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Coeliac Awareness Week

Coeliac Awareness Week | The Reality of Coeliac Disease

In case you didn’t know, it’s Coeliac Awareness Week this week. Social media becomes awash with mainstream Coeliac Awareness posts about the usual – gluten free food, Coeliac misdiagnosis and eating out. I wanted to portray the day to day life of people living with the disease including the uncensored bad bits. I hope to open the eyes of non-Coeliacs to the challenges faced by those diagnosed with this life long auto-immune disease. These people were kind enough to share their stories so that you can share them with your non-Coeliac friends.
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A few years ago I fell ill, I was getting agonising stomach pains, nausea and generally feeling unwell. I went to the doctor and they thought I had appendicitis, so I was taken to hospital but scans showed it wasn’t that so I was discharged. Forward 3 months and I’m still in agony, off work because I couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes, all tests were coming back negative. Another 3 months and I was still in agony but went to see a consultant at the hospital who decided to test for coeliac, which should have been done months before. The nurse with him said to give gluten free a go once my bloods were done that day and I did. I haven’t eaten gluten since that day, just days later the pain was less, nausea had gone and I was feeling better. Three years on I haven’t eaten any gluten intensively and when I’ve been a victim of cross contamination I know almost instantly as the pain reappears. Going gluten free was the best thing I ever did.

In three years I’ve never really had any issues, though one stand out memory was during a trip to Costa, they had a mint choc chip cooler on and I’d checked the ingredients online and it was all safe. I ordered it and started drinking. Then I felt a crunch which tasted suspiciously like cookie instead of chocolate chips. I spat it out but it was too late I’d  already drunk some. I hoped for the best but 10 minutes later I was running for the loo. I contacted them and they confirmed they’d run out of choc chips and replaced with cookie used in a different cooler without telling me. Headquarters gave them additional training and a slap on the wrist as they are not suppose to replace any ingredient without informing the customer. It was a nightmare moment but at least some good cane from it with the training.
~ Alison from Coeliac Sanctuary
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My partner and his family think I’m a drama queen and a bit of a spoilt madame! To keep the peace I agreed to go for a meal with his parents at their local Wetherspoon’s. I checked out the menu online and decided there were some things I could eat and they claimed to be allergy aware. I ordered the chicken salad and explained to the waiter I was Coeliac so no croutons etc. – he wrote it down and said he would tell the kitchen. When my food arrived it was covered in croutons and bits of who knows what that looked covered in flour. I quietly said to him, “I cant eat this its covered in croutons and things that will make me ill.” Oh yes, he said, “I did tell them. Best you pick it off yourself if I take it back that’s what they will do”!!! I made him take it away and asked for a plain salad with nothing on it, which he did. And yes you guessed it out came a plain salad covered in croutons! I explained again as civilly as I could that I really can’t eat this I’m a Coeliac it will make me seriously ill. So he took it away and minutes later I was presented with a bowl of lettuce and a tomato. I decided this was as good as it was going to get and ate it. Partner’s Mum asked if I was enjoying my special meal! I couldn’t be rude so grinned and said yes I love lettuce! We don’t go to Wetherspoon’s any more.
~ Belinda
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This is an excerpt from this blog post from Gluten Freak Abroad, used with kind permission from the writer.
COELIAC LIFE: the cringe-worthy experiences of a gluten FREAK
– being “the awkward one” at a restaurant: receiving glares from the waiting staff who either a) think you’re being vexatious and want to spit in your food b) have no idea what gluten is so try to offer their own guesstimate on whether the meal will contain gluten (well you can eat potatoes can’t you so it should be fine) c) confirm everything is gluten free to then blow up like a pufferfish an hour later
– declining every invite to a house where food is on offer, as you don’t want to put the chef out, couldn’t possibly take your own food and feel like an absolute fool asking to check the back of packets before you trust to consume anything
having to smile through gritted teeth at the faddy daddies who pride themselves on being “another awkward one” immediately after you have ordered, taking away any gravitas that your request had
– people assuming I’m gluten free for a health kick because I’m slim, so offering up a salad as their only gluten free choice. WHO THE HELL GOES OUT TO EAT A SALAD?
– having to pack at least 7kg of gluten free treats whenever I go abroad, or anywhere for that matter
– being told how awful my life must be and how said person couldn’t possibly give up gluten, one guy even told me ‘I think I’d kill myself if I were you’
– people turning their nose up at gluten free food as if I’m offering them dog biscuits. This is my life FFS sort your face out.
– spending all your time avoiding the above, only to have a gluten attack from an unknown, unidentifiable attacker, and spend all night doubled over in pain, wondering where it all went wrong.
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This is an excerpt from this blog post by Gluten Free and Glittery, used with kind permission from the writer.

