(I’m one of those people that doesn’t have a TV. I’m still waiting for a Portlandia episode about me. That I’ll watch on Netflix. ;))
My mom called me shortly after I received this new found knowledge and as I explained, “…some actress that is on some show Blue Bloods…” my 67 year old mom exclaimed, “She works with Tom Selleck!!” Oh really.
A quick Google search led me to find out that Jennifer often works with super famous men…Wes Craven, Don Cheadle, Michael J. Fox, Donnie Wahlberg…and the list goes on.
As it turns out, Jennifer Esposito has celiac disease, lives a full gluten-free life and wants to take celiac disease awareness to the next level.
I had a lovely time chatting it up with her the other day, but before I get to the interview part, let me introduce you to OpenSky.
Here is a direct quote from my contact at OpenSky:
“It’s a social network for shopping that empowers users to connect with the best people in food, style, health and design for exclusive information, advice and insider product recommendations. It’s boutique-like shopping in a Facebook-like environment.
So, Jennifer is in good company with fellow OpenSky all-things-epicurean store keepers Michael Ruhlman, Martha Stewart, Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay, Dorie Greenspan, Andrew Zimmern and Georgia Pellegrini!
Me: How did you discover you had celiac disease?
Jennifer: Basically, I’ve been sick my whole life. Stomach issues, exhaustion, etc. I searched for years as to why I always felt “off” and why it was getting worse. It got to the point where my hair was falling out, I had panic attacks, brittle nails, depression, and chronic infections. I could sleep for two whole days and still feel tired.
I had been going to the same gastroenterologist for five years! I was hospitalized more than once. I was told I had Clostridium difficile colitis. At one time I was told I had a parasite – that they never found. My liver enzymes were really high. My doctor didn’t really have any answers.
Finally, a really great general practitioner sat with me for two hours and just talked with me. She put it all together and tested me for antibodies. Of course, they were sky high. Then I was directed to a gastroenterologist that specializes in celiac disease for a biopsy.
I had full on celiac disease.
Me: How long did it take for you to feel better?
Jennifer: A full year to a year and a half. An important thing I learned along the way is that I had to accept who I was now. I kept waiting to feel like myself again, but when you think about it… that self wasn’t well.
And the learning curve for a gluten-free lifestyle is huge. It’s new territory. That’s why I created my website Jennifer’s Way. I’m hoping it will help others to better navigate the gluten-free world once they are diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Me: So do you think it is easier to be gluten-free in Hollywood now that more celebrities are going gluten-free?
Jennifer: Absolutely not! In fact, the people that push a gluten-free diet without a medical reason are unknowingly doing us a great disservice. It waters down the seriousness of why we are gluten-free and how careful we need to be about it. That’s another reason why I want to help to set the record straight.
And not all gluten-free products are created equal. The crew on Blue Bloods will try to think of me and bring gluten-free treats, but most of the time they aren’t brands I can really trust or ingredients I really want to consume.
That’s why I bake a lot! I love creating my own recipes. I have a pancake mix and an all purpose flour mix that is so good even my non-gluten-free ten year old nephew loves my treats! Now that’s the true test of approval!
Me: Do you have any other diet restrictions or diet principles you follow within the gluten-free diet?
Jennifer: I’m dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free and pretty much corn-free, because corn is basically just sugar.
Jennifer: I’m really excited about this! I’m hand picking the best gluten-free products that meet with my standards for my OpenSky store. It just launched and every week I’ll be adding one or two more special items to it. I’ll be adding short videos too. In just a few weeks my very own gluten-free pancake and all purpose gluten-free flour mix will be available too! I’m hoping to help anyone who needs to be gluten-free to find the best products that I personally love.
Me: Do you have any favorite restaurants in NYC that you safely eat gluten-free at?
Jennifer: One of my favorite places is Pala! And I really like Souen. There are three of them…it’s macrobiotic and they used to just be able to accommodate me after I carefully explained to them what I needed, but now they’ve changed their menu to include little symbols for what items are gluten-free.
Me: Wow! Thanks for the hot tip on Souen! One last thing…you mentioned on David Letterman that you were going to open a gluten-free bakery up in NYC…is this true?!
Jennifer: YES! It’s a lot of work and all of the details are being worked out. You can expect it by next year.
Me: Thank you SO much for your time and most importantly for anything you can do to help with celiac disease awareness!!
*This is not a sponsored post. I just really wanted to interview Jennifer and help her to help us with celiac disease awareness.