Gluten-free: A Life Journey
This is third of 3 blog posts I wrote for Goodalls Ireland in February 2013. It focuses on tips for those starting out on a gluten-free diet and suffering from coeliac disease. Coeliac disease differs from food intolerances and allergies as it is an autoimmune disease. The tips below I found useful when learning to overcome the effects of food intolerances and being gluten sensitive.
Once you've started on our gluten-free journey the trick is to stay on it for life. Surround yourself with supportive friends, medical team (even it is just an excellent GP), great tasting food and join at least one gluten-free community. Here are 5 easy hints to help you to ensure the transition is as easy as possible.
Be Easy on Yourself & Make a Plan:
This is one bit of advice no-one bothers to tell you. You'll be given lists of foods to avoid, unexciting recipes (I found anyhow). You feel deprived as you think you can no longer eat bread, no breadcrumbs, no apple tarts, the list is endless. You're narky, not feeling well and you just feel like shouting at everyone to leave you alone. The thing is once you see the array of gluten-free foods available and have your new GF recipe collection your biggest problem is deciding what you want to make or eat. So
be easy on yourself and give yourself say 3 months to get to grips with the new diet. The sooner you've gone completely gluten-free and onto a balanced diet the quicker you'll be well again.
set a time limit for when you want the regular meal choices for the household finalised. This will be easier once you've completed your food diary, decided on your new set of regular recipes, and done a tour of the shops (online or land-based). Set a time that's suitable for you, say 6 months.
Buy in Bulk What I mean by this is avoid single packs of 2 rice GF cakes buy the larger of 6 rice GF cakes. It's cheaper on your pocket. You can easily separate them at home. The same can be said with flours, flour mixes, lasagne sheets, various types of pasta and, where possible, buy wholegrain pasta as it's healthier).
Special Offers: Keep an eye out in supermarkets, health stores and speciality stores for special offers. This is especially useful on long-shelf products (e.g. gluten-free flours, tahini and nut butters). You can stock up again saving you money in the long run.
Prepare Bulk Quantities of dishes like soup, lasagne etc. Store in either individual portions or whatever size works best for your family and freeze what you can. This saves you time.
Ensure your GP or other medical professional is supportive and provides the necessary information and knowledge to ensure you can get well. Otherwise find ones that do, I had to and yes. it's difficult but worth it for peace of mind and better health.
Due to the many intolerances and gluten sensitivity I have my body was left very under-nourished, despite eating very nourishing food. It only takes you having a food diary of your last 2 weeks to one month before the first visit. It's a good way of ensuring you are keeping to a balanced diet. A cheap option is to check out local nutrition schools for sessions with their final year students at very cheap rates. Take for example CNM (Dublin and Galway). A few times a year their final year students, under the guidance of qualified nutritionists, offer 2 sessions at a very knock-down value price to a limited number of people. It's a very cheap way of ensuring your diet is balanced and gain tips for pitfalls you've missed in your diet.
Build up your knowledge base
It's definitely worthwhile to build up your knowledge on being coeliac or gluten sensitive. Buy a few suitable health books and check out bookstores (in town or online) and treat yourself to a few that suit what you like to eat and your nutritional needs. You can check out our website (www.herbicarni.com) which not only covers gluten-free but also has tips, hints and recipes for wheat, dairy and egg free among others and how to live with others who don't have any food restrictions. If our site doesn't suit you there is a whole world out there and with gluten-free being so hot at the moment you will have plenty of choice. You may even want to start your own resource for others.
Wheat (so the possibility of gluten) can be present in medications. You need to check with your medical team or GP to ensure they prescribe medications which take account of this. It will not always be possible but be sure to monitor any adverse effects (I found out the hard way with this). If you need to take calcium or omegas, evening primrose oil or vitamin C then Kelkin have brought out products that are gluten-free among the many other free-from claims on the packs. I'm using the calcium and I have no effects from it.
Build Your Support Network:
Join the Coeliac Society, you'll feel part of a community and access to lots of tips and list of registered gluten-free foods
Connect with gluten-free bloggers online that you like or bloggers like www.herbicarni.com. You'll find lots of tips, recipes and most of us are only to delighted to help you, if we can
Join a coeliac group if there is one in your area so you can share you pitfalls and successes and tips with each other
Most importantly have fun and bring joy back into cooking and eating. Hope to chat with you on our site (www.herbicarni.com) soon. Love to hear how you are getting on.
The information contained in this blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider.
All recipes, tips and other material, unless otherwise stated, on this website / blog and my other social media outlets are my own.