Why Compromise On Taste?
I come from a 'gastronomique' family and I am passionate about eating and creating quality food . When I first heard of the existance of celiac desease I remember thinking how awful it must be to have such a terrible affliction,then to my utter dismay, I later discovered I was myself one of 'those unfortunate people' and I had been unknowingly celiac for many many years! Initially, I was incredibly unhappy and struggled to deal with the disease's many implications, but I eventually came to grips with the condition and I am pleased to say that in retrospect, the diagnosis has actually changed my life in a very positive way. Not only do I now only eat healthy, nutritious and delicious gluten free food but I also no longer have any of the chronic health symptoms of a celiac who eats gluten either. I now enjoy optimum health, have a reduced risk of diabetes and have a full varied yet delicious diet without a trace of gluten in it. Yes, with a little effort, (and knowhow), it is possible to eat all your favourite foods again!
My multiple health ailments (which transpired to be because I was unknowingly celiac), eventually became chronic as medical practitioners’ over the years were unable to establish the cause. Like others, who feel ill but don't not know they have the condition, I conceded that my poor health was something I would just have to live with. Celiac disease symptoms are so diverse and affect different people in different ways, is it any wonder why misdiagnosis or no diagnosis at all is so common? More often than not it can be confused with IBS ( Irritable Bowel Syndrone) which main symptoms often mirror those of celiac disease. Twenty percent of us have IBS and out of this number, its believed that 10% are are undiagnosed celiacs. * It is estimated that for every celiac sufferer, there are a further four sufferers unaware that they have the condition and enduring ill health as a consequence.
It took a staggering 20 years of suffering before discovered I was in fact celiac. * According to Celiac UK, a celiac lives with the condition for an average of 13 years before correct diagnosis. Eliminating gluten completely from my diet has had a very positive result on my overall general health and I also have my energy levels back again.
At first, I found the elimination of food containing gluten from my diet to be incredbily difficult. I had to change my eating habits instantly and the copious amount of non obvious commercially produced food which I was finding gluten in was exasabating. Every food label has to be scrutinised for 'hidden gluten'; a time consuming and laborious process. New food labelling laws which came into force in January, 2012 have helped somewhat.
.My immune system is now over sensitised to any exposure to gluten whatsoever,(even a miniscule quantity). This is pefectly normal for celiacs once a gluten free diet is followed..Before diagnosis I could eat certain foods which contained small amounts of gluten without a radical adverse reaction. Now all gluten is eliminated from my diet, the reaction from cross contamination is somewhat extreme.
As far as eating is concerned, I have always been what some people might term as a ‘foodie’. My nephews are chefs and my parents and siblings are all experts in the kitchen. I was brought up to enjoy, appreciate and to make and create fine well prepared food. Fine dining and family meals at the dinner table were much more than a means of putting fuel into our bodies;.it was quite simply a social and gastronomic experience. Good food, whether eaten at home or in a restaurant, was a way of life and 'la raison d'etre'
Because of my love of fine food,discoveringt I was celiac, was at first a terrible blow . What was I going to do? How would I cope? What could I eat? As with many other people with the condition, I had lots of the health symptoms of a celiac who eats gluten for many years before it coming to light. Sound familiar?
What seemed like endless visits to my GP eventually ended in impasse. I avoided citrus fruit because of my mouth ulcers. I was informed my hormones were the cause of my constantly bloated belly and I was prescribed water tablets for many years to help alleviate the symptoms. I was told irritable bowel syndrome was the root of my chronicly upset stomach. I was prescribed steroid creams for my skin rashes and painful hives which kept persistently re-occurring. It was suggested that 'stress' was the cause of my headaches and 'brain fog' which caused weekly fainting episodes. The dreadful bruising on my body was put down to ‘delicate skin’ and my tiredness leading to chronic anaemia, was due to an acute iron difficiency once necitating a full blood transfusion..The individual diagnosis's were each dealt with as separate symtoms..None of the symptoms were ever collectively connected to celiac disease or the fact that I had become lactose intolerant as well.
Although I was able to adapt my food at home, I quickly got tired of being unable to eat out (even a sandwich in a coffee shop or service station). Despite supermarkets now addressing the dietry needs of their customers (£238,000,000 Free From sales in 2011 which equates to 12 million users), and an estimated £355,000,000 for 2014),food service lags way behind! Sales figures and research indicate that circa 20% of the UK population now follow wheat free or free from diets and this number is still growing, yet they are barely catered for in our restaurants.
I decided to pack in my career in sales management in the electronics world and launched Gluten Free Solutions in an endeavour to do something about it and redress the balance.
In collaboration with major food chains and manufacturers, GFS now develops innovative gluten free products which are not over sweetened, do not contain saturated fat, are high in fibre, perform well when frozen, contain no xanthan gum and taste no different to their high end mainstream equivilents, These products are then stepped up commercially and sold to food service and retail throughout the EU.
. In my free time I study nutrition and food science, I like to keep fit and I am also secretary for Coeliac UK South East region group.
*If you have recently discovered you are celiac or have a child or close family member who has recently been diagnosed, please don’t despair and try not to be too disheartened. Although the news comes as a shock at first, it is possible to still enjoy delicious food which you can make at home. it will not always be easy when out and about, but in the comfort of your own home and in the supermarkets (even though there is scope there for more), I want to show you what a wealth of food, (with a little imagination), you can still have.
By Jane Clarke