I’m sorry; I fell off the blogging wagon there for a little while. The big news is, I’m in Finland! Right below the arctic circle in Kuopio, doing some research.
Rather than try to cover everything from where I left off, I’m just going to jump right in, and assume you’ve been with me all along. So, without further ado:
Celiac disease– an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestines when digesting gluten– has become more widely known in the last few years in the US, after a few semi-celebrities (like Chelsea Clinton) made gluten sensitivity hip.
Even so, if you walk into a random restaurant in the US– even if somewhere cosmopolitan like San Diego– and ask which menu items are gluten-free, you’re likely to get a funny look. Sure, I’ve seen some restaurants sporting gluten-free options, but it’s a rarity.
However, here, in Finland, gluten-free is everywhere. I’m living in a relatively small town, and still many menu items are labeled (G) for gluteeniton, or gluten-free. All the supermarkets have gluten-free sections, and the cafeteria at work has at least one well-labeled gluten-free option each day. And as if that weren’t enough, get this: we were on a ferry, with a little refreshment stand/cafe that sold a number of pastries. A relative of a friend with celiac disease asked if the boat had anything gluten-free, and the cashier said, Sure, and then went and made her a gluten-free sandwich.
Now that is celiac-friendly.
So what gives? Why is Finland so happily gluteeniton? Anecdotally, it seems that a lot of people have celiac disease. My sister, her uncle, the father of so-and-so. A quick search affirms the anecdotes, showing that Finland has at least the highest reported rate of celiac disease .
I knew coming here that Finland has lots of type 1 diabetics (relatively), with the highest incidence rate worldwide . I guess I should have suspected a high rate of celiac disease as well, given the rate of co-occurrence, but, not having celiac disease myself, I didn’t think of it.
But now that I’m here, I must say: if you want to go gluten-free, go to Finland. America’s recent awareness of celiac disease pales in comparison to Finland’s full embrace of living gluteeniton!