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Food Friday: Eating Together, Coeliac Style 
17th-Aug-2007 11:34 pm
Had a lovely day in Balmedie. Thus, FF is coming in just under the wire...

How to eat together, Coeliac Style.1

When drjoan discovered she had Coeliac Disease about 7 years ago, it seemed like the most restrictive dietary problem possible.

No bread. No pasta. No pretzels, crackers, or cookies/biscuits. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

We ate a lot of rice. There were lots of potatoes.

For those of you who don't know what I've been going on about with the gluten free thing, Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease caused by the reaction of the small intestine to a gluten protein called gliadin. This causes the villi of the small intestine to become stunted as the immune response is against the body's own tissue. Basically, you lose the ability to absorb the nutrients your body needs. This isn't a complete inability to process food...but, if will make you quite sick, moreso the longer it goes untreated. Diagnosis is often missed because it seems like other digestive ailments.

Coeliacs cannot eat foods containing gluten: wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and any other variations of Triticeae.

Since 2000, we've learned that rice pasta can taste just as good as regular, gluten free breadmaking is a subtle art, and that some substitutes for gluteny snacks are truly disgusting and others are better than the original.

However, eating gluten free can be more expensive than eating in a 'regular' fashion. Therefore, there will be times when a family containing a coeliac will still eat gluten.

Here's the thing, it isn't easy being the odd one out. While not coeliac myself, I've learned how to make things easier for the coeliacs near me.

1. When eating out, don't choose a place coeliac unfriendly. For example: Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese= good choice. The cuisine is high in rice and rice products. There will be choices that will suit a wide variety of tastes and many of them are gluten free. Italian/American = usually a bad choice. Italian cuisine is based on a lot of bread and pasta. Even if there is a choice that is, or can be made gluten free, the possibility of contamination is quite high.2

2. When eating in, be highly aware of labels. There is no mark that alerts the buyer to the presence of gluten in products. The UK is better than the US about marking products with warnings, but even in the UK, not everything is clearly marked. Even things that seem innocuous may turn out to be a no-no. For example, some pre-shredded cheeses are powdered with flour to keep them from sticking overly much. Cheese= gluten free. Cheese powdered with flour = not gluten free.3

Gluten is everywhere. It's like The Shadow.

I don't really have a question for this week.
I'll leave you with the links for the US and UK Celiac/Coeliac sites.
If you have any symptoms of coeliac disease, get checked. Life with gluten can be a killer if your body is fighting it.

1- This may not prove true for the Coeliac near you. However, when in doubt, this may prove handy.
2- Interestingly, in Italy proper, there are many coeliacs. It is possible to get gluten free pasta/bread at restaurants and there is special training in place to make chefs aware of what needs to be done to accommodate the gluten free.
3- On a side note, some shampoos/conditioners contain hydrolyzed wheat protein. Not that you're eating shampoo/conditioner, but it's still a problem for coeliacs.
17th-Aug-2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
It's amazing how many places these ingredients hide once you start looking. My other half is allergic to nuts, which makes life rather tricky when we go to Germany - for some reason, nuts appear in all sorts of funny things there. It's not so bad here, but we've occasionally been caught out in restaurants.

The girl who lived next door to me growing up was coeliac (she brought her own bread over for sleepovers) so I tend to forget it isn't that well-known...

Real food allergies and intolerances make me feel guilty for being merely fussy by choice (I don't eat meat or fish). I have my own allergies, but it really isn't that hard to avoid kiwi fruit.
(Deleted comment)
20th-Aug-2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
Also, the dosa (rice based) are celiac friendly.

Man, I loooooove Indian food. :)
18th-Aug-2007 08:10 am (UTC)
Non-chain Italian restaurants (particularly those whose owners are emigrants themselves) often offer a range of totally gluten-free vegetable and meat dishes. (Unfortunately for my mother many of these also contain cheese, which she cannot eat either, but at least two restaurateurs we know will adapt for her.) It's all about avoiding chains for us - anywhere that has a real chef in the kitchen can usually adapt a meal to leave out problematic ingredients. :)
20th-Aug-2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
*nods* I did notice a couple in London that were good that way. Not seen anything yet in Aberdeen (and definitely nothing like that in US South).

No cheese? Eeek. I'd be sunk.
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