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Famously Allergic

CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers on Going Gluten-Free

Even when she’s not in front of a microphone, Shelagh Rogers is exactly the woman you hear hosting on CBC Radio One program: smart, witty, kind-hearted, and deeply passionate about Canadians. But with her work comes a lot of travel and socializing. And as she tells journalist Jennifer Van Evra, that’s tricky for Rogers, as she can’t tolerate wheat.

How did you find out about your condition?
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure four years ago, and I was put on the DASH diet. There is a lot of bread in that diet, and it was just making me crazy because I was getting incredibly itchy. I was seeing a nutritionist, and when she realized I was really itchy from this diet, we stopped dairy for three weeks, and nothing happened. Then we stopped wheat for three weeks.

How did you feel?
I felt so good. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have the itchy inner ears or the redness in my face that I had almost all the time. I always looked like I was about to explode. [Laughs] I also think it has changed my mood. I feel I’m on much more of an even keel. There are times when I see a baguette and I just want to take a big, big chewy bite – because none of the substitutes have ever had the same consistency or satisfaction. But life is just as good without it, really.

So is yours an allergy or a sensitivity?
The nutritionist and my doctor told me that it wasn’t full blown celiac disease, but I’ve never had the tests.

What’s the worst wheat-related experience you’ve ever had?
I was at one of the Peter Gzowski golf tournaments for literacy, and they had these little asparagus roll-ups. You could pop 12 of them and not think you were eating anything at all, which is essentially what I did. About three hours later, my whole face was bright, bright red, and I looked at my stomach and there were welts on it. At the time, I was undergoing some stress at work, so I just assumed that it had finally caught up with me. I also thought I might have walked into some poison ivy on the golf course.

You have to travel all the time for work. How do you do that?
I’ve started carrying little packets of oatmeal with me, because breakfast is a really hard one. My shift almost always starts early, and places aren’t open where you might get a boiled egg or half a grapefruit. Rice cakes are another thing that I take with me, too, or I’ll try to take some cheese and a tomato and pretend it’s a pizza. [Laughs] But it is such a wheaty world.

You’re often heading to more remote areas. Does that ever pose a problem?

For the rest of this interview, see the Fall 2006 issue of Allergic Living magazine.
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