Thinking out Loud

Hey GFrees,

Well, I was in town yesterday and saw that a new Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) was opening soon and thought about my recent experience. Not so long ago, I went out to eat at GBK in London. It’s super lovely whenever I visit my sister, brother-in-law and their adorable babies – if my sister’s not making a big effort on the home-made gluten-free meals and snacks, she’s going all out to make sure we go somewhere that I feel completely safe. My niece has been aware from the age of around 2 that her (favourite) aunty (i.e. me) is a coeliac and must adhere to a gluten-free diet. I am so proud of her for this. When I overhear her saying to other children or adults “my aunty can’t eat that because it’s not gluten-free,” I almost want to burst out in happy tears! #ProudAunty! On the one hand, there’s a toddler who understands that certain foods make me very poorly and on the other, are some adults who find it ever so difficult to comprehend. Although, I recently took her to a vegan fair (she’s 4 now!) and she thought the food looked pretty but didn’t like the taste of her magical cupcake :/

Anyhoo, back to the reason as to why I’m writing. I asked the staff for the gluten-free menu and it was quite impressive as I found a few things that I could order. Upon ordering, the lady asked whether I am ordering gluten-free due to an allergy or intolerance. I’ve never been asked this question before when eating out, and it made me wonder whether I should let her know that it was neither. I’ve always known that coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease and not an allergy. Still, in the heat of the moment, I categorised it an allergy. I am guilty. I feel that it makes it easier for people to understand; people take more care when preparing my meals; and people are always in a rush – I feel as if they don’t have the time to listen anymore. Just saying it out aloud that I sometimes haven’t been able to explain coeliac disease as well as I’d like to; that I try to make it easier for people to process by saying it is an allergy; that I feel people haven’t got the time to listen, makes me sound as if I intentionally opt to take the easy way out. It makes me sound as rushed as them. It makes me sound as if I can’t be bothered to explain and as if I don’t take my own condition seriously. But that’s far from the truth. And anyway, haven’t we all made a mistake similar to this at some point?

I understand that it is wrong on so many levels and as of that day, I promised myself that I wouldn’t class coeliac as an allergy just to make it easier for people to understand. I will not feed people’s ignorance. Instead, I would utilise every opportunity to raise awareness of not only our condition, but the seriousness of it. This is the least I can do for us.

So, how is coeliac disease different from an allergy?

Well, there are some major differences:

  • The antibodies involved are different. Allergies are IgE mediated whereas coeliac disease is IgA mediated (see my not so artistic diagram below).
  • In an allergic reaction, the presence of the allergen leads to an immune response whereby IgE antibodies bind to and attack the allergen, releasing chemicals (e.g. histamine) that lead to symptoms. Whereas coeliac disease is when the presence of gluten in the gut leads to an immune response whereby IgA antibodies attack the lining of the small intestine and over time, the microvilli lining the gut becomes damaged, which leads to symptoms.
  • Because there are chemicals produced in an allergic reaction, there are certain drugs that can be used to relieve the sufferer of symptoms (e.g. antihistamines). However, in coeliac disease, the damage caused to the lining of the gut takes a longer time to heal thus it takes longer to relive sufferer of symptoms in comparison to an allergic reaction.
  • Symptoms in an allergic reaction are a direct result of the reaction between allergen and antibody and the dilating effect that the chemicals have on blood vessels and possibly other organs. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, swelling of lips/tongue/face, coughing, wheezing and stomach pain. In the more severe cases, the blood vessels in the entire body dilate (anaphylaxis) and if left untreated, the sufferer may go in to an anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Symptoms in coeliac disease are a result of the damage caused to the lining of the gut, leading to malabsorption of nutrients from foods thus causing symptoms such as anaemia, tiredness, hair loss (alopecia), depression, persistent nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramping and vitamin deficiencies.

N.B.

Allergens can be substances in for example food, environment (e.g. pollen and dust) or drugs (e.g. penicillin). There are 14 food allergens which are: 1) cereals containing gluten; 2) crustaceans; 3) eggs; 4) fish; 5) peanuts; 6) soybeans; 7) milk; 8) nuts; 9) celery; 10) mustard; 11) sesame seeds; 12) sulphites/sulphur dioxide; 13) lupin; 14) molluscs.

Antibodies are immune proteins that are released as a response to a foreign substance (antigen) entering the body. They target and bind specifically to foreign substances, to attack them. There are various different types – IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM; each targeting different types of substances, each of differing size and present in differing amounts in different parts of the body.

Autoimmune disease is when the immune response attacks the body’s own cells rather than the foreign substance.

Immune system is the body’s inbuilt system to fight off foreign substances in order to prevent disease and infection.

