THE HOUSTON CELIAC-SPRUE SUPPORT GROUP began in May of 1989 as a Resource Unit of CSA/USA, Inc. About ten celiacs, local members of CSA/USA, met to send letters of introduction to gastroenterologists in the greater Houston area. We became chapter #25 of CSA/USA, Inc., in January of 1990 and organized and hosted a Regional Conference in March of 1990. Far from being a rare disorder, as CD was erroneously thought in the past, the U.S. prevalence is now considered to be about 1% of healthy individuals!

Ray A. Verm, M.D., of Baylor College of Medicine, became our first physician advisor. He had only seen several celiacs at that time, but he was willing to lend his name and expertise to our group. With all our referrals, he (as well as the other physician advisors) has seen so many more celiacs than he ever thought was possible by now!

The goals of our support group are to help members adjust to the gluten-free diet, exchange information, discuss important medical topics, provide support and fellowship, and educate the medical and dietetic communities about our needs. An extensive New Member Packet is available at charge with specific details about coping with the gluten-free diet. Our chapter newsletter, HOUSTON CELIAC PERSPECTIVE, gives transcription notes of a previous program or conference lectures, product news investigated by our members and/or from the Internet Celiac Listserv, stories from celiacs, gluten-free recipes, restaurant investigations, and much more. We try to meet for GF luncheons at Houston area restaurants periodically.

Our chapter assists people with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, wheat and gluten sensitivities, or wheat allergy who need to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Our chapter tries to give one-on-one assistance to newly-diagnosed celiacs and DH'ers (those with the related skin manifestation Dermatitis Herpetiformis). The first contact is usually with President Janet Rinehart for a new member orientation. Then a person may be referred to a neighbor member to get specific information about the availability of specialty gluten-free foods in his/her area. This restricted diet is much easier to handle with a buddy and the knowledge that we are not alone. We encourage members to join our parent organization NATIONAL CELIAC ASSOCIATION (www.nationalceliac.org) and receive their newsletter GLUTEN-FREE NATION. Our chapter material supplements that of NCA. In 2018-2019, we are now an official chapter of the National Celiac Association.

In June 2001, a special adjunct group was formed in association with Danna Korn of California to service families with celiac children. Parents can attend R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Celiac Kids) dinner discussions and play groups to discuss solutions to children's celiac issues in terms of dealing with school, church, and community food-related activities. Susan Daniels is the chairman of Houston R.O.C.K., as part of NCA.

Programs have included local and national speakers concerning Follow-Up Treatment for Celiacs, Reproduction and Celiac Disease, Growth Retardation in Gastrointestinal Disorders, The Immunology of Celiac Disease, Osteoporosis and Estrogen Replacement Therapy, The Serologic Markers in Diagnosis of Celiac Disease; Flying Gluten Free; The Full Clinical Spectrum of Gluten Sensitivity; Nutrition Beyond the Gluten-Free Diet; Eating Out Workshop; Stress and Eating; etc., as well as discussions about basic issues for celiacs and DH'ers and baking hints with alternative flours, etc. We have also invited nationally recognized celiac cookbook authors in the past, such as Bette Hagman, Carol Fenster, and Aileen Bennett. Prometheus Laboratories sponsored a tour of Texas support groups, including Houston, by author Danna Korn, in February of 2003.

Celiac Disease is considered a chronic disease and emotional issues usually accompany it. People with the skin disorder Dermatitis Herpetiformis (one manifestation of Celiac-Sprue) also are also typically helped by a gluten-free diet and usually have some gut involvement. Feelings of anger (at the medical community for the length of time to come to a correct diagnosis), depression and isolation, exhaustion, relief (at a diagnosis), possible deprivation (at the loss of familiar products), and acceptance with action focused toward educating oneself and the family about the life-long diet restrictions may be stages for us toward emotional healing. However, most people with the correct diagnosis of Celiac Disease ultimately get better if they adhere strictly to the diet!

Founder and current President of the Houston group is Janet Y. Rinehart, also Former President of CSA/USA, Inc. Janet was the recipient of the Jefferson Award for public service (to celiacs) in May 2008.

Kathleen Williams is Vice President and in charge of New Member Packets.

Suzette Brasher is Secretary of the Houston chapter.

We are grateful to our professional advisors: Gastroenterologists: Dr. John Stroehlein (Now retired), Dr. Alberto O. Barroso, Dr. Douglas Fishman and Dr. Faith Ihekweazu, pediatric gastroenterologists at Texas Children's Hospital; and Selvi Thirumurthi, MD, gastroenterologist at MD Anderson Cancer center. Dietitians on our board who are very familiar with the gluten-free diet are Anne Dubner, RD; Rya Clark, RD; Sara Olague, RD; Norma Terrazas, RD; and Leslie Ramiriz, RD.

We coordinate our activities with the assistance of our Board members, who consult together on programs, and activities and policies. Thank you for visiting our chapter webpage, developed by President Janet Rinehart and webmaster John Longo.

We welcome new celiacs, DH'ers and those with wheat/gluten sensitivity to our celiac support group! --


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Updated 19Oct22