Just Diagnosed?

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I still remember the doctor telling me that the Endoscopy results showed positive, and yes … I was Celiac.

“No more Gluten” he had said.

Gluten?

Oh God, that means no more wheat, right? That means no more Maltese Bread! Groan …. our delicious Hobz biz-Zejt and sigh … our Pastizzi! Oh and no more Pizza and Pasta and what else?

It was not that I lived on those alone as I really love meat, fish, chicken and veggies too, (well I love all food!) but just the thought that I will never, ever taste them again in my life was overwhelming!

When we got home, I immediately started reading about Celiac Disease, Cross Contamination and how Gluten can be ‘hidden’ in so many other products that we used to take so much for granted! I went straight to my cupboards and started throwing out everything that had or could contain Gluten. Then I got into the car and went to the nearest Supermarket to the section I always used to whizz by, and stood there looking blankly at the GF Products that they had for sale. My first reaction was ‘Phew, there IS bread!’ Then I saw the crackers, the cookies, pasta, pizza bases and yes, all of these went into my cart! I was pleased as punch … Hmmm I thought, it really is not that difficult after all! You can find anything!

However, after you start consuming GF prepackaged stuff you start to realise that although some were ok, (cannot say delicious), all of them had this ‘weird’, different after taste that I hated. The bread, was well … inedible in my opinion unless toasted. I could not even swallow it! Then came the pasta! That first pasta I had bought was not so convincing either … it released so much starch in the pot that I could not even see the spaghetti anymore! It resembled thick glue. Not only that, but the spaghetti clung all together and it was one big noodle when it came out! This was not looking good!

This was when I decided that there has got to be more to Gluten Free Food that this! I started reading more about different ingredients, new flours I had never heard of, binding agents that I never knew existed … and with determination and great support from my partner, I started creating really good food again!

I am not saying that they all came out perfect the first time round! Many have seen the bin, just minutes after they were out of the oven! But I did not give up! And so shouldn’t you! I will help you and will try to make this journey a bit easier for you. It would really help if your partner, husband, wife and family would support you the way mine did and go Gluten Free with you as much as possible. That would be a great bonus! If for anything, to avoid cross contamination as much as possible in your kitchen.

Below you will find a step-by-step list for you to follow if you have just been diagnosed.

 

TAKE A DEEP BREATH, CALM DOWN AND READ ON

As I said it might seem overwhelming at first and you might feel confused and start getting stressed out at the thought. Yes, it is a bit challenging in the beginning, but I promise you, in a few weeks time it will get much better!

This should now be your mantra.

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REMOVE OR MOVE ALL GLUTEN

Give, throw out or move to another cupboard, any wheat items like pasta, flour, cereals, cookies, breads etc. Next, take out all of the packaged foods with food labels and put them on a table. As I said above, some packaged foods have “hidden gluten” in their ingredients. Below you will find a list of “Gluten Containing Products” which you should not consume, and another list of “Hidden Gluten in Products” to help you identify which items you need to throw out or move to another cupboard, so if there is someone in your family who does not want to go Gluten Free, these will be in a separate cabinet to yours.

 

Important – Please note that the following are not complete lists, but are just guidelines!

 

 

 

  • Ale
  • Atta flour
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Barley (pearl, flakes, flour)
  • Beer (although Gluten Free beer is now available)
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Bulgur
  • Chapatti
  • Couscous
  • Dinkel
  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Farina
  • Fu
  • Gluten, Gluten flour
  • Graham flour
  • Farro
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable/plant protein
  • Kamut
  • Lager
  • Malt, Malt extract, Malted milk, Malt syrup, Malt flavoring, Malt vinegar
  • Maltodextrin (food additive)
  • Matzoh
  • Modified food starch
  • Oats (check labelling)
  • Orzo
  • Rye
  • Seasoning
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Soy sauce
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Wheat, Wheat bran, Wheat flour, Wheat germ

 

 

 

  • Baked beans (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Cheese from Deli (bil-kwart) chances of cross contamination
  • Chinese Sauces (check labels)
  • Blue Cheese (usually Gluten levels are undetectable, but if you are extremely sensitive, avoid.)
  • Breadcrumbs, unless Gluten Free
  • Breaded Products, frozen
  • Cereals
  • Certain Chocolates
  • Coloring, Coloured Sprinkles (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Communion Hosts (check with your Church)
  • Dry Roasted or Flavored Nuts
  • Flavorings
  • French fries, frozen
  • Gravy
  • Herbal Teas (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Ice cream   (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Icing/frosting (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Imitation bacon eg Bacon Bits
  • Imitation seafood, imitation crab or imitation shrimps
  • Licorice
  • Marinades
  • Meatballs, frozen
  • Processed meat
  • Puddings
  • Rice, pasta and sauce mixes
  • Roux or White Sauce Mixes
  • Salad dressings
  • Sausage (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Some sauces
  • Seasonings
  • Soy sauce (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Soups, soup bases
  • Stock, Chicken, Vegetable or Beef (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Stuffing (eg for turkey)
  • Sweets (unless it says it is Gluten Free)
  • Thickeners
  • Veggie & Ham or Beef “burgers”

