Newly diagnosed as coeliac? Are you intolerant to certain foods or have you been diagnosed as having a food allergy? If so this can be the beginning of a looking inwards, focusing on what you can’t eat and letting all the restrictions hang over you like a gloomy cloud. That need not be the case though. I’ve found that if I just take a little time to understand my restrictions and come to terms with them I can then adjust and introduce new, different and varied foods to my diet. My restrictions will not master me, but rather will be the cause of me adventuring further. Maybe we should begin by talking a little about coeliac disease or gluten allergy and intolerance.
Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease that usually affects our guts. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy but caused by intolerance to gluten, (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and also in oats by contamination in the field or mill) Damage to the gut lining occurs when gluten is eaten. In addition to gut problems, some sufferers experience skin and neurological problems too.
Diagnosis of coeliac disease
To diagnose coeliac disease you can try , to begin with, the elimination method. That is as it says, eliminating gluten from your diet. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats, so eliminate foods with these ingredients. If you find there is significant improvement in your symptoms when you exclude these, then ask your doctor for a blood test to confirm this is the cause. The blood test will detect any antibodies and can be followed up with an endoscopy and biopsy to make absolutely sure that is what we are dealing with. There is a little complication to mention here: If you have eliminated gluten from your diet for a while before your blood test then the test will be inaccurate as there will be less antibodies. You will need to have been eating gluten before your blood test for the results to be meaningful but your doctor will advise. It can be common to misread coeliac disease as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but the blood tests and biopsy should clarify this.
For newly diagnosed coeliacs
Once diagnosed, you need to keep an eye out for gluten hiding in your foods. Some products are obvious: bread, cakes, puddings and pies. But make sure you familiarise yourself with gluten free brands of gravy mix, custard powder, ice creams, chocolates, breakfast cereals, beer and larger etc. Anything which may have wheat, rye, oats and barley included in the processing or preparation. Even things like soya sauce or chips may be off the menu for you as some soy sauces contain fermented barley or wheat while the local chippie may have fried breaded fish in that fat and your chips will be contaminated. Newly diagnosed coeliacs don’t worry, you will find gluten free brands of most of these products from specialist shops and health foods shops as well as the Free-From shelves of your local supermarket. GoodnessDirect of course, specialises in a comprehensive range of gluten free foods as well as other special diet foods.
There is no cure for coeliac disease
There is no cure for coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds – a change of lifestyle means that you can live with your disease without it affecting your quality of life at all. Newly diagnosed coeliacs, you are not alone At least 1 in 100 people are estimated to suffer from coeliac disease in the UK and also 1 in 100 in Europe, with some evidence to support that only 10-15% cases are diagnosed. If coeliacs follow a a gluten-free diet they should find their health can be very stable and the dire consequences of non diagnosis avoided. The extreme symptoms of coeliac disease can lead to conditions such as malnutrition, osteoporosis, bowel cancer and also cause infertility problems.
Gluten intolerance is not the same as coeliac disease in that it is not an allergic reaction but more an irritation. It is not as extreme but is treated in exactly the same way – gluten avoidance. For more information on gluten intolerance visit the gluten free special diet section at GoodnessDirect.