Beginning my freshman year of college, I was sick after every meal. It started out as just stomach pains and cramping, but progressively got worse. Sure, I was eating a ton of junk food so I blamed it on this. But every couple of months I would end up with “food poisoning”—so bad that I would end up in the ER. How weird, right? How could I keep getting food poisoning especially when I was eating pizza or pasta? Bad luck, right? Well, between the ER visits, I started having chronic diarrhea and cramps after each meal starting at the beginning of my sophomore year. The pains were excruciating and I was constantly bloated. Fall 2011 was filled with constant migraines and extreme fatigue. My neurologist blamed my spike in migraines on being stressed in college and prescribed a higher dose beta blocker.

Fast forward to Christmas 2011, I spent the evening laying by the toilet, dumbfounded by how I could be so sick. I vowed to see a doctor and I did so shortly afterwards. Doctors have to take family history and I understand that—but as soon as I said my family has a history of stomach ulcers and that I went to a high pressure ivy league, the doctor automatically diagnosed me with stomach ulcers. He instructed me to only eat bagels to “soak up the acid” and add some peanut butter to get more protein. I was sent on my way with proton inhibitors and zofran to prevent vomiting/diarrhea.  I tried to stick with this “tummy friendly” diet and spent Spring 2012 as sick as can be. The fatigue and headaches increased as well as major mood swings and a significant drop in weight. My hair was falling out and my teeth were developing black spots, which my dentist blamed on sodas and coffees—neither of which I drank at the time. The amount of time spent in the bathroom far exceeded the amount of time spent eating. My canker sores were blamed on stress. Everything was blamed on stress. Pre-med overachiever? Yup, has to be the stress, right?

Finally, I realized that all I was eating was bread…what does bread contain? Gluten. My friend in college had celiac disease so the notion of celiac disease  popped in my mind.

[…]

When I woke up from the colonoscopy, the doctor informed me that the villi in my intestines were completely flattened and she could tell just by looking that I had celiac disease. Yes, my intestines were so damaged that they could be seen by the naked eye.

~ Gluten Free and Glittery

 

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Thank you to everyone who gave their stories for this blog post! If you want to give your story it’s not too late – you can send it via e-mail at glutenfreeveggieblog@gmail.com to have it included. Let’s help the world understand that there’s more to being Coeliac than just being gluten free.

Coeliac Awareness Week | Recipe (GF, V) | Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Pasta Bake

This is a really delicious way to pack in those extra vegetables!

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Ingredients (serves 2):

3 chestnut mushrooms

50g of fresh spinach

150g of gluten free pasta

500g of tomato passata

50g of ricotta

A sprinkling of cheddar

One teaspoon of tomato puree

Dried oregano and basil

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Method:

  1. Boil a pan of water and add the pasta. Cook as per instructions.
  2. Fry the mushrooms in a large frying pan. Once the mushrooms are cooked add the spinach and wilt.
  3. Once the spinach has wilted, add the passata, puree and herbs. Simmer until the pasta is cooked and then add together.
  4. Put into an oven proof dish and top with the grated cheddar. Dollop the ricotta over the top and grind some black pepper over the top.
  5. Place into the oven on gas mark 7 for 15 minutes or until the top starts to brown.