Intolerance is when the body reacts to certain substances in a non-immune related reaction however; the sufferer may be able to tolerate small amounts of the allergen, depending on the severity of intolerance. When the problematic substance is food-related, the body may be unable to digest the food properly as in lactose intolerance, which is the most common food-related intolerance. Here, the body has insufficient amounts of the lactase enzyme to digest lactose, a sugar found in most milk and dairy products, leading to symptoms after consumption.

Microvilli are hair-like projections on the villi (finger-like projections of the lining of the small intestine) that aims to increase the surface area of the small intestine thus enabling effective and efficient absorption of nutrients from foods.

Hopefully this has clarified a few things about the different terms and left you feeling more confident about differentiating. I’ve taken the decision of not categorising coeliac disease as an allergy. If you haven’t already, will you help? Let’s do it for ourselves. Let’s do it for the future of our little growing community 🙂

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You say ‘Giz-a slice of pizza?’ I say ‘No!’

Hiya GFrees!

Just had to share this achievement!!

So I was in the car with the family, coming back home from a long day out of town. My family wanted a quick and convenient meal that they could grab before we reached home. They opted for good ol’ pizza! Mmmmm..*droooooool* 

I’m not going to lie. I still can’t not sulk over the smell of fresh-out-the-oven pizza!! But when asked to go and collect the order from inside, or hold the boxes, or asked to ‘giz-a slice of pizza’ I so happily refused…and boy did it feel good to say no!!!

National Noodle Month – March

Hello again GFrees!

Hope you’re all well. Hope 2016 is treating you well so far?!

Did you know it was National Noodle Month? I didn’t either! :/ Part of me thinks I ought to have known because I do love me some rice noodles. With it being so easy to make and guaranteed to be tasty no matter what veg you throw in to the stir fry.

I may be a bit late with this product review because after looking online, I’ve found that they’ve been around for quite a while – since around late last year! However, I just wanted to write about the instant noodles I discovered at Morrisons. Instant that’s gluten-free is so difficult to find and if it does exist, it’s not even tasty! So finding something that overcomes that problem so well, deserves a few words.

For just £1.74, these are the tastiest instant noodles I’ve ever had! Well done and a massive thank you ilumi!

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They’re even better than the normal foods! They come in 4 different flavours and of these, the 3 vegetarian flavours are:

– Tom Yum Rice Noodles

– Sweet Chilli Rice Noodles

– Singapore Rice Noodles

So far, I’ve only tried the Sweet Chilli ones but I just think they’re so perfect for a quick munch!

You pop open the pot and sprinkle the sachet of flavour in…

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Add boiling water to the fill line (about 300ml) and stir…

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Pop the lid back on and leave it for about 4 minutes before you dig in and enjoy the delicious’ness (not just pretend to enjoy your meal!) on one of those days where you just want to eat out of a pot!

These pots have a rating as to how spicy they are and the Sweet Chilli pot has the highest rating (two out of three chillies). I do like my food spicy however and adding a little bit of chilli powder (pic below) gave the noodles the spicy kick I was looking for…

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I can honestly say I was super impressed by this tasty, quick and easy snack pot.

ilumi have a whole range of ready meals (all gluten- and milk-free) which you can check out here…

http://www.ilumiworld.com

Let me know what you think of any of the products 🙂

Risk Assessments (to be continued for life?)

Hiya GFrees..

Hope you’re all okay.

Just wanted to share today’s ‘HANGRY-hungry/angry’ moment with you all…

So, I went out of town for the day with my family and as we were returning home in the evening, my mum suggested we ate out. I was adamant on going to Indigo – a pure vegetarian Indian restaurant because I knew my dad would be happy going there and also, after being diagnosed, I had once looked at their menu and spoke to the manager and a waiter who went through some of the foods I was able to eat.

indigo

As I opened the menu, there was the following note:

note

Let’s consider some of the foods that I wanted to order:

oriental oriental snacks starters

When I was placing the order, I asked the waiter if the indo-chinese foods (Shanghai Potatoes, Shanghai Mogo, Schezwan Fried Rice and Schezwan Mogo) were definitely gluten-free. He said he would speak to someone and make sure. Upon his return to our table, the waiter reported that the Schezwan dishes were not gluten-free because they contained soya sauce. I did not complain about this because I was totally aware of the fact that some soya sauces contain wheat and this was also stated in the note as I opened the menu.

I had placed my order on Shanghai Potatoes and Shanghai Mogo however, a couple of minutes later, the waiter returned to our table to report that the potatoes and mogo were fried in the same oil as all of the other wheat/gluten-containing foods. He asked if this was of concern or whether I was happy to continue with the order. At this point (bearing in mind I was super hungry because I had only had breakfast) I was becoming really frustrated because I felt that I was getting mixed signals – the menu was saying one thing and the waiter was saying something else. I kindly asked if they could use some fresh oil to make my dish, but they said that due to being busy, this was not possible. So, I sat there, watching as my family indulged. My family asked if I’d like to go elsewhere but I knew they were hungry too, so I said I would just quickly make myself dinner when I got home.

