Emily Luxford remembers being 5 years old and staring at a burger and fries that she couldn’t eat because she was so sick. That moment was the beginning of a decade-plus journey to uncover the cause of her myriad of symptoms that progressed from stomach pain to fatigue and headaches. It wasn’t until age 17, after losing 20 pounds and developing memory issues, that she was diagnosed with celiac disease.
Most of us don’t know much about celiac disease but are familiar with the gluten-free craze that has exploded in recent years. While there is debate over whether or not gluten impacts weight loss or health for the general population, one thing is certain: For people with celiac disease, it can contribute to intestinal pain, migraines, brain fog, rashes and even infertility.
Emily shares that once she finally got her diagnosis and stopped eating gluten, it was like the clouds had parted. “For the first time in my whole life, I felt I could think clearly,” she says.
A native California girl, Emily grew up in Pasadena and enrolled at Loyola Marymount University to get her degree in education. She taught elementary school for five years in Los Angeles. The desire to help others on their health journey took her back to school at California State University Long Beach to get her second degree—in nutritional science—followed by a master’s in dietetics.
If you don’t know what something is, ask yourself, “Does my body need this?” She says our bodies need oxygen, hydration, movement and nourishment and encourages eating a wide variety of foods—especially fruits and vegetables in jewel-tone colors.
After living in the South Bay on and off from 2006 to 2018, she reconnected with her high school prom date at a party in Redondo Beach. She fell in love—both with him and the city—and they married. She and husband Jeffrey are currently building a new home for their family, which includes son Nolan and daughter Camille (Millie). They are proud to have planted roots in Redondo Beach and love being able to smell the ocean every day and take date-night walks on the sand.
Struggling to find out what was wrong with her and learning how to manage the condition greatly influenced who Emily is today: a healthy, thriving woman with a happy family and a successful medical nutrition therapy practice. She is both a nutritionist and a registered dietitian, which requires much more expertise. Unlike a nutritionist, a registered dietitian must earn a four-year degree, participate in a yearlong internship and pass board exams.
At Luxford Nutrition, with a focus on gut health and autoimmune diseases, Emily helps others find optimum wellness through dietary awareness. As May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, she hopes to promote awareness around her condition.
“Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where gluten ingestion leads to damage in the small intestine,” she explains. “It’s more common than multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis combined. It affects 1 in 133 of the U.S. population. Of that group, 83% are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. In fact, the average person with celiac disease waits six to 10 years for an accurate diagnosis.”
There is no cure for celiac disease; the main treatment is to avoid gluten, commonly found in wheat, barley and rye products as well as beer. Gluten is not required to be listed on food labels, so it is often found in foods you wouldn’t suspect.
Some salad dressings and sauces, candy and even processed lunch meat may have gluten. Even soy sauce, made with wheat, can be a trigger.
Emily notes it’s best to stick with whole foods and shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where less processed foods are found. She believes that food, as it relates to our health, should be the first line of defense and suggests we all pay attention to the labels. If you don’t know what something is, ask yourself, “Does my body need this?” She says our bodies need oxygen, hydration, movement and nourishment and encourages eating a wide variety of foods—especially fruits and vegetables in jewel-tone colors.
That advice applies to everyone, not just those who are gluten-free. Emily recommends patronizing your local farmers market. Living in the South Bay, we are fortunate to have access to one nearly every day of the week, and many even come with live music and an ocean view. Strolling a local market offers fresh air and sunshine, a bit of exercise and access to lots of delicious, fresh, healthy foods.