Experiencing digestive problems can be very distressing and confusing. This is what we’ve found out along our journey from feeling rubbish to our new-found gluten free lust for life. We hope you find it helpful, but remember, we’re coeliacs, foodies and serial cake bakers, not doctors. If you’re feeling unwell, your GP is always your first port of call.
The most common food sensitivities in the UK are against wheat and gluten. They tend to cause three different conditions that can be all too easily confused. Food allergy, food intolerance and coeliac disease:
The science behind a Gluten Free diet
Those of us with coeliac disease suffer these conditions because gluten reactions flatten the villi in the small bowel.
Villi are tiny tubes that line the gut and they absorb vitamins and minerals for us. When they are flattened, they cannot do this well, if at all. This renders a person constantly run down and if coeliac disease remains undiagnosed, it can cause long-term health problems such as pernicious anemia and osteoporosis.
For this reason, people with coeliac disease must adhere to a strict gluten free diet.
Only a gluten free diet will allow the small bowel to heal and the villi to stand up and start absorbing all of our vitamins again.
20ppm is considered the safe/acceptable limit for people with coeliac disease, but each person’s exact tolerance level will be slightly different. However after diagnosis, it is important to stick to a gluten free diet, even if you have no adverse symptoms. Some people don’t suffer any obvious symptoms but gluten can still be doing damage.
Gluten Free label reading
From January 2012, all food labeled ‘gluten free’ has to be less than 20 parts per million gluten. Even before that, all Delicious Alchemy products are guaranteed to be less than 20 parts per million gluten. And many contain far, far less then that. Which means they should be suitable for everyone. In fact, all of our products contain far, far less than 20 parts per million gluten, which is a microscopic amount in itself, because our aim is to eradicate gluten contamination altogether and each product is tested throughout the supply chain to ensure this.
It is essential, if diagnosed with coeliac’s disease to eliminate every scrap of gluten from your diet, so how will you know if you’ve done this? Well, you are about to become the world’s best label-reader! Even though coeliac’s disease is not an allergy, it is treated as one in the food industry. There is allergen labeling on most processed food products which will enable you to make a few basic decisions.
Most reliable manufacturers will include an allergy information box on their products but it is always wise to read the ingredients list as well, just to be sure.
Finding gluten free products in the UK is quite easy. Most major supermarkets have Free From bays and you can also find GF products in health food shops, on the internet and in some chemists.
Learn to listen to your body
Conditions associated with coeliac disease are diabetes and thyroiditis. If you have coeliac disease and you are suffering from strange, inexplicable symptoms then consider whether you may have developed either of these conditions. If you are generally under the weather and starting to live life from the sofa, this is a tell tale sign that something is wrong. It may just be that your iron levels are low, which can be determined with a simple blood test but generally, you need to keep a close eye on things with the help of your GP.
Some of the symptoms of diabetes are increased thirst, increased need to urinate and losing weight for no reason but there are many, many more. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please go to the doctor and ask for a test for diabetes. It may seem like a pain and ‘yet another’ health issue to deal with but it’s very important because diabetes is extremely dangerous if it goes untreated.
Symptoms of thyroiditis include excessive fatigue, poor appetite, inexplicable weight gain or loss, dry skin, mood swings, hair loss, depression, insomnia, over heating, joint pains.
Following your diagnosis with coeliac disease, the first step will be with your GP, who will discuss with you whether you need to see a dietician or be offered a bone density scan.
This scan is similar to an x-ray and it checks the density of the bones in your hip joint. It should tell you whether you have symptoms of osteoporosis.
This is incredibly important to find out. If your bone density is lower than it should be then you may need to go on a course of high calcium supplements to ward off osteoporosis in later life.
You may also be offered some gluten-free products on prescription and/or supplements. If not raise this with your GP.
You may also want to explore the extensive Coeliac UK website, which offers an array of help in every area.