Shaw, 24, began having health issues during her middle school years, stemming from fibromyalgia and celiac disease. She had no family history of either condition. She graduated from Walton High School in 2006 and began classes at Savannah College of Art and Design. However, her illnesses forced her to withdraw from college and return home.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Shaw received treatment from the Mayo Clinic’s pain rehabilitation program, which she said has been helpful.
Celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, defines the condition as an autoimmune condition affecting children and adults. When people with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, an immune-mediated toxic reaction occurs which causes damage to the small intestine, preventing food to be properly absorbed.
Celiac disease made it difficult for her to find food choices that were safe and healthy. Shaw said cooking is something she picked up after she moved back home.
“I had to change my diet. When you go gluten-free, you can’t just go to any restaurant or cook anything you want. You have to look at all the ingredients,” she said.
Instead of feeling defeated, these dietary restrictions got her imagination buzzing and Shaw began to experiment with recipes in the kitchen. Her batches of zucchini muffins were an instant hit.
“My younger brother (Matthew) started eating a bunch of them, then his friends started eating them, then my friends would come over and eat them,” Shaw said. “I thought, maybe I should do something with these.”
Amanda Croy, 24, Shaw’s longtime friend, was another muffin taste-tester. She said she knew immediately the muffins would be “amazing.”
“She had to test the waters to figure out what she can eat and really enjoy,” Croy said. “(The muffins) were basically just what she needed at the time. Anyone with severe food allergies probably knows it’s not easy to find something that fits your (dietary) restrictions and is actually tasty.”
Wheat, barley and rye are off limits to those with celiac disease and other gluten allergies. Shaw uses a mixture of sorghum flour and shredded coconut as the base for the muffins. The muffins are also free of dairy, nuts, soy and yeast, making them edible for those with other food allergies. A vegan banana muffin is also available, which is free of eggs.
Shaw credits heavy networking for the expansion of her products. Frannie’s Gluten Free muffins were originally sold at Piece of Cake, Return to Eden and Dunwoody Bakery. Now the products can be found in local Kroger stores as well as Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama.
Shaw said, “It was an amazing opportunity. It’s been great to see Kroger reach out to the local community and seeing there is a need for gluten-free products for people with celiac disease as well as people with multiple food allergies.”
Another advantage of the muffins is their versatility.
“They can be a morning snack or something on the go when you are running errands. When you are eating gluten-free, you can’t just stop at any place,” Shaw said. “It’s good to have something with you so you’re not in a jam.”
For more information, visit www.Franniesglutenfree.com. Shaw said, “There are so many things out there that are gluten-free. It’s nice to know that (Frannie’s Gluten Free muffins) taste great, and it’s a great option for yourself and your family.”
Croy said Shaw’s business venture has changed her friend for the better.
“The poise and maturity she’s gained just over the last few years has been just absolutely crazy,” she said. “She was a different person before she got sick. She has gained such a level head and such a motivation. It’s awesome to see, and I’m really proud.”