I wasn’t tempted whilst my family ate. I think I’ve learned to deal with this – to some extent anyway. But what I was most frustrated about was that the symbols were very misleading and I felt that they needed to pay more attention to the seriousness of cross-contamination.

I feel that many Indian restaurants need educating about cross-contamination. I am grateful that the waiter was very honest and inquired about the small details. However, the fact that I had spoke to the someone who works at the restaurant in the past and he had guided me to dishes I was able to eat means that the restaurant and it’s employees are very misinformed about coeliac disease and the importance of gluten-free foods for coeliacs.

Do you think the menu/symbols were misleading? Or was I just being unreasonable because I was hungry? But surely if they know a dish has soya sauce (for example the Schezwan dishes) and they’ve clearly stated in the note near the front of the menu that the soya sauce contains ‘wheat gluten’ they should have ‘GL’ next to the Schezwan dishes! Confusing.com :/

I sure hope to look in to food allergy labelling and how I can raise awareness, particularly within Indian restaurants. Simply because I may be blatantly aware of certain dishes not being suitable and not being gluten-free but others may not.

Happy New Year (+18 days)!!!

Hey GFrees..

First of all..HAPPY NEW YEAR! Hope your 2015 is full of love, laughter, happiness, smiles and loads and loads of delicious food!!!

Secondly, I’m sorry for not posting regularly. I had been busy searching for, applying, and interviewing for jobs for the past couple of months. I was finally successful with one of my applications and I started my first ever, proper job last Monday! I am currently going through the “honeymoon period” of a job (if there is such a thing) and fingers crossed it will stay like this forever. The people I’m working with are super lovely.

I wanted to write this post because having been home for the past few months..I had gotten used to preparing warm meals and grabbing snacks that were safe to eat, very easily. But now, because I’m always going to be on the go, it seems as if I will have to learn some new things. Mainly with preparing foods either the night before or in the morning, but making sure they will still be tasty both hot and cold (because I may not be able to heat the food up) and also, making sure I always have snacks in the car. Recently I have religiously kept a packet of Glutafin Mini Crackers both in my car and in my handbag so if ever I get peckish, I have something at least. These crackers are great! They are so handy and totally delicious – the closest thing (if not better!) to the nice, crunchy, savoury crackers that we can’t eat ( plus they’re available on NHS prescription 😀 ). I think the crackers are helping me to finally put on some weight (in all the wrong places though!!)

For lunch on my first day at work, I had prepared some pasta on Sunday night. I had forgotten just how disgusting some makes of GF pasta tasted if eaten cold. Yeah. So lunch on Monday consisted of only a bar of chocolate (very unhealthy, I know!). I was literally drooling because all my other colleagues had bought a sandwich and all I could smell was fresh bread and it smelt so good! For the rest of the week, I took in rolls which I ate with crisps and although I realised that one roll is not enough to fill me up, it made lunch-times a helluva lot better.

I’m going to be staying at my cousins, so..away from my home, and I’ve packed lots of food so I don’t need to go on an expensive shopping-spree..for food..whilst I’m away. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Did you find it difficult when you first started a job? What helped? What didn’t help? Are there any healthy, must-have snacks that you recommend? I’ll be posting some reviews that somewhat coincide with the working-life so stay tuned. Hopefully they will be of some help…

Slowly but surely…getting there!

GF


I thought that my first post should be about appreciating the fact that I could not have made it this far without my family. Yay! It finally feels like my family are coming to terms with the idea that I can’t eat certain foods. It’s the best feeling ever hearing my mum talk to people and trying to make them understand about Coeliac Disease. It’s still hard because there are times when the family are eating foods that I can’t eat..but (even though it will never taste like the real thing which this is something I will have to accept) my mum has been attempting to make a gluten-free version of most foods so that I’m not sitting there eyeing up everyone else’s food (& drooling) because I’m unable to eat what everyone else is eating.

The only thing I get really irritated about is when I go to parties or family-gatherings and there are specific members of the (extended) family who make a big fuss about the fact that I’m not eating. The whole time..they’re sitting there feeling sorry for me but I’m sitting there feeling so annoyed. They just don’t seem to understand the fact that I don’t want to eat anyway (most of the time) because I’ve already prepared a meal so I won’t be going hungry and that I’m happy with a mere drink! I know I will eventually find a way to deal with this too, but for now, it’s annoying.