to make sure you are keeping records on medications, supplements and herbs. Make sure your physician knows about all the prescription and OTC medications you are taking. Many drugs have side effects that can make your Sjögren’s symptoms worse.
  • Become an active participant in your treatment decisions and an informed consumer. You will feel more in control of your disease, decrease anxiety, and ensure you are getting the best possible medical care for you.
  • You can maintain a good quality of life with Sjögren’s. Stay on top of the latest information, educate yourself, find support and watch your limits.
  • Keep positive relationships and support in your life. These will help you cope and will reduce general anxiety when you have a frequently misunderstood disease.


Dry Mouth Survival Tips

  • Eat soft, moist foods if you have trouble swallowing or with your teeth chipping and breaking.
  • Sjögren’s patients should eat smaller, more frequent meals to stimulate saliva flow.
  • Avoid salty, acidic or spicy foods and carbonated drinks that may be painful on your dry mouth or interfere with digestion in Sjögren’s.
  • Help prevent dental decay by using oral products containing the sweetener xylitol For dry mouth, increase your intake of liquids during the day. Remember that small sips of water work best.
  • Sjögren’s patients should avoid mouthwashes and rinses that contain alcohol or witch hazel. These ingredients can aggravate oral dryness and burning.
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on hard diabetic or sugar-free candies to help increase saliva. The best gum I’ve found has xylotil called Spry. They also carry mints.
  • Apply vitamin E oil or moisturizing gels to dry or sore parts of the mouth or tongue for long-lasting relief. Use the liquid oil or punch holes in vitamin capsules to apply.

Dry Eye Survival Tips

  • Try sterile eyelid cleansers or baby shampoo on a warm washcloth to help with blepharitis, a common condition in Sjögren’s that causes chronic inflammation of the eyelids and eyelid margins.
  • For dry eye, apply a warm, wet compress to the closed eyes using a washcloth. Apply at bedtime and upon awakening for 5 minutes, or more often if helpful.
  • The mainstay of treatment for blepharitis, a chronic condition that accompanies dry eye and Sjögren’s, is warm compresses, lid massage and lid hygiene.
  • If your eyes are bothered by light, wear sunglasses or try lenses with a FL-41 filter.
  • Avoid applying anything to the eyelids that can irritate your dry eye; products placed on the eyelid will get into the tear film.
  • Use non-preserved artificial tears frequently and regularly, even when your eyes feel good. The goal is to keep your eyes comfortable, not to wait until they are uncomfortable.
  • Keep the upper and lower eyelids free of facial creams at bedtime; they can enter the eye and cause irritation.
  • Try ointments or gels at bedtime by first applying them only to the eyelids and lashes. If that is not helpful, place ~1/4 inch of ointment between the lower lid and eyeball.
  • Eye ointments and gels can blur your vision and are usually reserved for overnight use.
  • If your vision is blurred with artificial tear use, try a less thick (viscous) drop or ointment.
  • Try moisture chamber glasses, wrap-around sunglasses, or other glasses, goggles or shields to prevent moisture evaporation and offer protection from air currents that irritate your dry eye.


Dry Skin Survival Tips

  • Take short, warm baths or showers to help with dry skin. Hot water removes skin oils.
  • Sjögren’s patients with dry skin should pat dry after bathing and moisturize immediately while the skin is still damp. Natural oils such as coconut, almond, sesame and apricot work well.
  • Sjögren’s patients with dry and/or sensitive skin should avoid fabric softeners in the washer and dryer. Always use hypoallergenic products.
  • After swimming, make sure that you shower and immediately use a moisturizer to reduce dry skin symptoms.


Sun & Sjögren’s Survival Tips

  • To reduce reactions to the sun, wear good UV-protective eye lenses and sunglasses, and seek the shade when outside.
  • Protect your skin and eyes through use of sunscreen, sunglasses, ultraviolet light-protective clothing, hats, and non-fluorescent lighting.
  • Did you know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and other light sources can affect Sjögren’s patients, leading to skin rashes, disease flares, eye sensitivity and pain?
  • Consider purchasing UV-protective car and home window films that are clear or tinted to protect yourself from UV radiation.
  • Look for the words “broad spectrum” on sunscreen protection. This means that you will be protected from both UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Make sure you are taking enough Vitamin D3 and antioxidants.


Fatigue Survival Tips

  • Battling fatigue with Sjögren’s? Know your limits and pace yourself.
  • Don’t be a couch potato! A common cause of chronic pain and fatigue in any disorder, including Sjögren’s syndrome, is lack of exercise.
  • Educate your friends and family about what you are going through and how fatigue in Sjögren’s syndrome can come and go.
  • Sjögren’s can cause fatigue, but there can be other related causes such as adrenal fatigue or hypothyroid disease and depression.

