What is Coeliac Disease?

Now that Christmas is behind us, I’ve noticed people going on a “gluten free detox”, as I get lots of comments along the lines of “I don’t know how you manage it?” to “Gluten Free food tastes like cardboard”. I was officially diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in 2006 after struggling with obvious symptoms since 2001 when I tried to give blood and was rejected because my iron levels were too low. So, what is Coeliac disease? In Helen Griffiths’ book “Coeliac Disease – Nursing Care and Management she quotes from Dr Samuel Gee (1888), who describes a patient with Coeliac Disease as a wasted almost cachectic patient, pale and puffy of face.

He also observes that death is a common end and where patients survive, recovery is often incomplete, the illness dragging on for years with periods of relapse.  We now know that Coeliac Disease is a complex auto-immune disease characterised by chronic inflammation resulting in damage to the small intestinal mucosa. The disease is caused by environmental and genetic factors. In patients who are susceptible to Coeliac Disease, the consumption of proteins found in Wheat, Barley and Rye (know collectively as gluten), and for some patients, the protein in oats, are known to trigger an autoimmune response which in turn causes tissue damage. Helen explains technically, much better than I can, however the picture below is a useful analogy for the process. The picture shows two ‘gut’ cells, the one on the left is a healthy cell with intact villi (used to absorb nutrients) whereas the one on the right is a damaged cell following ingestion of gluten, the villi are inflamed and shriveled.

There are up to 28 clinical disorders associated with Coeliac Disease including liver disease, bowel cancer and osteoporosis. Patients can present with severe symptoms or can be asymptomatic where the damage is being done but doesn’t show for many years.
The national charity Coeliac UK estimates that there are half a million people with undiagnosed Coeliac Disease in the UK. Gluten is found in products that either contain or are derived from Wheat, Barley and Rye, this would include items such as breakfast cereals and chocolate bars flavoured with barley malt. In addition to consuming these items, food can be contaminated by cooking with products containing these proteins or by contact with surfaces or utensils used to handle gluten free products. Airborne contamination is possible in areas that handle flour. The only treatment for Coeliac Disease is a strict (the safe limit of gluten for Coeliacs is 20 parts per million) lifelong gluten free diet which in itself presents a host of difficulties. Buffets, eating out and invitations to dinner are likely to cause someone with Coeliac Disease stress and anxiety, firstly because they are terrified of eating something by mistake and secondly the ever present threat of cross contamination detracts from what should be an enjoyable event.

Talk to Women’s s Institute about Coeliac Disease

I am off to do a talk to the WI this evening with a couple of the Hereford Coeliac Support Group Committee members. I am starting off by talking about my personal experience from diagnosis to today. Helen will talk about living day to day with Coeliac disease and we have a shopping basket of food in reserve to show the difference in prices, £16 vs £10 GF vs non GF.


Wish me luck!

July 2016

I’ve been quiet, lots going on. We had a great holiday in Menorca. Went prepared to go self catering for the whole two weeks.

We stayed at Son Bou Gardens, and found the local super markets well stocked with GF food, also we found a restaurant called Las Dunas that had gluten free options for most of its meals.

One very happy coeliac

Cross contamination

I am suffering from the after effects of being glutened, I ordered a gluten free breakfast and was served breakfast with sausage and black pudding. I sent it back and 5 mins later a replacement arrived. I forgot to ask at the time whether they had just scraped off the black pudding and sausage. As it turns out they just replated the food without the offending items complete with cross contamination. I am now suffering from brain fog and forgive me ‘floaty evil poo’, luckily for Mrs H i clean the bathroom in this house. Lesson reinforced.

Hereford County Hospital

Busy day to day, up early for a networking event , then off to collect a lady to take her to hospital for a procedure. As she lives on her own the hospital said she needed an escort to come with her. (No, not that sort of escort!). Having deposited her at the endoscopy department I headed to the cafe for coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to see these gluten free wraps for sale. As I had missed breakfast as was very happy to find these!

Pies and Pasties

You know how it is, before Christmas you get paid early and then there’s a long wait before you get paid again. So, plenty of time on my hands, I found an old book hiding away at the back of my book case called “The ultimate Gluten Free Diet”. The revised version was published in 1997. In it I found a recipe for short crust pastry using GF plain flour and equal amounts of hard margarine and white vegetable fat (I used TREX). I made a steak and vegetable pie and a couple of pasties for Mrs H to eat at work.

IMG_20160109_174344The pie was served with bubble and squeak and Kallo organic beef gravy, absolutely delicious!

Mrs H. had the pastry for lunch the next day and reported back that it tasted lovely and wasn’t as crumbly as she expected.

If you’re bored one broke Sunday, give it a go.