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Coeliac Awareness Week | Interview with Mark Kennett – The Gluten Free Chef

 

Mark Kennett is the head chef at 100% gluten free restaurant Oscar and Bentley’s in Canterbury, Kent. As well as creating delicious food for the public in Oscar and Bentley’s kitchen, Mark runs a Facebook page and groupThe Gluten Free Chef Gastronomic Rebel. Mark has worked hard to write up his tried and tested gluten free recipes and put them on these pages so that all of the Coeliac community has access to them. His generous supply of scrumptious gluten free recipes has been an inspiration for many newly diagnosed Coeliacs, encouraging them to cook and bake for themselves.

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week in the UK and Coeliac UK have given this year the theme “The Gluten Freevolution” to campaign for better awareness of eating out. This seemed like the perfect time to interview a man who is helping Coeliacs to eat out and in their own kitchens.

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What made you want to work in a 100% gluten free restaurant?
I actually got head hunted for the job it found me! I started to question my own abilities as a chef; so how do you actually make bread & cakes with out gluten?! Is it actually possible?! A thirst for knowledge & perseverance with the attitude of “if I don’t know how to make it I will find a way & make it happen! ”

As a trained chef, do you find gluten free cooking more challenging than “normal” cooking?
Not really most food is naturally gluten free so it’s not a problem, but it was challenging in the beginning. I had to do so much research on various gluten free flours, grains & starches – I remember after accepting the job role, months before I even designed Oscar & Bentleys kitchen I was given £60 to play with some gluten free flours & experiment at home, I spent a whole day & night trying to work out how to make gluten free Yorkshire puddings look & taste like “normal”. These days there are so many very good pre-mixed gluten free flour blends in supermarkets that quite often I don’t even have to change/tweak any of my recipes apart swapping normal flour for a pre-blended gluten free flour.

What is your favourite gluten free recipe to make?

At the moment it’s Chocolate, Almond & Chia seed cake with salted Caramel Ganache. It is currently O&B ‘a best selling cake this year!

Why do you think some non-Coeliac chefs struggle to understand the need for allergy/Coeliac safe food? (e.g Prue Leith’s anti-free from rant – replied to here

A lot of chefs simply just don’t know the full extent of how damaging it can be for someone who needs to eat a gluten free diet. There are some that think it hinders their creativity in the kitchen and I’m afraid there are a few who are just plain ignorant.

I don’t think cooking free from food hinders too much, of course it is a lot more difficult to create something totally free from and you will never get the same results, but some things do taste better for e.g. Gluten free beer batter does actually taste better &  stays crisper for longer!

Cooking free from actually opens up all sorts of possibilities & problems, the number of restaurants now offering at least gluten-free if not a wider range of allergen-free meals has been growing rapidly over the year. Of course, the ‘draconian’ regulations that were imposed by the 2014 food information regulations (https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/food-allergen-labelling-technical-guidance.pdf ) were not remotely draconian. All they actually required food service outlets to do was to know what was in their food, to know what the 14 major allergens were, and to be able to tell their customers whether any of those 14 allergens were in the foods that they were proposing to serve them. There was, and is, no requirement to actually offer any allergen-free food at all.
I do believe good free from food prepared safely should be mandatory I hear all too often people getting turned away a certain restaurants that can’t cater to there needs or  become ill due to poor training.
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Which three of your gluten free recipes do you think anyone could make?

Bread, Fruit Scones, Raspberry Frangipane. [join his group to follow the links!]

The Gluten free bread recipe is tried & tested hundreds of times , not just by me & my kitchen brigade but by several of the free from community who actually gave me a few tips on improving my gluten free bread recipe – it’s more of a thick batter than a traditional bread dough so requires no kneading!

The raspberry frangipane is pretty straight forward once the pastry has been made & rested its contains basic ingredients most homes stock in the cupboard & fridge. As a lot of free from cooking can & does ask for a lot of strange flours that are some times hard to find apart from on the internet that you will only use once or twice before the use by date!

