The Gluten Free Way for Me (and now M-C)!

….These are some of my Gluten Free Store Cupboard essentials….

One of my friends has just been diagnosed with Coeliac (or rather, Celiac, as she would spell it, being an American). So this post is for M-C.

The important thing is not to be scared when you find out how much you can’t eat-if you’ve been poorly from eating wheaty products you would have been avoiding them for a while before you were tested and diagnosed anyway, so you’re probably already used to finding lots of alternatives to the normal gluten-riddled items.

I think in the UK we are very lucky as our supermarkets are absolutely stacked with superbly stocked GF aisles, and I can buy most of my favourite items off the shelf. But I have also had to make a lot of adjustments-I bake  tonnes of cookies and cakes now, and make bread and rolls that I can pop in the freezer. It doesn’t really look like regular bread but it tastes pretty good and makes yummy toast.

So do scour your local stores and health food stores. Buy GF flour and adapt all your regular baking recipes. A word of advice there is, GF flour has a funny consistency and you’ll find you always have to add more water than the recipes say. But  I manage to whip up cup cakes and cookies galore with my GF flour.

My Story: As a teenager I was smothered, head to toe in eczema. My Mum took me to a special allergy clinic at St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, which is one of the big London teaching hospitals. They had a specialist allergy clinic. We are talking about the mid 80s here, so allergy clinics were quite a new thing. I remember my 1st appointment. The Dr had one of those human body outline charts and he coloured the whole thing in on both sides, because I was completely covered in eczema.

I was prescribed a variety of skin creams, wash creams, hydrocortisone ones like Betnovate, and was told I needed to give up wheat. So, aged 16, this was the beginning of my life with rice cakes.

In 2005, my asthma developed into this indescribable form of Adult Severe Asthma, my immune system went haywire and the whole wheat allergy blew itself out of proportion and I was diagnosed with Coeliac after 3 separate tests. I have no intrinsic factor in my stomach and had been having to have routine regular B12 injections.

The dietician I was under explained that it is not uncommon for a person who has been suffering from pernicious anaemia to go on to develop a a full blown coeliac condition.

So since 2005, I have been avoiding Gluten in everything, not just a wheat free diet, although I was initially diagnosed with a wheat allergy and Gliadin allergy.

Most GF products are made from rice, potato or polenta (corn) flours. I love rice and potato, but did have to give up corn for a period of time, although this summer I have started being able to enjoy fresh corn again for the first time in several years, and have loved the delicious sweet buttery cobs the shops have been so full of! I also have to avoid Barley and Rye, but can have some oats-usually the processed ones are better than the whole raw oats.

I do have to be careful of sauces and shop soups, because so many of them are thickened with gluten. But many restaurants and chains now have GF menus and items. PF Chang’s for instance even has GF soy sauce and a completely separate and completely delicious GF menu.

A life without gluten and probably a few other food sources ( if like me (and M-C) you have some other whacky allergies), does not mean a life without yumminess.

Oh Yes, My Symptoms: You might not want to be eating when you read this-because the number one symptom for anybody with a gluten allergy is, crippling stomach cramps, the sort where you are doubled up, very soon after eating, followed by explosive and quite non stop diarrhoea! I also get  a bright red rash on my cheeks, resembling ‘slap cheek’ syndrome, and shiver and shake although I start running a temperature. This generally means the rest of the day is well and truly ruined whilst I camp out in, or very near my bathroom. If I eat gluten in the evening, I’ll be up all night. Worth mentioning too that with oxygen dependent dodgy asthmatic lungs the constant running for the bathroom is also no joy. Oh yes, and my skin itches so much that I have been known to scratch and scratch until it bleeds. I have also  broken out in hives all up my arms. Cetirizine Syrup gets downed very quickly when I have one of these really severe gluten reactions

The trouble is, there is one food item I just cannot give up, and my dietician has even gone as far as allowing me one a month-the ‘monthly scour out’, as she calls it. And yes, if you know me, you’ll know what it is-and the fact that  there is no decent GF substitute that fills the void. There just is no life for me without the real thing……

….So unfortunately, I do occasionally still suffer for my sins!….


9 Responses to The Gluten Free Way for Me (and now M-C)!

  1. Kerri says:

    Great post Sus! You took a pretty positive spin to living GF, and I’m sure this will help MC out :-). And the rest of us get to learn :D.

    Also… That bread looks pretty good!

    • Aw thanks, Kerri. Yes. I hope MC and all GF readers will see it’s just a way of life really. I don’t think too much about it. And I don’t beat myself up if I get accidentally glutened!! X

  2. MC says:

    Wow, thanks Sus! I’m blown away by the fact you’d write a post specifically with me in mind. Thanks a ton for sharing.

    I certainly enjoy baking, and inventing new things…. you know, like muffin pie? (thank Kerri for that idea). I haven’t yet figured out what kind of flour blend I like, and I’m the kind of person who wants to come up with it myself and have fun making it in the process. The most annoying thing with being GF is that everything here that’s GF is much more expensive… like 3-5x more expensive. Some time I’ll have to come over there and see your stores… finding GF stuff here is harder. I’m curious how stores in France do with GF stuff….

    If it wasn’t for the fact that my lungs throw a big temper tantrum every time I have even trace amounts of gluten, I wouldn’t be as annoyed with accidental glutening. But annoyingly they take about a week (if not longer) to recover. The stomach is annoying, as is being itchy all over, but doesn’t last as long as my lungs’ tantrum.

    Have you heard of Bob’s Red Mill? They have a GF pizza crust mix that’s amazing. You ought to see if you can try it. I’m excited to bake pizza today with it (Saturday is “pizza day” for my family, it’s a tradition).

    Oh, yeah, and thanks for the baking tips… I’ve had trouble getting my bread to look kind of how I want it. It tastes good, but is always kind of super flat and dense. Cookies and muffins though turn out better.

  3. Aw, MC, you’re more than welcome. If there is anything I can help or advise you with, please feel free to ask. I’m well experienced at this way of life.
    Oh Yes, I realise I forgot the itchy skin reaction-better do an edit and stick that bit in. My lungs don’t get affected badly, it’s my stomach that suffers!
    I have tried other GF pizza mixes and bases, but nothing is as good as a real restaurant wood fired oven one. If you click on the logo link in my RH sidebar which says ‘ds’ you can see the sort of foods we can buy here. I also get bread mixes on prescription. Yes everything GF is more expensive, but I make myself afford it and have the outlook on life that I can’t complain about the price on my health.

    Have a good weekend and enjoy your Saturday pizza! xx

  4. Elisheva says:

    Are there any pizzarias in London that have GF options? If not you should totally come here. My flatmate says it’s good 🙂

  5. MC says:

    Oh, and a friend here just told me there’s GF pizzarea somewhere in the area… not suuuper close, but kind of near… so, you could always come here 🙂

    • Believe me guys, I have tried so hard to find a decent GF Pizzeria here-FAIL!-but there is an excellent one in Palm Springs that has just started doing GF crusts.
      I am so particular about my pizza too-Do you remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? Almost as fussy as the way I eat my perfect pizzas! x

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