 

 

CHECK WHAT ITEMS YOU ALREADY CONSUME THAT ARE NATURALLY GLUTEN FREE

There are so many foods that are naturally Gluten Free so, before you go and buy expensive store-bought Gluten Free breads and cereals, (like I did!) do check in your kitchen cupboards and refrigerator/freezer for the following items.

If you think about it, most of the food we already love is naturally gluten free! No gluten in a nice juicy steak, or grilled fish or even barbecued chicken! None in a crispy salad, or some mushroom risotto! The list is endless! You will be spoilt for choice!

 

      • Fresh fruits
      • Fresh beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood
      • Fresh vegetables
      • Fresh eggs
      • Fresh, plain milk, butter, margarine, cream
      • Plain beans
      • Plain corn, polenta
      • Plain white rice, brown rice, wild rice, all rice
      • Plain nuts and seeds
      • Oils
      • Sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses
      • Spices and herbs (No Spice Mixes!)

 

NOW GO SHOPPING!

Shopping for Gluten Free Foods is not easy as you have to read labels on all items which are not labelled Gluten Free.  But you can start with the naturally Gluten Free items.  Below is general shopping list of Gluten Free food which you can get from many good supermarkets and health-food stores,  including also some basic GF flours and binders should you wish to start baking or making your own gluten free bread, pizzas, cookies and desserts.

 

  • All the fresh foods you desire, as in PLAIN, not seasoned or marinated meats, fish, chicken
  • All fruits and vegetables
  • Nearly all cheeses (always check for gluten containing additives!)
  • All dairy products (i.e. If you are not lactose intolerant as well). plain, if otherwise check labelling, eg some flavored yoghurts and ice creams.
  • Frozen foods like, peas, sweetcorn, berries etc.
  • Grains like Quinoa and all sorts of Rice … Long grain, Arborio, Basmati … so many!
  • Polenta
  • Dried peas, beans and lentils.
  • Canned Foods like peas, fruit, beans, lentils, tomatoes etc. No canned soups!
  • Condiments like ketchup, mayo, mustards, honey, olives, peanut butter etc … Again, double check on Ingredient List.
  • Snacks, you will find many that are Gluten Free, from Popcorn to Totillas, again double check the Ingredients List.
  • Drinks like, carbonated drinks, wine, fruit juices, coffees and teas and even Gluten Free Beer!

And finally we come to the Gluten Free Stuff! Apart from the prepackaged ready made stuff, you might want to try GF pastas and either All Purpose GF Flour Mixes or Bread/Pizza Mixes to make them yourself.

Or if you are feeling adventurous and would love to try making some of our recipes, you can start with some basic flours! (You can read more about Gluten Free Flours in another section under ‘Resources’)

  • White Rice Flour
  • Brown Rice Flour
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Potato Starch
  • Cornflour
  • Buckwheat Flour

You will also be needing :-

  • Xanthan Gum
  • Gluten Free Baking Powder
  • Yeast

See? It is not all that bad is it?

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • Read all the food labels on packaged stuff to check for Gluten, before throwing items in your shopping cart
  • Gluten is not only found in foodstuffs.  Read ‘Ingredient List’ also on things like Toothpaste, Make-up and Medicines before purchasing!

 

AVOID CROSS CONTAMINATION!

If you are single or if your family will be willing to go Gluten Free with you, then it is easier. But if not, you have to follow some simple rules.

  1. Do not share anything that is in a jar, for example jams, butter and mayo. A knife might have breadcrumbs and contaminate the product. So buy two, one just for you and the other for other members. Make sure you label the Gluten Free ones. And where possible buy squeeze bottles.
  2. Toasters cannot be shared. You need a separate toaster for GF bread. Or else toast your bread on foil in the oven.
  3. You need certain separate utensils for GF cooking, pasta colanders which are hard to clean to completely remove all Gluten and a separate chopping board. Make sure you colour code your utensils.
  4. Ensure you scrupulously clean counter tops often to remove gluten containing crumbs.
  5. Clean cooking utensils, knives, pans, grills, thermometers, cloths, and sponges carefully after each use and before cooking Gluten Free foods.
  6. When storing fridge items, put Gluten Free items on top. Also, as already mentioned above, try to keep a separate cupboard for your Gluten Free Products.
  7. If you are baking simultaneously using both Gluten Free and wheat flour, ensure that you cover your Gluten Free food as flour dust can remain in the air for several hours and can contaminate your Gluten Free food.