The scone recipe, is and has become the most asked for recipe on how to produce a good gluten free scone. My recipe is very unorthodox way of making scones as the traditional method of ‘the virgin roll’ doesn’t apply to my gluten free recipe it is more like a very thick cake batter, but it produces the lightest, airiest scones. Most people who don’t follow or need a gluten free diet try them can’t believe there gluten free at all! Again I get loads of praise from the free from community how easy & lovely they are to make.

Are there any “normal” foods that you’ve yet to create a gluten free recipe for that you’re itching to make?

Pecan Danish pastry!!!! That’s would make very happy.

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Do you think the gluten free fad diet has aided or hindered Coeliac awareness overall?

I think it’s aided it there used to be so many people that never heard of it the media gave it a bad name but more & more people are opening up to the fact it’s not a fad & have a better understanding of it.
Are there any changes you would like to see in chain restaurants? For example, should they offer wider free from range or focus on cross contamination?

Gluten Cross contamination is a big problem a lot of kitchens and bakeries that offer any sort of gluten free goods ( unless there dedicated 100% gluten free ) as they just don’t have the space to have a dedicated area for gluten-free food preparation but education is a step forward in the right direction.

I think low gluten menus are just plain stupid, misinforming & confusing for newly diagnosed Coeliacs. Education is key and the Food Standard Agency need to do more to work with local EHO (environmental health officers) as opposed to relying on charities like Coeliac UK & Allergy UK. Although charities do accreditation it’s hard for small businesses to fund them on a yearly basis.

What is your favourite gluten free flour to work with?

I’m a big fan of chickpea flour, it makes a great substitute for eggs in a egg Free Spanish omelette, I use it to make Pudla an Indian flatbread with ginger, turmeric & coriander paired with My Aubergine chutney & Bengali curry. As for a Brand? Doves farm gluten free self raising flour.

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What hopes do you have for Coeliac Awareness in eateries in the future?

Education in the work place, I feel there needs to be more done to educate & help stop cross contamination of gluten with gluten free food

How does it feel to be a celebrity amongst the Coeliac community?

Me a Celebrity? Wow that’s big boots to fill! I feel honoured it’s nice to feel appreciated as working in kitchens is a thankless task.

 

A big thank you to Mark for agreeing to be a part of this! Don’t forget to check out his Facebook page and Oscar and Bentley’s website!

Coeliac Awareness Week | Coeliacs Who Still Eat Gluten

In the past two and half years since I first went gluten free, I’ve met all kinds of Coeliacs – those who turned their entire household gluten free, those who are completely grain free and avoid processed foods, those who don’t trust anything not labelled gluten free, those who are terrified of cross contamination like me. I used to think that there was no “wrong way” to be a Coeliac. My open minded consideration of all of these different ways of coping with the disease allowed me to see that everyone deals with their diagnosis differently.

Then I spoke to a few people who have dealt with it in potentially the worst way possible: by burying their heads in the sand and continuing to eat gluten.

This is not a witch hunt, nor a shaming or a judgemental rant – this is a blog post reflecting on the fact that we cannot make everyone see the damage they are doing when they don’t go gluten free but also attempting to educate anyone who comes across this post and is still eating gluten.

The most common examples I’ve seen (though there are people who refuse to go gluten free at all) are those who “fall off the wagon” and give in to temptation, or even more worryingly those who take “cheat weeks”. These “cheat weeks” seem to be where a Coeliac books time off from work (allowing themselves to be ill at home) and eats all of the gluten containing foods they miss. Posts such as these on Facebook groups such as Coeliacs in the UK have been inevitably met with a torrid of hate and abuse. This is harsh, but comes from a place of worry and shock. Whilst it’s the individual’s decision, to those of us diagnosed and educated about our condition it seems crazy that anyone would still take the risk of multiple health issues in the future.

