If you have been newly diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, welcome to the family!
First of all I’d like to say that you don’t have to be afraid or worried about what your life is going to be now that you have to live a gluten free life. The initial diagnosis and load of information can be overwhelming but there are a large number of amazing resources that can help you through the future. If you aren’t exactly sure what you’ve been diagnosed with or how it all works, feel free to hope over to my Coeliac Disease page and give that information a read first. It will give you a brief medical overview of what your body has been doing to you all because of silly little proteins.
Unfortunately the only way to prevent your body damaging itself is to adhere to a strict gluten free diet. Don’t fret, it isn’t as scary as it sounds and now a days there are some truely amazing alternatives for some of the food you will probably miss the most. Sadly there are no alternatives I’ve found for malteezers (they’re malt balls what should I have expected?). It can be a big shock to the system at first but trust me when I say that on a gluten free diet you will feel incredible. Since I was diagnosed so young it is hard to remember but the change in my energy levels, attitude and general demeanour when they finally found out what was wrong with me and could fix it was a complete 180. A good first step if you have the money for it, is to go see a dietician who specializes in food allergies. They will be able to help you with meal plans and informative pamphlets, or you could be like me and do it yourself.
Now that you have been diagnosed you will need to remember:
- Gluten can hide anywhere
Please always remember to read labels. Gluten can be found in some of the strangest places. A co-worker recently asked me if i wanted a baked apple and I politely declined telling her she’d put maple syrup on them. Yep some maple syrups can contain gluten!
A good way to start is to invest in a ingredient app that can tell you whether or not an ingredient or additive is gluten free and safe for you to eat. There are plenty of free ones available as well as a decent one from the Coeliac Society. After a while, you’ll begin to remember which ingredients you can and can’t have.
- Dining out; really gluten can hide anywhere
If you go out and see a meal on the menu and think oh that looks perfect I can have that. Make sure you double check with the waiter/waitress and or chef before ordering. While a salad may look harmless that dressing may have malt vinegar in it. That lovely risotto with a thick creamy sauce, probably thickened with wheat flour. Don’t worry though, most restaurants and establishments are happy to talk you through their ingredients to make sure that you can eat something. Even if it is just a salad without dressing or some steamed vegies. The best thing to do, is research before you head out. See if they have any items on their menu listed as gluten free. Of course you can view my restaurant reviews here on the blog which may help you find places to dine. You can also find a long list of places on the coeliac society website.
- May Contain Statements
Products that have a may contain statement are unfortunately not safe for people suffering from Coeliac Disease as stated by the Australian Coeliac Society. What a may contain statement actually means is that the product, although it has had no gluten containing ingredients added to it; is processed, stored and transported in the same facility or area and on the same equipment as products that have got gluten containing ingredients. Although most companies will try their best, other than strict and costly testing of every batch of a product there is no way to say that there hasn’t been contact, airbourne contamination or particles that have made the product unsafe for Coeliac consumption. This does mean that wonderful products like Cadbury chocolates are off the menu.
- Cross Contamination at home and dining out
The production of a product is not the only place you need to watch out for cross contamination. If you live with people who aren’t diagnosed with Coeliac disease they don’t need to eat gluten free and although it is easier in terms of cooking main meals and preparation if they eat gluten free, it isn’t always the best for them. You’ll need to make sure that you don’t accidentally get glutened through cross contamination at home if you live with non-coeliac people. A good example of how you may come across cross contamination is via a spread, be it butter, margarine, mighty mite (sadly vegemite is off the menu too, but there are a few alternatives out there). If anyone double dips the knife into the spread they will transfer the crumbs that always get stuck to its surface into the jar and when you come to eat some you’ll ingest those. A good way to avoid this is to buy two jars or tubs of your favourite spreads and mark one as gluten free. You will need to do the same with toasters, chopping boards and sponges. Also don’t forget to wipe the microwave and often before cooking with them if the previous meal contained gluten. We all know about microwave food explosions.
When dining out, you should always ask a few questions. I definitely am the worst when it comes to asking questions due to my social anxiety and usually Mr B will ask for me. You should make sure that even though your meal is gluten free that they haven’t say put your uncrumbed chicken in the same pan as a crumbed one. Or just picked out croutons from a pre-made salad. Even check that they haven’t cooked your risotto in the pot of pasta.