Brain Fog Survival Tips

  • Did you know that “brain fog” is a major complaint of Sjögren’s patients? Hint: Train the brain! If you don’t use it, you will lose it.
  • Don’t assume your “brain fog” is due to Sjögren’s, especially in patients over 65-70 years of age: a major cause of cognitive dysfunction can be side effects of drugs and drug interactions and food intolerance such as gluten and dairy. These foods are inflammatory and cause an opiate affect similar to brain fog.
  • To help symptoms of “brain fog,” minimize stress and anxiety. Take breaks throughout the day and learn relaxation exercises and practice them at regular intervals.
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol to help with “brain fog” and sleep problems in Sjögren’s.

Dry Nose & Sjögren’s Survival Tips

  • Use natural saline spray several times a day if needed. Clean and moisture nasal cavity in the morning and again at night. This helps keep allergens from settling in the cavity as well.
  • Dry Ear Survival Tips
  • A drop of earwax remover or mineral oil can help dry itching ears.


Herbal Remedies and Supplements


The rosemary plant contains several anti-inflammatory agents that help in the prevention of arthritic pain and dryness caused by Sjogren’s Syndrome. It is recommended to make rosemary tea instead of eating the plant. Mix a half an ounce of rosemary leaves in a pot of boiling water. Cover the pot, and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes. Consume the tea before going to bed. This can be repeated as often as necessary.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil contains gamma linolenic acid, also known as GLA. GLA is a fatty acid that helps Sjogren’s Syndrome sufferers by introducing prostaglandin into the system. Prostaglandin in turn works as an anti-inflammatory to help common Sjogren’s Syndrome symptoms. Evening primrose oil should be taken daily, with a dosage of 3,000- to 6,000-mg.

Celery Seeds

Celery contains several different anti-inflammatory agents that can help Sjorgren’s Syndrome symptoms such as joint paint, inflammation, and lethargy. Celery also packs over 340 milligrams of potassium per single cup. This is beneficial to anyone with an autoimmune disease, since lack of potassium can cause arthritic like symptoms. Celery plants can be eaten in large quantities, but for faster and easier results, celery seeds are recommended. Place a teaspoon of celery in a cup of boiling water. Up to three cups daily may be consumed.

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) may actually reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is converted to a substance called DGLA that fights inflammation. Having enough of certain nutrients in the body (including magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3, and B6) helps promote the conversion of GLA to DGLA.

Cysteine is an amino acid that can be found in many proteins throughout the body. When used as a supplement, it is usually in the form of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). The body converts this to cysteine and then to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant reducing symptoms associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.


Koopman, William, et al., eds. Clinical Primer of Rheumatology. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003.

Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology, W B Saunders Co, edited by Shaun Ruddy, et al., 2000.

Sjögren’s Foundaton.

You can read all about Sandi Star’s remarkable story in her 3-part article series available at the following links:  Living Gluten Free – Right to Heal – Part I, Living Healthy, Without Gluten and Dairy– Part II, Living Healthy, Without Gluten and Dairy Part III.


About the author: Sandi Star, CCN Sandi is the founder of Karmic Health, specializing in nutrition related to disease where a gluten and casein (dairy) free lifestyle is crucial; working with celiac, autism and all auto immune disorders. Sandi graduated from The Natural Healing Institute with a degree in Clinical Nutrition and is continuing her studies in Clinical Herbology. She has hands on understanding of many health issues and has dedicated her life in helping others reach their optimal health.

For more information related to this article  (or her previous articles) please visit or contact Sandi Star at 760.685.3154.



Tina Turbin

Advice, gluten-free, healthy eating, Helpful Tips, Research, women

A Guide to Personal Goal-Setting

I have found setting goals to be an especially useful tool since my children left the house, leaving me with a lot more time to reconnect with and realize my dreams of being a children’s author and helping others. Whether your children are grown, your children are still young, or you don’t have any children at all, it is vital to establish your goals.

     So, where do you want to go in life? Get a precise “big picture” of what you want to do in all of the fields of your life. These “big picture” goals should embrace various areas, such as artistic, education, career, spiritual, family, financial, physical, community service, and friendship goals. If you’re anything like me or the average woman, you probably have many different facets of life that are important to you—your marriage, your children, your career, and wellness or faith, for example. Make sure to write your grand vision down and all of the more detailed goals your vision encompasses.

