We work with several national foundations to help spread food allergy awareness and education, but did you know that we partner with smaller, local organizations as well? One of our close partners is located in Rosemont, right in our backyard! We work with the Pediatric Celiac Center at Advocate Children’s Hospital throughout the year to provide samples for newly diagnosed and returning patients with celiac. This month, we interviewed Carrie Ek, Nutritionist and Coordinator at the Pediatric Celiac Center, to give you an inside look.

Enjoy Life: What is the mission of the Pediatric Celiac Center, and when was it founded

Carrie: We have been treating patients with celiac disease for many years. However, Advocate created a dedicated Pediatric Celiac Center in 2013. Our mission is to provide high quality medical care, including diagnosis and follow-up care for children and families with celiac disease. We also provide programs throughout the year to assist people with the everyday challenges of living gluten free, and educate medical staff, pediatricians and the community about celiac disease through our residency. We provide nutrition counseling as part of the program. Nutrition follow-up is provided at every celiac clinic visit. We know that diagnosis is only the beginning. We want children to thrive and grow and live a healthy life.

Enjoy Life: What is your role at Advocate Children’s Hospital?

Carrie: Nutritionist and Coordinator

Enjoy Life: How does the hospital work with partners like Enjoy Life Foods?

Carrie: We partner through providing families with samples of safe foods (such as Enjoy Life) and recommendations.

Enjoy Life: Why has Advocate Children’s Hospital partnered with Enjoy Life in the past?

Carrie: Enjoy Life has been incredibly generous in providing food samples for our patients & families with celiac disease. Enjoy Life has provided samples for our gluten free Halloween party and our annual blood screening several times, as well as the starter packs for newly diagnosed patients. We have long known that the Enjoy Life products are trusted to be safe for the gluten free diet. We also have a EOE program (eosinophilic esophagitis) and many of the children in that program are avoiding the top 6 or 8 allergens. Enjoy Life is one of the few brands that these people can safely eat without question. It gives us peace of mind to recommend and know it is safe. So many products we are unsure of. Several years ago, we were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the Enjoy Life factory and were very impressed with the high standards.

Enjoy Life: What can you tell us of the work being done for celiac disease and treatment?

Carrie: Celiac disease research is evolving rapidly. We have better ways to monitor the disease through testing. However, the only treatment remains a strict gluten free diet, which is still challenging for most families.

Enjoy Life: How can our community increase awareness of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity?

Carrie: Through providing accurate information on what the gluten free diet is and is not. There are still many “gray areas” within the gluten free diet. Family members need to be tested. People need to know they need to be tested BEFORE starting the gluten free diet. Restaurant eating is still a huge challenge.

Enjoy Life: Any special advice for someone with celiac disease?

Carrie: The diet is overwhelming at first but take your time and become your own “expert” on the diet. Learn how to cook. Foods that are naturally gluten free (meats, potatoes, rice, quinoa, fruit/vegetables) are best to stay with as much as possible when you start out. It greatly reduces the need for label reading and keeps things simple. You will make mistakes, just learn from them and move on.

Enjoy Life: What makes Enjoy Life special for you?

Carrie: The trust that the products really are safe for gluten free diets.