So what exactly is celiac disease? (otherwise know as Coeliac Sprue)
I am only giving a basic description so anyone reading my blog can grasp the concept and I have included links for you to research in detail. In a nutshell it’s an autoimmune response to gluten a protein found in certain grains,most commonly wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt (among others).
The intake of this protein makes a persons immune system attack healthy tissue in the small intestine (small bowel), villi (little wiggly bits that absorb nutrients from food via the wall of the small intestine and into the blood stream). It causes the villi to lie flat and not do their job efficiently. The trouble with having unhealthy villi is that no matter how much goodness you think you are putting into your body, your body will stop itself taking any out of it. The end result is to become malnourished and this can lead to a whole load of different health complications. This NHS link gives basic information about celiac disease.
Celiac disease can be hereditary or brought on later than childhood by trauma, I believe
this to be the case with me as I only started developing symptoms when I had been hit by a car at 14. As I grew older and I didn’t have my parents cook for me so much I started living on sandwiches and my body didn’t like it, then I started drinking lager and I believed it was the bubbles causing the pain in my abdomen. Silly I know, but when Anita said to me “you can’t have celiac disease my auntie did and she almost died!” I didn’t know what to think until my bloods came back and proved her wrong…..much to my gloating delight!
Symptoms are analysed followed by a set of blood tests. Following the blood test the next step is to have a duodenal endoscope to examine the state and extent of any damage caused to the villi in the small intestine.
Some common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain;
- Diarrhea / Constipation;
- Pale, foul smelling and/or fatty stool/gas;
- Weight loss (not always true, was not in my case);
- Mouth ulcers;
- Bone joint pain;
- Missed menstrual periods;
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet;
- Dermatitis herpetiformis;
- Hair loss;
Some other symptoms and complications include:
- Infertility or miscarriage.
This Patient UK website details some other complications that may occur, it also tells about how it is diagnosed.
So what does it mean to be gluten free?…
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten free diet, that means no ordinary shop bought bread, or biscuits, or cakes, or pasta, or OXO cubes and no quick fire food decisions on the go. Gluten containing ingredients are not only found in food products, but they can be found in many beauty products and cosmetics and be absorbed through the skin so it is important to check ingredients on everything you eat or use.
When meeting someone with celiac disease you’ll often here the following: “I suffer from celiac disease!”
THIS IS NOT TRUE, these days no-one SUFFERS from celiac disease. It’s not as hard as it was to be gluten free. I’m not saying that people who have developed serious conditions stemming from celiac disease do not suffer, they do, but not from celiac disease itself.
It is inconvenient, time consuming, stressful and the ready made food isn’t always the best but along with this comes the healthy feeling of waking up from prolonged lethargy, getting a massive energy injection, zero bloating, healthy eating and a better well being.
So really, what does it mean to be gluten free?
You can’t stop just any place for a bite to eat or a snack – TRUE in terms of picking up a sandwich (although I hear M&S have started a range, they just don’t make them near me) but you can prepare meals in advance and gluten free bread has gotten pretty good these days. You can even make your own bread, biscuits, and cakes to take a packed lunch.
Supermarkets are a nightmare – NOT TRUE, most supermarkets have a free from section and this is useful to those who are new to gluten free products. Once you are used to common ingredients to watch out for it’s easy to shop in the rest of the supermarket. Most of the major players in UK supermarkets have improved their product range in all areas of the store so you really do need to look around.
You can’t go on holiday – NOT TRUE, most UK/European airports will allow you to take your own food into the airport for consumption on a plane if meals are not included and some airport restaurants provide gluten free meals. Within the European union you can take food for personal use through in your suitcase if you are going self catering and some long haul flights offer gluten free options as well as many other options.
As the saying goes “2/3 ain’t bad” … believe me when I say you will not starve.
I think of it in a positive way, as in it means I can only eat healthy options. I can have as much meat, fish, vegetables and fruit as I like and the only thing you need is a little imagination and perseverance….or a wonderful girlfriend who loves cooking 🙂
What can I say…I’m blessed.
So during this blog I will post gluten free finds from supermarkets, restaurants and various other places around the world.
Specifically gluten free food will contain a logo something similar to the M&S one below, they usually depict wheat with some form of cross bar or “no go” sign through it.