Thursday, September 30, 2010

Navigating the Gluten free Jungle

For one year now I have been gluten free.  My GP and Endocrinologist suspect I have Coeliacs due to the fact I already have Grave's Disease which is autoimmune, as is Coeliacs.  It is also fairly common to have both together.

image borrowed from here

What a learning curve this year has been.  For the first few months I basically lived on hummus and rice crackers.  I struggled to find bread that tasted ok and made soooo many mistakes!  Gluten is hidden in so many foods and it's meant becoming a label reader - of EVERYTHING.

Now I'm doing much better at avoiding gluten but I still make mistakes, like last night when I cooked gluten free and gluten pasta (in seperate pots) and accidently stirred the fresh herbs into my pasta with the knife I used for the gluten pasta.  Most people would think that something like that wouldn't matter much... but when you are really sensitive to gluten - it matters.  Usually I don't make those mistakes but was distracted, normally everyone gets served gluten free!!

Even crumbs from the toaster are a problem.. or crumbs in the butter/margarine (grrrr!!). So it means adjusting how you do things in your house to make it gf friendly.

white choc and rasp gluten muffinscheck out my recipe for these yummy raspberry and white chocolate gf muffins here

Sadly, going out to eat is not so easy and I hardly ever do.  Firstly, I feel like such a nag when I ask question after question about the food. Or ask for them to make sure the chef uses seperate utensils and seperate dishes to prepare my meal, or worst still, send it back when they get it wrong (yes, after making it very clear about my sensitivity to gluten at a dessert restuarant my plate turned up with biscuit crumbs on it for decoration). 

It can feel quite embarassing but it is also essential for my well being to question things. So now its just easier not to go anywhere.

The other difficulty can be eating at other people's houses, or eating food other people have prepared.  I'm talking about those wonderful people who go the extra mile and make you something 'gluten free'.  It is such a lovely gesture and usually makes me feel very special and humble, but there's always that nagging thought in the back of my head.. but what if they didn't get it right... it would be rude to ask what is actually in it... But....oh how special it makes me feel knowing they would go to all that trouble.

Fortunately, I haven't had any problems with the things my friends have prepared and I appreciate them so much for so lovingly preparing food that I can enjoy too. Love you guys!!!

At first I missed bread sooooo much. It seemed I was consumed in finding the 'perfect' gluten free bread.  I found a pretty good one (at Baker's Club for those in Australia) but have since just done away with bread for the most part now.  The thought of actually eating a piece of normal bread holds no appeal anymore. 

I still miss my lifelong, breakfast friend, Vegemite (or Marmite - Im not fussy). Oh the cravings I have for that. I have tried gluten free substitutes, but BLERGH!! no comparison.

Fortunately, there are a lot more gluten free products available, and every week at the supermarket I see something new.  I get so excited when I do find a Gluten free friendly place to eat (recently found a cafe with half of the food being gluten free  - the whole top shelf!! so not only do they have a great selection, but by keeping the food on the top shelf they keep it free from contamination).

gf apple berry buckleGF Apple berry crumble here

My kids are so funny because they probably know more about gf now than most adults.  Even my four year old questions whether I can share something she is eating. My nine year old frequently makes pikelets, biscuits and slice with gluten free flour.

At times (about once a month *grin*) I have a little melt down and find the whole experience too overwheming and too hard and the thought of a life time of living like this sends me a little bit crazy.  But mostly I remember how crappy I feel eating gluten.

My Specialist really wants to confirm my Coeliac diagnosis which means having an Endoscopy.  I am very reluctant and today rang the endoscopy clinic. They said I have to eat 5 slices of bread a day for 5 days before the test. I am still deciding if this will be something I can do.  One bite can make me very ill and the thought of torturing myself for five days (probably longer to get over it) doesn't fill me with much enthusiasm.

I have recently found a great blog with great recipes here.  I love finding new GF recipes.    Tomorrow I'll post one we recently tried - ohhhh so good!


lee said...

my grandfather and father are gluten free due to Coeliacs and i have often thought of doing that myself. i have irritable bowel and have been told a gluten free diet can be good for this. where i live the gf free bread is around $7-$9 a loaf, is that the norm? i bought it once and it just fell apart and crumbles, was really hard to eat so i had to toast it. i will check out that blog thanx for the link.

Christine M said...

I've never thought about Vegemite having gluten in it. I think that is what I would miss most as I love Vegemite! I have a sister-in-law who has to go gluten free. I've found some good books in the library so that I can make gluten free entree, main or dessert (depending on my turn).

meghan said...

Wow. I admire your determination and peseverance in having to make such a massive change in lifestyle. It should really make the rest of us stop and appreciate the fact that we don't (and also don't have to) give a second thought to what we put in our mouths most of the time. I hope that you can continue to keep in good health having made this change for the good :-)

Fiona said...

I've been gluten-free for 5 years now and can relate to the problems you're experiencing. I go out to eat much less often than I used to, but I have found a few places where they understand my issues and I can eat relatively safely. I will always miss 'real' bread but the available substitutes are getting better every year. Good beer is the thing I really miss - yep, there are GF brands where I live (Canada), but they're not really comparable to the real thing.

There are so many really good web resources for GF recipes, but one that I like is:

I'm about to go on a trip - 3 weeks away from home visiting family and friends. This is really tough as they don't understand what to look for on labels, despite trying really hard, invariably try feeding me something with gluten in. I have learned to be in the kitchen with them and to double check what is going into my food - they've seen how sick gluten makes me, so they prefer that I do that!

By the way - I declined the endoscopy. I couldn't bear the thought of making myself so sick.

sew funky said...

My daughter is gluten free as well as dairy free and so I know what you're going through!


nellbe said...

as you know I also know what you are going through, I wish you well in deciding what to do re the endoscopy, I don't think I could do it. Thanks so much for the link up too. :)