To those of you not sure what health risks I mean, the list is long and quite frightening including  small bowel cancer, osteoporosis and malabsorption leading to severe anaemia and B12 deficiencyCoeliacs who do not go gluten free have a small increased risk of bowel cancer:

One of the first studies to suggest a link appeared in American Journal of Medicine(2003); it reviewed statistics from 381 celiac disease patients seen between 1981 and 2000 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Researchers found a higher-than-expected incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of the small bowel, esophageal cancer and melanoma in this group. B-cell lymphoma and enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma are two types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

This study has been snubbed as the sample size is relatively small and the patients that took the survey may specifically have been coming to the clinic with concerns. However, Coeliac UK points out (in the page linked above) that “[r]esearch suggests that the risk of developing these specific types of cancer decreases with time from diagnosis of coeliac disease to nearly the same as occurs in the general population”. Essentially this means that going gluten free and allowing your gut to heal reduces your risk of these cancers to the same as non-Coeliacs BUT not going gluten free leaves you with a heightened risk.

Osteoporosis seems like another big gamble for those who decide not to go gluten free after diagnosis. Coeliac UK makes it quite clear: “You can help lessen the chances of developing osteoporosis by: following a strict gluten-free diet to make sure you absorb all the nutrients from the food you eat”. The long term effects of osteoporosis are quite shocking and would not be pleasant to live with. The NHS says, “Sometimes a cough or sneeze can cause a rib fracture or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine. Osteoporosis isn’t usually painful until a fracture occurs, but spinal fractures are a common cause of long-term (chronic) pain.”

To top it off, the anaemia and B12 deficiency caused by the damaged guts malabsorption of nutrients can cause debilitating symptoms such as constant tiredness, heart palpitations, hair loss, open sores,  muscle weakness, depression and memory issues.

Coeliac UK have worked hard to dispel myths about Coeliac disease and to educate those diagnosed with it. I want to highlight something from this page on their website:

Coeliac myths

Another factor that must be considered is silent Coeliacs. These are Coeliacs who do not have gut symptoms or debilitating short term effects. Silent Coeliacs can often eat gluten without any symptoms at all. There are two worries with this – firstly, that they will not know if they have been glutened (but will still have gut damage), but secondly that they may be more likely to relapse and eat gluten. Several of the silent Coeliacs (who did not want to be featured in this post) that I’ve spoken to have admitted to eating gluten again, as they know it won’t make them immediately ill. It’s easy to forget about the long term effects and think that every now and then it’s okay to have something with gluten in – but hopefully I’ve shown above that even the tiniest amount must be avoided.

Whilst most Coeliacs are working hard to even avoid the tiniest amount of gluten for fear of gut damage, there are still those who find their gluten filled treats too difficult to give up, ignoring the worry of future issues. To those of you still struggling to go gluten free I say this: do not give up. You may find gluten tempting but those the NHS and Coeliac UK are not exaggerating these health risks. Is that KFC, stuffed crust pizza or jam doughnut really worth risking your life for?

 

Coeliac Awareness Week | A Coeliac’s View of Food Shopping

This is rather different to the blog posts I usually do, but as it’s Awareness Week I thought I’d write a blog post aimed at non-Coeliacs. This post of course applies to anyone living with a dietary restriction, not just Coeliacs, but as it’s CAW, I’ve kept it specific to Coeliacs.

A small disclaimer before I begin, just to stem any negative comments – this is my own experience and observations, I do not speak for all Coeliacs/gluten intolerant individuals. I am aware of how lucky we are in comparison to Coeliacs who were diagnosed 10+ years ago – and compared to some others with far more debilitating chronic illnesses – but that does not mean that we should settle for what we have and stop campaigning for better options, availability and awareness.

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It’s no exaggeration that “free from” is a growing market – the free from aisles are expanding and the range of products is increasing periodically. Even so, it can be a disheartening experience for someone who knows they can never eat gluten again without being seriously ill to walk through a supermarket.

Above is a few snapshots of part of ASDA’s “normal” bakery and cake section. 99% of these parts of the supermarket will either contain gluten, or be unsafe for Coeliacs due to manufacturing processes. If you’re not Coeliac and you want chocolate trifle, tear n share garlic bread, freshly baked chocolate chip pancakes, Smarties cookies, sesame seed buns, potato cakes, scones, eccles cakes, English muffins, crumpets etc etc etc for just a few pounds per packet – it’s all right there, with very little fear of it being out of stock or becoming discontinued. This is something I took for granted before diagnosis and I never realised the regret I would feel for not trying each and every item!