     By setting sharp, clearly-defined goals, you can measure your progress and celebrate the achievement of your goals, raising your self-confidence and your ability to achieve further goals. Your smaller goals should include dates and amounts where applicable so you can measure your achievement. Keep them realistic and attainable so you can reap the rewards of having attained what you want. Determine which goals have priority so you don’t feel overwhelmed by everything you’ve set out to do. Lastly, don’t let anyone but yourself determine what your goals are, and the sky is the limit in what you can dream.


Tina Turbin


Keeping Your Celiac Child Safe at School

     First of all, you’ll need allies, and who better than your child’s teachers? This means all of his teachers, including his physical education instructor or his home room teacher, with whom some children only meet with periodically. I highly recommend meeting with each teacher individually. Writing a note or e-mail is usually insufficient to communicate the seriousness of the condition and the details of the diet, including crucial issues such as cross-contamination and hidden sources of gluten, such as beauty products, for instance.

     There are a few things his teachers should know about it in this meeting. First of all, it needs to be communicated that your child’s restricted diet is to preserve his health; tell them that if your child deviates from his diet in any way, he can become quite ill. However, make it clear that your child is still “normal” and has interests and ambitions just like other children and shouldn’t be set apart from the others in any way except for with respect to diet. Next, let the teachers know that if there will be a birthday party, snack time, or other event with food in the classroom, they should let you know ahead of time so you can prepare gluten-free items for your child to eat and share.

     Finally, keep communication as open as possible between your child’s teachers (and school administrators) and you by providing them with all of your contact information, such as your e-mail address, all phone numbers they can reach you at, including your cell, work, and home numbers. Give them the phone numbers for relatives who are knowledgeable in celiac disease and the gluten-free diet or your child’s nutritionist, in case your teachers need to ask a question about your child’s condition and aren’t able to get ahold of you.

     In addition to communicating individually with teachers, provide them with some written material on celiac disease. The Celiac Sprue Association offers printable letters for various school administrators, including the principal, school counselor, nurse, cafeteria staff, and teachers. Also, recommend some books on celiac disease or gluten-free websites in case they want to refer themselves to these resources for more information, and donate a couple of books on these subjects to the school library and for the nurse’s office.

     Finally, I can’t insist enough the importance of teaching your child about his own condition and his diet. How much your child can absorb depends on his age and maturity level. You’ll be surprised by how much a child is capable of understanding.

Tina Turbin

Advice, gluten-free

Dining Out with Your Celiac Child

      First of all, before you start taking your celiac child to restaurants for gluten-free eating, it’s important that you and your child are already familiar with the gluten-free diet, what your child can eat, what he must avoid, and how to protect him from cross-contamination. This way, you’ll know what to order from the menu and what questions to ask the server or chef.

     Make sure before you take your celiac child out to dinner that the two of you eat a high-protein snack about an hour before you think you’ll be ordering your food. The hungrier you are, the more likely you will make a mistake. If you absolutely must go to the restaurant hungry, bring a gluten-free snack for your child and a snack for yourself.

     Choosing the right restaurant is an important part of successfully eating out gluten-free. There are many celiac-friendly restaurant directories online. I recommend calling the restaurant when it’s not busy and speaking with the manager or chef, or both.  If you’ll be dining Italian, call ahead to see if you can bring your own pasta along. Many Italian restaurants are happy to do this.

     Learn how to speak to the server. Make sure he is standing near you and can hear you clearly. Although celiac disease isn’t an allergy, it’s usually easiest to explain to your server that your child has food allergies. Always tell your server to tell the chef that your child is allergic to wheat. If your server doesn’t seem to understand, you’ll need to speak with the manager or chef. You’ll need to ask the server or chef a lot of questions.

     Ask your child to pick out several items on the menu that look good, and let him know that you need to ask questions about these first because they may not be safe to eat. Make it clear that his first choice, or even his second choice, may not be okay to eat. Have your child pick out simple dishes without sauces.

     Finally, make sure to warn the server about cross-contamination and its dangers. Let him know that your child’s food must be prepared on a clean surface with clean utensils. Most chefs will not realize the risks of cross-contamination unless these are made clear to them.

     Going out to eat with your celiac child requires some work and planning ahead, but you’ll find that you and your child will get the hang of it in no time!

Tina Turbin

Advice, gluten-free

Winner of the May-June Art Contest!


A very special congratulations to Rebecca Ribas of Miami, FL for being the winner of the Danny the Dragon Art Contest of June-July!  Her artwork depicting a new friend for Danny is included above.

Entries are currently being accepted for the Danny the Dragon Contest of July-August.