Saturday 4 April 2015

Coeliac disease & Gluten-free diet

Hello there!

As I mentioned in the last post, my partner, David has coeliac disease and that we have been living on a gluten-free diet :)

To be honest, I have never heard of coeliac disease before I met him, and I believe still many people have little knowledge about it.

So, now let me invite Coeliac UK to explain about the disease...:)

For the question of "What is gluten?" please visit here!

Coeliac Disease: 
 " a well defined, serious illness where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and means that the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease."
"1 in 100 people have the condition" 

"Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia" 
"Once diagnosed, it is treated by following a gluten-free diet for life"

David suffered tremendously from consuming normal bread, cereals and beer without knowing everyday intake of gluten was the one causing him all those horrible symptoms before he was diagnosed as coeliac.

At the beginning of our relationship, I was too scared to cook for him or go out for meals because I was afraid that I might make him suffer, which was obviously the last thing I wanted to do, and even when I cooked, I was worried about him until the next day...

Nonetheless, a several months ago, the 2-day intake of small royal jelly supplements from health shop triggered David's coeliac disease as it contained gluten, which we found out after his health got worse...:'(

This experience has become a harsh reminder for us that we have to be careful with gluten not only in food that contains wheat, barley or rye, but also in medicines, supplements, toothpaste, and products with "This may contain gluten" signs.

So that in order to avoid every possibility, we decided to have gluten-free toasts or frozen ready meals instead of cooking ourselves from scratch, and get products only from gluten-free sections, which all ended up very very very pricey.

For a while, our weekly meal was planned as:
Morning & Lunch: prescribed gluten free bread or cereals that he got from pharmacy 
Weekdays: gluten free ready made food (e.g.) Indian curry with rice or gluten free certified sausages & fish fingers with frozen vegetables 
Weekends: roast chicken & veggies without any gravy
Drinks: water, green tea or sometimes Jack Daniels & coke

It sounds silly now, but I seriously thought we would have to stick to this gluten-free weekly meal plan for the rest of our life! :)

But luckily, ever since I got gluten-free recipe books for Christmas which inspired us to cook and turned our food table much happier! :)

Learning more about coeliac disease from books & websites, and knowing that we can make sure that all the ingredients are gluten-free by checking every label of products also helped us to open up our everyday meal ideas and enjoy having gluten-free diet :)

In this way, we learnt how to save our food expenses as well!*

Before, monthly food expenses for two of us were £250 - though we never dined out & only had tiny little bit of alcohol together- whereas now that we started cooking by ourselves more, we spend around £140 per month on groceries :)

* Still gluten-free food often costs between 76 - 518% more than wheat-based groceries!
(Source: A gluten free diet, how much will it cost you?, CBC News, 2014.)

So, in order to save some bits of money, I use online supermarket (ASDA Home delivery!) and spend some time to plan our meals in advance with products from "free from" section (e.g. pasta, cereals, flour mix, soy sauce, etc.) and fresh food (e.g. vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, rice, etc.) - I always freeze them right away or just get cheap frozen ones :)

It's much easier to shop especially now that ASDA has little gluten-free signs all over its groceries section :) Thank you ASDA!

Every time I shop in ASDA, Co-operative, or any other supermarkets, I am always impressed and grateful for a variety of gluten-free products available everywhere - it's the same in some other European countries I've been to as well :)

I think my level of appreciation is especially high because...

1. I'd never ever seen any products that call itself as gluten-free in normal supermarkets in Japan,
2. plus I reckon it will take ages for Japanese market to transform into coeliac-friendly as there are way too many products with soy sauce & wheat + cross-contamination,
3. but after all, it's all because there might be less demand from people as the number of coeliac patients there is low compared to other Western countries.

Gluten-free diet & Weight-loss

Anyhow this supply of gluten-free products in Europe & the US seemed to increasingly develop as the demand for gluten-free diet - as a mean to lose weight - widely spread out.

Lucky me (or not) as a longtime dieter who kept failing, I have lost weights as I changed my diet to gluten-free with David :)

But ironically, I believe that it was more to do with the amount of food that we could afford to eat at that time being far less than the amount that I used to have back home, so it was not because I cut out gluten :)

So, most certainly, the shift from Japanese 3 times-a-day-with-bowls-of-rice-diet was definitely the key to my weight loss! :D

Gluten-free diet & Demerit

One more important thing to note is that gluten free diet needs to be carefully coordinated as it can easily lack necessary nutrients for human such as "fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, folate, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, as well as in calories and protein".

(Source: Celiac Disease Foundation → such a brilliant website about coeliac!)

To deal with this issue, we often resort to supplements while eating lots of vegetables & fruits (gluten-free oats, broccoli, carrots, peas, blueberries, bananas, apples, oranges) to make it up :)

Also, some critics say that long-term gluten-free diet can cause another health problems because gluten-free products tend to substitute more butter, oil and sugar for the similar texture or flavour of gluten-based products, which often end up high in calories and fat.  
Funnily, some call it "Gluten-free junk food" :D hahaha 
Personally, I think gluten-free food, especially sweets - either homemade or processed- are not different at all in terms of its effects on our health, and it seems better to me in a way that many of the companies that produce gluten-free food often have high standards & ethics of their ingredients as well as their products. 

Gluten-free market & Media

As for these particular reasons, media seems to have negative reactions against the trend of non-coeliac people switching their dietary into gluten-free one only because they want to lose weight, and claims it nonsense as there is no scientific evidence of the effect anyways.
Apart from the issue of lack of nutritions in gluten-free diet, I would also understand this responses of the media in the way as I assume all those powerful wheat manufactory and restaurant industry would have to put on the brakes to this trend to certain extent as they would be the ones that is going to be largely affected in case more people around the world started to avoid gluten (...but I'm talking about the case where I think it is less likely to happen). 
However, considering there has already been billion-dollars gluten-free market and many major companies are already selling gluten-free alternatives, I guess their claims can be all genuine :)haha

Anyways, I still believe it's great that there are this growing number of gluten free products available because as the more affordable & accessible it gets for the general public, the better for those who have this disease as well as those people out there who are still suffering from unknown symptoms, like David before his diagnosis, to give gluten-free diet a try.

So, I'm personally very happy with that this ever expanding gluten-free market might be able to help many more people to discover themselves.

Though I'm afraid that this trend might soon follow the path of low carb diet which had slowly faded away and lost its attention...but who knows! :)

To sum up, patience with coeliac disease has to have gluten-free diet for life, and that is why we live on gluten-free food, which used to be super expensive but can still be affordable if we try to :)

This blog is such a great opportunity for me to take a closer look at our everyday diet and finances but more objectively :)

These are some of our low cost gluten-free meals that we've enjoyed :)

Now that I look at them I realised we need to eat more vegetables!!

"Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale".

After all, just because you have coeliac disease does not mean you have to give up on delicious cookies, pasta or pizza for life :) 

What we got to know is that with just a spoon full of gluten substitutes and inspiration, plain & boring gluten-free dinner table can be a fun experiment without much of an extra cost!

In the next post, I would like to share about what's in our kitchen :)

Have a lovely Easter!



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