Most decent restaurants and cafes seem to be genned up on alternative eating these days. Chefs actually know about Coeliac Disease and the importance of providing gluten free food for the 1 in 100 people who suffer from this auto immune complaint, not to mention the dangers of cross contamination in the kitchen. His and Her toasters are a must if you are one of them.
I'm always delighted to find gluten free alternatives in places where I've never found them before. Now I can pop in to John Lewis's cafe in Cheadle for a Genius bread sandwich or even Starbucks at Manchester's Piccadilly Station. Fortunately, they're all wrapped so no danger of cross contamination. But wandering round my local park I stopped for a cuppa at the little cafe in the grounds and was delighted to find gluten free coconut cakes on offer; not so delighted when the serving person picked up my cake with the same tongs she'd just used to pick up my companion's chocolate cake. Fortunately, I haven't had a reaction - yet.
Coeliac Disease: The Essential Guide
Writer Kate Coxon has produced this informative book from Need2Know Books giving the basic lowdown on Coeliac Disease, its diagnosis, treatment and symptoms. She goes into the best diet for people with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease, how to shop, cook and eat at home, information about getting NHS prescriptions for food and how to overcome the difficulties on finding gluten free food on holiday or while travelling.
Coeliac Disease is quite hard to diagnose. The symptoms are similar to other complaints, like IBS or wheat intolerance and many people in the process of becoming coeliac are often incorrectly diagnosed. It can take an average of 13 years to diagnose. Meanwhile, sufferers could be developing related health conditions like diabetes, anaemia or low thyroid without the link being discovered. Tests bring false negatives and false positives. My own biopsy produced a negative and it was a long time afterwards, when I knew more about the condition, that I realised I had been on one of my frequent yo-yo exclusion diets and hadn't been eating any gluten for a while before the biopsy took place; nobody had even told me I was having one.And I woke up in the middle of it - v-e-r-y painful; I don't recommend it.
So what is Coeliac Disease? Coeliac Disease is actually an auto-immune disease, when the body attacks self. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It's that sticky stuff that gives bread its light, fluffy feel, so good for comfort eating. Some sufferers cannot tolerate oats, although the gluten in oats is not the same and most people can tolerate it. Oats are often produced in the same environment as gluten grains and become cross contaminated anyway. Nowadays, gluten-free oats are available and I can recommend Nairn's wonderful gluten-free porridge and oatcakes.
Gluten is the trigger and it creates an immune reaction that affects the gut lining and stops it from absorbing nutrients efficiently. It produces a wide range of symptoms, such as persistent diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, pain, headaches, tiredness and much more; it varies from person to person. Some suffer from endless viruses and infections because of the impaired immune system.
Coeliac Disease is neither treatable nor curable. The only way to keep it under control and stop attacks is to avoid gluten for good. Nowadays, gluten-free foods are freely available in supermarkets, health food shops, internet shopping and other outlets. The labelling is now clearer so shoppers can see which foods are out of bounds to them. Fosters fish and chippy in Didsbury, Manchester and Alderley Edge, Cheshire have gluten free Sundays to which I hie down for my weekly treat and my own great niece's husband in Southport has a chippy that does the same.
The UK Coeliac Society is a great support organisation and its members receive a Food and Drink Directory telling them what gluten-free foods are available and where and they produce a magazine called Crossed Grain.