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For a  little perspective, here are the two snaps I took of the “free from” aisle in ASDA today. Compared to a few years ago this is massively expanded, yet I ask you to really consider the range of choice here – no poppy seed bagels, chocolate crepes or Star Wars Birthday cakes for those of us with Coeliac disease. “My store has a much wider range,” I hear you say – but that’s precisely the issue – the range on offer is inconsistent, and sometimes I can’t even buy bread at my local supermarket if they haven’t had a delivery in. What’s more if you really look at what is on offer here, you will see an array on snacks, biscuits, rice cakes, but very little substantial. This is something most supermarkets are aware of and are working to change – for example Marks and Spencer’s and Tesco’s have introduced a huge amount of new free from products this year.

Even with an expanded range, due to the supply issues and niche demand for gluten free food, the prices of free from food are out of a lot of people’s budgets. A loaf of bread can be anywhere from £2-4 depending on the brand.

Don’t get me wrong – nobody should be basing their entire diet on the free from aisle. And whilst I quite enjoy living on a diet based around fruit, vegetables, rice and dairy, it would be nice to walk to into a supermarket and be able to grab something which non-coeliacs take for granted.

I want to make it clear that I don’t mean to bemoan supermarkets – after all they are working on a supply and demand basis – but sometimes you have to walk in someone’s shoes to start to experience their life. I hope this blog post has helped to provoke someone’s thoughts or even just give some insight into gluten free living.

Coeliac Awareness Week | Recipe (GF, Vegan) | Vegan Cashew Burgers

Uncharacteristically for England in early May the weather was utterly gorgeous this weekend, and so my boyfriend and I had an impromptu BBQ with one of his housemates. The weather was lush, we had potato salad and ice lollies for after, all we needed was the burgers!

Now there are a few gluten free vegetarian burgers in shops – Create A Good Life, Linda McCartney and Quorn to name a few – but due to me not being able to eat onions, garlic and soya because of my IBS, all of these leave me in agony. So I botched together something – partially inspired by this video by Edgy Veg, as I’d never thought to use potato as a binder – using the veg I had in the fridge and some cashews. You can use whatever veg you have, but I love mushrooms, so they were my main vegetable with courgette to bulk it out and add some greenery!

I cooked mine on the BBQ but they can be shallow fried or baked too.

This makes roughly 5 burgers, but I made 4 and 3 small meatballs!

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Ingredients:

1 large new potato, peeled

4 slices of gluten free bread

50g approx. of cashews (soaked for about half an hour)

3 baby courgettes or 1 large courgette

6 button mushrooms

Smoked paprika to taste

Dried oregano

Dried thyme

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Method:

  1. Boil water for the potato and add one chopped potato. Boil for around 20 minutes. In a small frying pan cook grated courgette and chopped mushrooms. In a bowl of cold water, soak the cashews.
  2. Once all of the veg is cooked, drain the potatoes and add all of the ingredients to the blender including the herbs and spices.
  3. Blitz until the consistency is smooth and holds together in your hand.
  4. Rub your hands with a small amount of olive oil and shape into burgers and meatballs. Place onto greaseproof paper or foil and refrigerate for around 30 mins – this is not vital but I found it helped hold it together when being BBQed. Alternatively bake for 10 minutes before putting on the BBQ.
  5. Cook on the BBQ for about 20 minutes with olive oil, turning half way through.

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Recipes every Monday, blog posts every Friday! See my previous recipe here.

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Coeliac Awareness Week | A Guide to Coeliac Disease

It’s Coeliac Awareness Week this week (9th-15th May 2016) and so I thought the best thing I could do to help raise awareness was to compile a simple guide to the disease, to help give people all of the information I can from one place. If you are looking for a guide to starting a gluten free diet, see my post from last year here for advice.

This post is the padded out and edited version of this Tumblr post that I made last year for awareness week. I was astounded by the amount of reblogs and messages of support that I received from people who had experiences with the disease, or just wanted to help.

