In 1991, while working at Camerieri's Italian Bakery (my brother's and parents’ business), I noticed my hands drying out all the time. I was always fatigued and subsequently late for work. My brother would get mad at me. I thought nothing of it until 1992 when I was rushed to the hospital for chest pains. I was only 27! Doctors examined my heart, and could find no evidence of problems. I was sent home with what were called “anxiety pains.”
That year, I moved to California to study filmmaking and possibly do some acting. This was an exciting time in my life, but again, I was constantly struggling with fatigue, and still struggling to wake up in the morning. I am Italian, so naturally I was eating pasta, pizza, garlic bread, and lasagna, plus chocolate chip cookie dough like it was going out of style!
To combat my extreme fatigue, I drank coffee and took energy pills, but began suffering from nose bleeds and headaches. I was lethargic, unfocused, experienced personality changes, and even had a tumor removed from my left ear.
In 1997 I sought the best infectious disease doctor in Los Angeles. He was on TV a lot as consultant for news stories, but even he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me! Discouraged, I turned to the internet in an attempt to figure out what the heck was wrong with me. I searched and searched and searched to no avail. Then some friends gave me a book about food allergies. Reading it was an epiphany. There were all of my symptoms, right there in front of me, under “Celiac Disease.”
Celiac Disease is a condition that impacts the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients from foods containing gluten, including wheat, barely, and rye. The book suggested going on an “elimination diet,” where I eliminated all of the foods containing these ingredients.
Weeks went by and I narrowed it down to sugar and wheat. As an athlete, I had always stayed away from sugar anyway (except for the cookie dough!). But after eliminating wheat, within three to five days I felt better. Yes, Sherlock Holmes! I had wheat sensitivity.
While I was relieved to actually have some relief, I had no idea how, as an Italian, I’d be able to live a life without wheat. No Italian pasta, pizza, lasagna, garlic bread, sandwiches, cakes, or Chinese food (soy sauce) – how in the world?! I was pretty upset. My mother even cried at the thought of me not being able to enjoy our cherished Italian family recipes.
Thankfully, I discovered Trader Joe's, Mrs. Gootch’s (later became Whole Foods), Erewhon Natural Foods, and other natural food stores. They had some gluten free products at that time but not a lot. I found some pasta that was gluten free, whew Amen! It made me think, ‘What if gluten free products were readily available to everyone? What if people didn’t have to tirelessly search for the foods they love?’
I took matters into my own hands and become an expert on gluten free baking and products. I have since switched to goat’s milk, since casein products aggravate my allergies as well. I decided to share this expertise with people like me, who suffer from food allergies, by opening GF Joe Gluten-Free Bakery. People shouldn’t have to give up the foods they truly love because of allergies, or rearrange their plans to enjoy a nice meal because restaurants don’t understand.
If you need a FREE consultation for your restaurant, café, franchise, wedding, or any event, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you enjoy my gluten free products, with more products coming soon. Feel free to email me with questions you have about food allergies, suggestions of products you’d like to see, or to simply share your own story. I’d love to hear from you.
Yours in gluten-free living,
Joseph Anthony "GF JOE" Camerieri.
Joseph Anthony Camerieri