Five Minutes with a Member of the Gluten-Free Community: Amy Soergel
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your favorite food, what do you do for fun, what are your interests, where did you grow up/go to school, etc?
I have lived in Pittsburgh nearly my whole life and received my undergraduate degree in public health from Johns Hopkins and my graduate degree in public health from Pitt. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, going to yoga, working out, being outside and traveling. I think growing up on a farm has influenced my love of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I would say they are my favorite food!
Where do you work now? Does it involve gluten-intolerance?
I work at Naturally Soergel’s, which is a health food store that focuses on gluten-free and allergen-free foods. We try to be as involved in the gluten-free community as possible and host cooking classes, educational events, and parties for adults and children.
How did you discover you were celiac?
I was sick for about 10 years, was in and out of the hospital, had my gallbladder removed but still never felt quite “right.” It wasn’t until after college when I started to hear about celiac disease and the symptoms it could cause. I went to my doctor and through a number of tests, they found that I had not only celiac disease but also ulcerative colitis.
How has your life been different after your diagnosis?
My diagnosis not only changed my diet but changed my life plan. My family has had a farm market in Wexford for many years, and after diagnosis it we decided it made sense for me to open a “gluten-free store” on the farm. With that, the blueprints were drafted and construction began for what is now Naturally Soergel’s. I also met my fiancé Doug the weekend the store opened and we now plan to be married this August! I can say that diagnosis definitely changed my life!
What are your favorite gluten-free recipes/foods/companies/restaurants and why?
One of my favorite restaurants is Bella Frutetto which sits directly across the street from our store. They do a wonderful job catering to the gluten-free community and have an extensive, delicious menu. I also love to read Elana Amsterdam’s blog, Brittany Angell’s blog, and Silvana Nardone’s book “Cooking for Isaiah.” I think that there are many great gluten-free companies but some of my favorite are local bakeries Truly Wize in Greensburg and and Gluuteny in Squirrel Hill, and Mandy’s Pizza in West View.
What did you discover because of celiac disease/gluten intolerance that you might not have found otherwise?
I found Doug! It really is wonderful to have someone else on your team when it comes to eating a certain way. He is very open to new foods and he’s always willing to try different recipes and ways to prepare food. I try to be a bit adventurous in my diet (raw food, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) and I am grateful that Doug allows me the opportunity to explore new things!
Any advice to someone who has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease/gluten intolerance?
There are many, many gluten-free products on the market and I would caution them that they aren’t all “healthy.” All too often, fat and sugar is added to the food to make up for the removal of gluten. I would recommend sticking to the basics: fruits, vegetables, eggs, (most) dairy, lean meats and proteins, and grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat. You can create a very balanced (and delicious!) diet with naturally gluten-free foods without overloading on fats and sugars.