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San Clemente Journal

Gluten-Free Market Offers Alternative Food Choices StellaLucy

Feb 01, 2010 10:18PM ● By Don Kindred

by Helen Chade Mahshi

Josie Rietkerk’s husband, Pete, was in his 60s when he found out he had celiac disease, which means he can’t eat anything with “gluten”. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. He was so sick he couldn’t breathe and ended up in the hospital. This surprise diagnosis - so late in life - took Rietkerk on a wild goose chase to find gluten-free foods. She had to shop at five different stores, spread out between San Clemente and Laguna Hills, to complete her shopping list. Hence the motivation to open “stellaLucy”, a complete gluten-free market in downtown San Clemente.

For this experienced retailer, opening stellaLucy, was a logical decision. Owner of several Caterina’s candy stores, the retail business was something the Rietkerk’s knew well. stella ucy offers a complete array of gluten-free products, including frozen foods, as well as dairy free, soy free, and case in free foods. The market does not yet have the space for refrigerated items, or fresh produce. Though tiny, the market is amazingly compact with almost everything a gluten-free shopper needs. stellaLucy’s staff is knowledgeable at explaining the differences between products that appear similar. For the newly diagnosed, it can be intimidating to learn how to cook gluten-free, when you’ve been cooking otherwise for years. stellaLucy’s offers many gluten-free cookbooks in the store and its website. Nutritional supplements and books about nutrition and health are also available.

After her husband was diagnosed with celiac disease, Mrs. Rietkerk decided to get tested as well, and discovered in middle-age, that although she did not have celiac disease, she is gluten intolerant. Discovering so late in life that what you eat has been wrecking havoc in your body raises many disturbing questions. With these discoveries, the Rietkerk’s have become quite health-conscious learning everything they can about food and its connection to health.

“Fifty percent of the population right now is gluten intolerant and doesn’t know it,” said Mrs. Rietkerk. “These people will eat gluten and then develop autoimmune problems.”

Mrs. Rietkerk had suffered from low thyroid, an autoimmune disorder, for 20 years. After switching to a gluten-free diet, her thyroid started functioning better, and she was able to reduce her medication within just four weeks. For those who might wonder about their intolerance, she recommends testing for gluten sensitivities via Kassi Green, voted “Teacher of the Year” at Clarence Lobo Elementary School in Rancho San Clemente, experienced remission from Lupus, also an autoimmune disorder, when she switched to a gluten-free diet. She had suffered from Lupus for ten years, specifically with heart-related issues like pericarditis and debilitating joint pain and fatigue. Her husband, Matt, owner of SereneQi Acupuncture, suggested she experiment with taking gluten, dairy and egg products out of her diet. This “experiment” literally saved her health.

“I have maintained remission for ten months now and I adhere to a strict gluten - free diet,” Greene said. “My pain level radically reduced within four weeks of getting off gluten. I had previously tested negative for celiac disease in the years before my Lupus diagnosis, and didn’t have the information at the time to choose to live gluten free despite not being a true celiac,” she comments.

This beloved teacher was once sick so often, her doctor had suggested she perhaps stop working full-time. “I am thrilled with my new lease on life, and am eternally grateful to alternative health professionals, such as my husband. I look at this new “diet” not as what I had to give up but rather as what I have gained - my health, and vitality!” she raves. Greene echoes the sentiments of many locals who say stellaLucy market makes gluten-free living so much easier because it’s a one-stop shop. Because of stellaLucy’s thriving business, the market is now qualifying for more volume discounts, which means lowered prices. More shoppers also means more manufacturers are creating tastier gluten-free products, and delicious gluten-free recipes abound. It may soon outgrow its location, and look for a larger space in San Clemente. stellaLucy also opened a 2nd location in Claremont this year. b 

For a complete listing of what this market offers, see the note or view the website: for more info.