We’re not doctors, but some of us at Delicious Alchemy have lived with allergies, food intolerances and coeliac disease for many years. So we know what it’s like living gluten free for life. And it’s far from doom and gloom. This is our take on it.
A healthy gluten free diet is a good thing
Give your body the best chance to stay well by sticking as much as possible to a healthy, balanced diet that works for you. In our minds, you can’t go wrong with lots of fruits and veggies, plenty of protein and energising carbohydrates – with the occasional treat thrown in for good measure!
What to look out for - the Gluten Free goodies
The good news is that the list of grains, cereals, flours and seeds you can eat is much longer than the list of those you can’t. Potatoes are fine and very versatile, as is rice and corn (maize). Did you know that chickpea flour (also called gram flour) is naturally gluten free and features in many Indian dishes? Polenta, quinoa (a South American grain), millet are all naturally gluten-free and very nutritious.
What to avoid - the Gluten Free baddies
Gluten filled grains that you must exclude from your diet include barley, rye, bulgur wheat, couscous, durum wheat (mostly found in pasta), einkorn, emmer and kamut; pearl barley, semolina, spelt, triticale and, of course, wheat.
Some of these, like einkorn, emmer, kamut, spelt and triticale may be new to you. Most are ancient grains rarely used in this country, others are hybrids of wheat and other grains. It’s handy to know the names if you’re travelling abroad, etc.
See our useful guide for more information.
Give yourself time to adjust to your new gluten free diet
At first, you may find your body rebels against some foods that are supposed to be ‘good for you’. We know that some newly diagnosed coeliacs have lactose intolerance.
This should settle down in time, but it is important to ask your GP about calcium supplements.
Some people find that soy products are difficult to cope with at first. Many gluten-free products found in supermarkets contain soya, so it’s back to the label reading.
Also, some fruits like pineapples scour the digestive system and can give you problems. Best give then a miss for a while.
Exercise is important
We all know how important it is to keep moving. And having Coeliac disease doesn’t mean a lifetime of sofa slobbery. But be kind to yourself. If you’re feeling a little low, try something gentle like yoga.
The key is to try and exercise at least 3 times a week, building it up gradually. Activities like walking and cycling help to build bone, especially important for coeliacs. And it will make you feel better, lift your spirits and your energy levels.
Eating out whilst avoiding Gluten
We all love eating out – no washing up for a start! However, if you’re starting out on your gluten free journey, it can be a seriously daunting experience. How can you be sure that what you’re about to eat hasn’t been contaminated with gluten?
The good news is that the catering industry is becoming more and more clued up about gluten free foods and allergies in general. The fantastic charity Coeliac UK have a handy shortcut to make it easy to identify accredited venues – just look out for the GF symbol.
If you’re ever in doubt, speak to the chef. In our experience, they’re always really helpful.
Take your Gluten Free rations with you
Going out for the day? Not sure where you’ll be eating or what time you’ll be back? Take your emergency rations with you. A gluten free cereal bar, an apple and banana are all useful things to have in your bag in case you get peckish.
Getting it wrong - what to do next
Getting ‘glutened’ – unfortunately it’s something that happens to all of us. Sometimes it’s down to a simple mistake, sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that a little gluten won’t do you any harm.
Even if you have no symptoms or after-effects from eating a small amount of gluten, it will activate your body’s defences and damage your intestines.
Here’s what works for us.
Drink plenty of water. It will help move the gluten through your system as quickly as possible, minimising the damage.
Sleeping off the effects is often a good way to get over an attack, if it is not too severe. Some people are able to tolerate anti-inflammatory tablets (such as ibuprofen) to help minimise the effects of eating gluten but bear in mind they can also disagree with troubled digestive systems and need to be taken with food.
Don’t forget to always consult your doctor if you’re unsure