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Meet the Gluten Free Go-To Guide

Jennifer Harris, Gluten Free Go-To GuideI am Jennifer Harris, the Gluten Free Go-To Guide. I consult with businesses on their quest to make gluten-free options available to their customers. Think of me as the person to, not only hold your hand, but guide you through every step of the process and take the guess work out of the journey. Eating gluten free is not a fad, but a medical condition that affects millions of people and these people will eat gluten-free products for the rest of their lives. There is no cure for celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity, other than following a strict gluten-free diet.

My husband likes to joke that I have worked everywhere, but all of these experiences have led me to become the ‘go-to’ person who works to expand gluten-free options in bakeries, restaurants, and other businesses. Working as a chef in a corporate kitchen taught me that knowing how food is made is half the battle when you have a food allergy/intolerance (e.g. what is roux and how is it used).

PrintMy fascination with finding new gluten-free products landed me a job as a gluten-free buyer in a health food store where I worked closely with companies. That experience, in turn, lead to working as a marketing specialist for a dedicated gluten-free bakery. There I learned about sourcing gluten-free ingredients in bulk.

Today, I spend my time consulting with clients, working on projects, and researching gluten-free products, trends, events, etc. I share all of this information on my blog as The Atlanta Gluten-Free Food Examiner, which allows me to reach and educate people I may never get the chance to meet.

My journey and diagnosis with celiac disease began with headaches. As far back as I can remember, I always had a headache. To be more specific, that headache was accompanied by a number of other puzzling symptoms that would come and go, such as muscle pain, bouts of fatigue and depression, stomach aches, memory fog, and frequent trips to the bathroom. I honestly thought it was normal to have daily stomach pain and a bloated abdomen. I suffered from these symptoms for almost two decades, beginning at age seven.

When I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease, I had barely enough energy to get up off the couch to feed and bathe myself. I had to wear clothing that was many sizes too big because zipping up my pants caused shooting pain from my giant abdomen. I was also afraid I would be fired from my job because of frequently going home sick after lunch. Fortunately for me, I kept a food journal that showed my reactions to the same foods had no rhyme or reason. The journal, combined with my deteriorating physical state, led the way to my celiac disease diagnosis way back in 1997 at the age of 27.

After the initial shock of having an autoimmune disease subsided, I learned how to safely feed myself through extensive label reading and endless trips to the grocery store. Being diagnosed with this disease left me feeling lost and unsure. Conducting research, plus lots of trial and error helped me find my confidence and many products that are still my favorites. Although a lot of these products had to be ordered direct from the manufacturers (outside of the United States) because there were no online ordering sites for gluten-free products at that time.

Giving back to the community has always been important to me, and I enjoyed serving as the program chair for the Gluten Intolerance Group of Atlanta, and as the food chair for Camp WeeKaneatIt. Somewhere in the midst of this volunteer work, I started my blog called the Atlanta Gluten-Free Food Examiner to share product reviews, news, events, etc. Now, my writing can be found in Gluten Free Living Magazine and Simply Gluten Free Magazine.

I have been interviewed and quoted in numerous articles and media outlets, such as: Cook Bliss, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN, The Associated Press, Georgia Public Broadcasting. I also appeared on a Focus Atlanta segment on celiac disease entitled “Gluten Free?”

Through my consulting company, Gluten Free Go-To Guide, I get to be that person I desperately needed to “hold my hand” and guide me as I negotiated the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle. I provide product consulting services for businesses seeking to expand their gluten-free options safely and with confidence. Some of my clients include: Bagel Boys Café, Bantam + Biddy, Erbert & Gerbert’s (local franchise), Farm Burger, Fox’s Pizza Den, Frannie’s Gluten Free, Pure Knead, Riverside Pizza, Sprig Restaurant, Sugo Restaurant, and YEAH! Burger.

Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease saved my life in more ways than one. Now I am thriving, living a gluten-free lifestyle, and I have a rewarding career that benefits others who eat gluten free.