Baker with celiac disease opens gluten-free bakery in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Debra Cooper has been sewing since she was seven years old. He loves the chemistry behind creating the perfect taste.

What you need to know

  • New diagnoses of celiac disease have increased every year over the past decade, according to a study from the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
  • Eating a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for the autoimmune condition
  • Debra Cooper has lived with celiac disease since 2004 and wants to help other people who face the same challenges.
  • For the past three years, Cooper has been baking gluten-free baked goods and recently opened a store in St. Pete.

“It’s very laborious, but I put everything I have into it,” Cooper said. “I love doing this and everyone appreciates it too, so it’s worth it.”

Above all, Cooper loves the finished product. These days, most of the bread – something that has not been able to enjoy since 2004. Cooper was diagnosed with celiac disease and has to switch to a gluten-free diet, the only treatment for the condition.

“I was very sick and couldn’t hold anything down,” Cooper said.

After his diagnosis, Cooper stopped eating bread for more than a decade because he didn’t know there were options available for celiacs.

“Actually, when I went to Paris, I found a gluten-free bakery,” he said. “That was when I knew that this is what I want to do is to make bread and things that I can’t eat and I haven’t been able to eat.”

Health experts are paying attention to an increase in celiac disease diagnoses. The number of new cases has grown almost 8% each year in the last decade, according to a study by the American Journal of Gastroenterology. With celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten can trigger an immune reaction that causes inflammation in the small intestine. Gluten is found in foods such as pasta and bread, but it can also be found in products such as vitamins and toothpaste.

“If they continue to consume gluten, the concern is that the inflammation over time,” said Dr. Sabrina Prabakaran, a gastroenterologist at AdventHealth Tampa. “In addition to causing all these vitamin deficiencies that can have their own problems, it can also result in cancer in the long run.”

Prabakaran said greater accessibility to tests and more awareness about celiac disease may help explain the rising number of diagnoses. He added that there can be a challenging learning curve for people who are newly diagnosed with celiac disease.

“For some patients, they are very able to make that adjustment, but for others it can be very hard,” Prabakaran said. “Just understanding what gluten is or what food products contain gluten can be challenging. The other thing is that many people don’t understand that there is cross-contamination sometimes.”

For the past three years, Cooper has been baking celiac bread, bagels and other products from her home. Its storefront is now open in the Grand Central district of St. Petersburg. It is called Adieu-glu, which means “goodbye gluten”.

“I never would have believed that this could be a reality, and it is a reality,” Cooper said. “Now I help other people, which I think we all need service, and now I feel that I have found my purpose.”

Cooper was afraid to take the leap to open her storefront and feared she might not be accepted by the community. But she felt a call to help other people with celiac to navigate the same challenges she faces.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “In fact, I don’t even bother because there are so many foods and products now that you can eat and enjoy and you don’t miss something that is not gluten-free, and this is what I try to provide as well. .”

Adieu-glu is open with limited hours. Cooper hopes to fully open the bakery by January and eventually wants to ship his celiac products nationwide.

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