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Woman teaches a gluten-free lifestyle
King George woman has become an international presence in the gluten-free world

 Braden is known internationally for her blog on living gluten-free. She also hosts a monthly support group in her home.
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Date published: 4/6/2011

By CATHY DYSON

In the gluten-free world, Shirley Braden of King George County is an international presence, a pioneer whose blog has become "the hub of the online community."

That's according to Wendy Gregory of southeastern Ohio. She says Braden has spread her message about keeping a diet free from gluten--a protein in grains that can cause serious intestinal problems for those who can't tolerate it--across the United States, Canada and Europe.

Other bloggers describe Braden in the same glowing terms.

"She's a powerhouse," wrote Bernice Mast of New York City.

"In the Internet community, she is widely considered one of the best, and is looked up to, not just by her readers, but by other gluten-free bloggers around the world," wrote Elana Amsterdam of Boulder, Colo.

"We consider her the gluten-free Mom," said Tai Hain of Petaluma, Calif. "And that is exactly what she acts like. She is so welcoming and including."

Since December 2008, Braden has maintained her online journal called "gluten free easily," which averages about 25,000 page views a month. On her website, she shares hundreds of recipes she's tweaked to eliminate the flour that caused her so much misery.

During a monthly meeting in her home, she makes pizza without crusts and peanut butter cookies without flour.

And she's been invited by such big names as General Mills to offer her opinion of their gluten-free products.

"Those of use out here in the blogosphere absolutely adore her generous spirit and unlimited knowledge," wrote Melissa McLean Jory of Golden, Colo. "She's on a mission to increase awareness and is always there for others."

A LIFETIME OF PROBLEMS

Braden, 54, does technical editing and quality assurance for a defense contractor in Dahlgren. She was diagnosed as gluten intolerant in 2003 after a lifetime of problems.

Growing up, she always knew where the bathrooms were--and spent way too much time in them. She had constant digestive issues, then had numerous surgeries.

She had her tonsils out in her early 20s, her gallbladder a few years later. She had a complete hysterectomy when she was 46.

Doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed the problem; one even told her she needed psychological help. Braden calls the physician who figured out she had food issues her "miracle doc" because of the way her life changed.


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Shirley Braden speaks locally and across the country about her efforts to stay gluten-free easily. She regularly teaches sessions at the Fredericksburg-area Women's Forum and has spoken at school health fairs.

Later this month, she'll emcee and do a cooking demonstration at the Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free Expo in Chicago. She'll do the same at the group's October gathering.

In November 2010, she was one of 10 bloggers invited to General Mills' test kitchens in Minneapolis. A year earlier, she went to California on an all-expenses paid trip as part of the Pomegranate Harvest Tour.

She also hosts the monthly King George Gluten Intolerance & Celiac Group in her home and does cooking demonstrations.

Shirley Braden posts at least twice a week on her blog, glutenfreeeasily.com. During the holidays, when people spend more time in the kitchen, she posts more often.

She averages about 25,000 page views a month. On a typical day last month, she had 900 page visits. Of those, 822 viewers were from the United States, 10 were from Great Britain and the rest were from 33 different countries. "Isn't that something?" Braden said.

Most people look at gluten-free recipes that Braden tweaked herself or borrowed from other bloggers. She includes dozens of colorful photos with each, gives step-by-step details about the process--and pitfalls to avoid--and lists specific brand names that work best. She also provides contacts for other bloggers.

Her most popular recipes are for pumpkin pie, oatmeal cookies, pizza and peanut butter cookies.