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Gluten free bakery a first for Birmingham

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As of last week, Birmingham now has its first gluten-free bakery. 

That's a big deal to people who suffer with Celiac disease.  It is an auto-immune digestive disease that interrupts the absorption of food nutrients and can cause damage to the small intestine. 

There is no cure. The only treatment, is a gluten-free diet. The bakery owner's own bout with Celiac disease led to the start of this business Carol Key was diagnosed with Celiac disease ten-years-ago.

Like all Celiac sufferers, she was told to live gluten-free.

That's where her journey began. A journey that now has Key helping others.

"We've sold out of cookies every day. We have chocolate chip, oatmeal, our muffins are one of our big sellers," says Key. "We have people walking into our bakery saying 'I can't believe I can have this!'"

The Funky Muffin, located in a small store off Highway 280 is a dream come true.

For owner Carol Key, her business is a labor of love. Brought about by her own need to eat gluten-free. 

Key was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2003 and told to make drastic lifestyle changes.

"I had no idea what gluten free meant," says Key. "I didn't know what Celiac disease was. The doctor gave me a sheet of paper that said don't eat foods that have these words in the labels, it's the big words that you can't pronounce."

Key had to start from scratch. Whether it be grocery shopping for her home or finding new recipes for her baked goods.

"Over the last ten years I've tried a ton of different flours. Very expensive flours. I just really had a hard time trying to determine what worked and what didn't," says Key.

Key found something that worked. Business is booming at the bakery.

The bakery is just one way key wants to bring awareness of Celiac disease and help those living with it.

"It is a mission, it's a mission to help people," says Key. "I wanted to create a place where someone could walk in and have it all and not have to ask, 'is it gluten-free'?"

Dr. Kenneth Sigman is a gastroenterologist at Trinity Medical Center. He says Celiac disease affects men and women of all ages.

"Eating a gluten free diet helps, and even completely resolves the issue in most people," says Sigman.

It's estimated that 80 percent of Americans with Celiac are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. That's because the symptoms aren't specific.

"Mostly, persistent diarrhea, bloating, gaseousness, abdominal pain, nausea and weight loss (are symptoms)," says Sigman. "Most people have been having symptoms for many years, prior to the diagnosis, because of the non-specificity of symptoms."

Like most diseases, Celiac is genetic. Anywhere from 5-22% of Celiac patients have a family member with the disease.

Celiac can also lead to several other disorders, including osteoporosis, infertility, cancers, neurological disorders and other autoimmune diseases.

As for key, she hopes the bakery is only the beginning to helping folks live 'gluten free'.

"We're just creating. We hope to create new things everyday, new recipes, take suggestions, find out what people are needing in the gluten free market and try to tap on that a little bit," says Key.

The Funky Muffin is only open Tuesday through Friday from 7am to 6pm, and on Saturday from 8am to 4pm. It is recommended you get there early, because many of the baked goods sell out quickly.

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