CONNECT 4: Jennifer Esposito

Purist's inaugural Ideas Festival kicked off with an eclectic gathering of distinguished academics and creatives in the fields of new technology, education, politics, wellness and environmentalism. Here, actress and soon-to-be full-time East Hampton resident Jennifer Esposito talks about living with celiac disease and how she’s committed to helping people eat and feel better.

Gluten-Free Advocate

By Cristina Cuomo
Cristina Cuomo: After you spent decades dealing with unexplained health issues, a doctor finally diagnosed you with celiac disease. How has your life changed since that diagnosis?

Jennifer Esposito: I was almost dead with this disease and no one knew what was going on, and thankfully I figured out a road through it, so I’ve become such an advocate. Informing people about celiac disease and becoming gluten-free is something I believe in. You can change your life based on what what you’re eating. I know it because I’ve lived it.

CC: And you’ve said that you’ve also learned to trust your own instincts about your health, right? 

JE: Yes, I truly believe that you know your body more than any doctor is going to, so you need to speak up and demand answers. I would have been in so much trouble if I didn’t speak up.  Last year, I had breast cancer—It was found very early and now I’ve gotten the all-clear—but that cancer was only found because I was so in tune with what was happening in my body.

CC: Thank God you caught it so early. 

JE: Thankfully, I kept persisting. I went to my doctor and he said, “Jenn, I checked everything and nothing’s wrong.” But I knew something was up and sure enough they found cancer cells in my right breast. Whether it’s celiac disease, whether it’s breast cancer, if you feel there is something wrong stop and get an answer.

CC: Celiac disease is something you still have to cope with on a daily basis, how has it affected your eating habits? 

JE: You don’t have to be a drill sergeant and not enjoy your life. I make everything from pasta Bolognese to pizza, but it’s in a different way. Like pizza with a cauliflower crust. You just have to think differently about the way you eat. It’s almost like solving a puzzle. You can totally still make cookies, bread and pasta, and make it fun, but still gluten-free. You think, what do you want the end result to be and how do you get there without gluten, which will make you bloated and break out with pimples and feel disgusting?

CC: And now you’ve got a cookbook to help people make great gluten-free dishes. 

JE: Yes, It’s all gluten-free recipes focused on how you can still eat and enjoy yourself. I found that it’s really about reducing not only gluten, but grains. Getting rid of grains in a way that you can still have fiber, still get what you need, but do it in a way that keeps inflammation to a minimum. It runs along the same lines as the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, which has helped so many people reset their immune systems. It can be pretty strict, but you’re still having pizza made of cauliflower. You’re still having great pudding made out of avocado. You’re having French toast. I’m not telling you to only have salads and a carrot. So it’s a way of showing you how to eat great and be gluten-free.