By Julie Ann Madden
Chronic Fatigue. Anemia. Acid Reflex. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Memory Loss, Confusion and Depression.
Those were symptoms an Akron woman was dealing with six years ago.
Even after several years of taking medications for each, the symptoms weren’t getting any better, said Charlene Frerichs.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she told The Akron Hometowner. “My doctor thought I was on the right track…maybe it was just too much stress in my life.”
“It could have been but I doubted it was,” said Frerichs.
When she left her job to eliminate stress, the symptoms continued, she said. “I was so tired of being sick and tired.”
Furthermore, although she’d kept the same diet and exercise schedule, Frerichs was gaining weight.
“I knew it had to be something I was eating,” said Frerichs, “because there were a few days I felt okay, and there were days I felt absolutely horrible with (abdominal) pain.”
She felt she had no choice but to quit eating and add back in foods one at a time to try to figure out what was making her sick.
After fasting for a full day, Frerichs discovered plain fruits and vegetables, without anything on them, didn’t make her sick. But when she had a piece of toast and coffee, it was back to laying on her couch in misery.
“Every time I ate a regular meal, I got sick,” said Frerichs, noting she loves casseroles, especially tator tot casserole.
Not only was she in physical pain but when she’d start to dial a telephone number, she couldn’t remember the phone number she’d just looked up in the phone book.
“I really felt like I was losing my mind,” said Frerichs, who researched what the problem was by going to the internet and reading every health magazine she could find.
“One magazine article I came across listed some of the same symptoms I was having as a wheat intolerance,” said Frerichs, who then eliminated wheat food products from her diet.
“I still got sick,” she said. “It was the gluten, too.”
Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity is a life-threatening auto immune disease, and 83 percent of the 3 million Americans who have this disease are undiagnosed, said Frerichs, quoting the National Celiac Foundation. “Celiac Disease is associated with a four-fold increased risk for lymphoma and other cancers.”
“It is a real disease,” she said, adding many told her her sickness was “all in her head.”
“I’m here to tell you it’s a real disease,” said Frerichs.
Food product labels don’t just list “wheat” and “gluten” or “dairy” in the list of ingredients, noted Frerichs, who would spend hours in the grocery store trying to determine if she could eat a food or not.
“There are a lot of derivatives,” said Frerichs, who had to research every food. For instance, gluten can be found in caramel coloring, green vinegars, modified food starch, vegetable proteins and some dyes.
“When I went totally gluten free, then I also found I couldn’t handle dairy products,” said Frerichs, adding her cookbook has lists she’s created of known products with gluten, wheat and dairy ingredients.
“I don’t want to be sick,” said Frerichs, explaining her food allergies can be triggered simply by someone “double dipping” into the peanut butter with a knife they already used to make a sandwich or her grandchildren giving her a kiss after eating ice cream.
“It’s not fun to go through it,” said Frerichs, “and if I can help it, I want to stay away from that.”
After about six months of eating plain meats, fruits and vegetables, Frerichs decided she was hungry for her “comfort foods” including lasagne, pizza, homemade bread and her favorite tator tot casserole.
“I thought there has to be a way I can eat those,” said Frerichs, whose parents owned a restaurant/garage in Junction City on South Dakota Highway 50 plus she’d spent most of her time working in food services: Akron Care Center, Akron Senior Center and Akron Pronto.
She began developing wheat, gluten and dairy free recipes. Her children often proclaimed they were delicious and one couldn’t tell the foods were wheat, gluten and dairy free. When they suggested she write a cookbook, she thought they were silly.
The cookbook became a family project, said Frerichs, explaining she created the recipes and cookbook’s design while her husband, Randy; children: Randalyn and Mike Fairbanks of Akron; Adam and Sarah Frerichs and Joshua and Brittany Frerichs, all of Le Mars, and the grandchildren were taste testers. Her mother-in-law, Ella Frerichs, volunteered to wash the dishes. Adam and Sarah did the photography and Randalyn typed all her recipes.
“We wanted to make it the best cookbook with the easiest step-by-step instructions to follow,” said Frerichs, adding at times it was so frustrating. Like the three years it took her to make a homemade bread with slices that could actually be folded without tearing apart.
“I thank God for giving me the talent, perseverance and family support to be able to complete it,” said Frerichs.
“I get to eat my tator tot casserole,” she said. “I wanted to share (what I’d learned) so other people didn’t have to go without.”
“Gluten free doesn’t have to be bland or taste horrible or be expensive,” said Frerichs. “My book gives them over 225 recipes with ordinary ingredients that you can buy right off the regular grocery store shelves.”
Anybody and everybody can use her cookbook — people without allergies can substitute regular foods such as instead of gluten-free noodles, regular noodles.
From 2:30 – 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, Frerichs will have a cooking demonstration/book signing at Maynard’s Foods in Akron.
People can also find her cookbooks on her website, www.SimpleCreativeCooking.org, or on Amazon.com. They may also email her at CharFrerichs@SimpleCreativeCooking.org.