 

DINING OUT, PARTIES AND TRAVELING

Although all of the above does not seem that much fun any more, you will be amazed that there are many restaurants that DO cater for Celiacs and Gluten Sensitive. Always check out restaurants before booking or at least ask if they can make you something Gluten Free, something safe like, meat or fish and vegetables. Do remind them that it is of utmost importance that there is no Cross Contamination as it will cause a lot of damage to your body. You might have to explain that you cannot eat wheat, as many do not know what Gluten is!

Parties are another thing, it is not worth risking eating something unless you know the hosts and they would have provided something Gluten Free for you. It is far safer to eat at home before going to a party, that way there will be no temptations. Same with dinners at friends. It is important to advise them of your condition and about Cross Contamination. Well, unless you take your own food, but I feel that that would sometimes be taken as ‘rude’. If they are good friends, they will try their utmost!

Last but not least, traveling.  Again before booking, check with airlines or do like I do, take snacks with you. On a long haul flight, I prepared a some cheese and biscuits and a little salad. Thank God as they had nothing Gluten Free on their flight menu! Same thing with hotels, check if they provide Gluten Free options on their menus.

You can also download Gluten Free Travel Apps on your phones. These are cards containing phrases in different languages so you can show to the restaurant manager/chef when you are in a foreign country. An example of these Apps is the one below.

Gluten Free Travel Translation Cards by GlutenFree Passport

https://itunes.apple.com/it/app/gluten-free-travel-translation/id551381824?l=en&mt=8

 

 

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW A BALANCED DIET

When you are diagnosed, the hospital will appoint you a dietician and this for good reason!

People with Celiac may not get enough Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, B Vitamins, or Fiber on a Gluten Free diet.  Many of the foods contain lots of starches, are not fortified with vitamins and mostly low in fiber.  Hence, that is why it is very important that you consume more fresh produce, meat, fish, chicken, dairy, fruits and vegetables. You will also probably need to take multivitamins and minerals supplements. This will all be discussed with your dietician.

 

 

 

WATCH OUT FOR OTHER FOOD INTOLERANCES!

You might find that you may still have problems even if you are on a GF diet. A very common problem with gluten intolerance is lactose intolerance.  Lactose Intolerance may be a side effect because those damaged villi, which was caused by the gluten are no longer capable of catching and breaking down the lactose molecule.  The problem usually disappears when Celiacs remove gluten from their diet, which will then allow the damaged villi to grow back. This may take from six months and in some cases up to two years.

Lactose is not the only intolerance, so if you still feel unwell, discuss it with your dietician.

 

 

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN EAT, NOT ON WHAT YOU CAN’T!

It is useless and also very frustrating to keep on thinking about the food you cannot eat anymore, all those delicious pizzas, those nicely toasted baguettes and all those cakes and muffins! Think about how you can still enjoy these, but in a gluten free version. Years ago, having to go on a gluten free diet was very restricting as not many shops, supermarkets or outlets catered for Celiacs.  Today we are luckier in the sense that we have quite a varied choice, with many a company competing to manufacture an even greater range of gluten free products.  But what is even better, is that we now find available so many new and raw ingredients to help us make and bake our own gluten free food, not to mention all the fresh produce which is even healthier.

 

 

SUPPORT!

Yes, support. You need plenty of that to help you initially, until you get used to your new lifestyle. Support from your partner or spouse, your family, kids or siblings, friends and most of all,  your dietician.

It also helps if you join groups on Facebook, where you can share experiences, recipes and the occasional chinwag … why not?

 

 

If you follow the above steps, I can guarantee that it will not be as bad as you thought it would be.  I didn’t say that it is going to be easy, I said that it will get easier by time.

The time it takes for someone to feel better after starting his or her gf diet varies.  Most feel better within a few days or weeks, with some symptoms like diarrhoea and bloating, disappearing completely.  The same with intestinal damage, this too also varies from one person to another and can take between six months to two years.

Do remember,  that even if you are extremely careful and you do follow a strict Gluten Free diet, there is still some chance that you can get “glutened”, most of the time unintentional.  Do not worry, everyone makes mistakes, especially if you have just been diagnosed. Just try to avoid whatever it was the next time round.  Some might not feel the consequences as much as others as symptoms do vary, but you are still causing severe damage to your intestines.

There is always a positive to anything in life … with Celiac Disease,  the positives are that the damage is reversible and that there are no meds with any side effects. And with a little bit of help and support, Celiac Disease can be easily managed so you can live a good and healthy life again!