A diet danger on P.E.I.

Sally Cole
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Dr. Jenni Zelin, right, and Jean Eldershaw, president of the P.E.I. Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association, are looking forward to the Gluten Free Fair at the Murphy Community Centre in Charlottetown, May 16. Zelin, a member of the Canadian Celiac Association professional advisory council, will give a presentation on gluten-free diets.

Before going gluten-free, consumers need to go to their doctor and get a simple blood test for celiac disease, says Dr. Jenni Zelin

In 2015, the gluten-free diet is one of the biggest trends in the food world.

And there are signs of it everywhere. Restaurants are now offering gluten-free selections on their menus. Retailers are also placing gluten-free options next to breads and pastas in the grocery store.

While many people need to eat gluten-free because of health conditions like celiac disease, others are flocking to the trendy diet to lose weight or in an attempt to improve their health.

And this has a P.E.I. physician concerned.

“If you’re thinking about going gluten free, get tested first,” says Dr. Jenni Zelin of Charlottetown.

That’s because without a proper diagnosis, people can put their own health at risk.

“You may miss the proper diagnosis of celiac disease. And, if you have it, there’s an increased risk of illness if you’re not on a strict gluten free diet for life,” says Zelin, who is giving a presentation at the Gluten Free Fair at the Murphy Community Centre on Saturday, May 16, beginning at 11 a.m.

The workshop will provide helpful information about the diet and dispel many myths.

“There’s false information in print, on the Internet and in the media. Celebrities are also embracing it. And some people are tempted to try the diet, based on claims that are not medically supported.”

There’s even the potential of going on a “bad gluten-free diet.”

“That’s why people who go to their doctor first and get a diagnosis of either celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity are always referred to a dietician.

“They are an important part of the health-care team, in terms of correcting the nutritional deficiencies and preventing them on the restrictive diet.”

The president of the P.E.I. Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association is excited about the May 16 workshop.

“I think that Dr. Zelin’s presentation will help a lot of people,” says Jean Eldershaw, who says the P.E.I. doctor is a good choice to speak on the issue.

Zelin’s interest in the subject comes from personal experience. Both she and her son have celiac disease. Classic symptoms include bloating, abnormal pain, constipation, diarrhea, weight loss and nausea, among others.

Living in constant pain, her journey back to health wasn’t easy, says Zelin, who was diagnosed in 1997.

“At first, it was horrible. In those days no restaurant knew what a gluten-free diet was. Also, we had to order your gluten-free products from the Hospital for Sick Kids’ specialty food store food,” says Zelin, who was living in Toronto and going to medical school at the time.

Back then, there was also no legislation concerning labelling products.

“Everything was at risk. You had to phone 1-800 numbers on boxes of food, all the time, to see what was in them. It was horrible.”

Eighteen years later, the advances in labelling and the development of gluten-free foods has improved living conditions for people with celiac disease.

“Now it’s wonderful. I love to counsel new people with celiac disease because there’s very little they’re missing out on now.”     


If you are going

What: Gluten Free Fair.

When and where: Murphy’s Community Centre, May 16, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Vendors: Zoey’s Gluten Free Goods, Duinkerken Foods, Mary’s Cornwall Bakery, Arbonne, Caron Prins Batter It, Epicure, The Kitchen Witch, Island Favourites, Island Taylored Meats, The Butcher Stop, Sobeys.

Admission: Free.

Organizations: Gluten Free Fair, Murphy Community Centre, Canadian Celiac Association Hospital for Sick Kids Sobeys

Geographic location: P.E.I., Toronto, Cornwall

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Joe Doe
    May 14, 2015 - 23:42


  • enough already
    May 14, 2015 - 16:01

    Gluten free is garbage , wheat and processed crap free is the answer.

  • MB
    May 14, 2015 - 11:31

    After over 20 years of suffering from multiple digestive issues, weight loss problems, extreme bloating and constant trips to my GP, I was told over and over again that I had 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome' and I just had to live with it and learn how to deal with it. As one can imagine this news completely defeated me because I knew there was no way it was fair that I had to carry on feeling the way I did. I knew this wasn't a normal way to live and I knew that I didn't just need to learn how to 'live with' as I was told. So I fought back.. After MULTIPLE pleas to send me to a specialist (this was over at least five years) I was finally referred and tested for Celiac. I presented with every single symptom of Celiac Disease and was told to stick to a rigid gluten-free/wheat-free diet. WHAT A SURPRISE! (Not really) For the past three years, I've never felt better or been happier. For 25 years, I lived in food hell, constantly running to the bathroom or simply being unable to digest any of my meals... hence losing weight, feeling constantly exhausted, sometimes having zero appetite and always being incredibly irritable. I will caution those who want to go to their GP to be firm and expect push back... Celiac disease is serious, if you suspect something is wrong try a gluten-free diet for at least a month (you have to be rigid, there can be NO cheating) if you indeed have a problem or sensitivity you will know. I do agree that many people are using this as a trend to lose weight but I tend to disagree that this is an unhealthy lifestyle. My diet consists of so much fresh food (fruit and vegetables), protein and dairy amongst many things. I've never eaten healthier in my life. It has completely eliminated giving me the ability to eat the junk that is on the shelves at the grocery store and has forced me in a healthy diet that I would never change even if I didn't have this problem. Best of luck to everyone out there suffering from similar issues, I hope you all can find a resolution like I did!