Alas, Tumblr is not the best medium for creating a serious post with all of the relevant information (as you can see I created it on my fan page for Red Dwarf – not exactly the ideal place for a post about an auto-immune disease!) and so I have decided to extend it here.

All information I have used from other websites has been sourced and linked and is given in quotation marks. Any parts not sourced are from my own knowledge of the disease or my own experiences.

 

 

Coeliac Disease – the facts

(Source: Coeliac UK Website)

“What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac and spelled celiac in other countries) is a lifelong autoimmune disease. It is caused by the immune system reacting to gluten.

How common is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is common and affects one in 100 people. However only 24% who have the condition have been diagnosed which means there are currently nearly half a million people who have coeliac disease but don’t yet know. If a first degree family member (such as mother, father, sister or brother) has the condition then the chances of having it increase to one in 10.

What causes coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with coeliac disease eats gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the lining of the small intestine.

What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?

Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, mouth ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia.

What is the treatment for coeliac disease?

Once diagnosed, the only treatment for coeliac disease is a gluten-free diet. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. Some people are also sensitive to oats. Once gluten is removed from the diet, you should start to feel much better.”

(The following information is from the NHS website):

“Complications

Complications of coeliac disease only tend to affect people who continue to eat gluten or who have yet to be diagnosed with the condition, which can be a common problem in milder cases.

Potential long-term complications include:

Less common and more serious complications include those affecting pregnancy, such as having a low-birth weight baby, and some types of cancers, such as bowel cancer.”

 

Coeliac disease can affect anyone. Some Coeliacs do not have symptoms (known in the community as “silent coeliacs”), or have very mild symptoms and only find out about the condition due to family members being diagnosed. Symptoms can often be confused with other conditions – see Coeliacs UK’s page about symptoms here for more information on this.

The only way to stop the effects of Coeliac Disease is to go onto a gluten free diet. This essentially means that those of us living with the disease have to cut out foods such as pasta, bread, pizza, cakes, some breakfast cereals, ready made foods and do a lot of research before eating out. Gluten is hidden in lots of foods that you wouldn’t even know about – soy sauce, mustard, cous cous, some sweets, some chocolate, even chips sometimes have a wheat coating!

To top it off, even a single gluten-containing breadcrumb/flour/bit of food falling into our food by accident can make us ill. This is called cross contamination of gluten, and is a great fear for Coeliacs and those with other gluten related illnesses, so special preparation areas are often needed, at home and in eateries.

As you can see living gluten free is far from easy. Gluten free alternatives are becoming more and more available all the time but we need the help of non-coeliacs.

The more people who are aware, the more companies will cater for us, so please share this, share it with friends and family, on other sites, print it out and stick it up somewhere, and not only could you be helping to diagnose someone, you could be making a difficult illness slightly easier to live with.

It is also important to know that some people can have gluten intolerance, or sensitivities. This means their illness is not auto-immune like Coeliac disease but often has similar symptoms. People with these illnesses may not have to remove gluten all together as they may be able to tolerate small amounts without damaging the gut. Gluten intolerance is still a difficult condition to live with, and in a lot of cases it is not taken seriously because it is confused with the fad diet – some people use gluten free as a way to try to lose weight (p.s this has not been proven, and often doesn’t work, this video from Unnatural Vegan on youtube gives a lot of information about this). Gluten intolerance is often diagnosed in a similar way to Coeliac disease, except that endoscopy results for CD will be negative. Many with gluten intolerance live the same lifestyle as someone with CD, removing gluten completely, and cross contamination can lead to “glutening” for them too.

If you have any of the above symptoms please go to your doctor. If you would like to donate to Coeliac UK please do so here. If you have questions about the illness feel free to e-mail me (glutenfreeveggieblog@gmail.com), but I would recommend going to Coeliac UK or the NHS website for more details, as I can only use my own experience, I’m not a doctor. Coeliac UK also have Twitter and Facebook if you would prefer informal advice.

 

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