My wife has coeliac disease. Her mother has it, her Grandad died because he didn’t stick to the diet. It is very likely that one or more of our children will get it during their lifetime.
She was officially diagnosed with coeliac in 2010, which seems like forever ago now, but she was aware of the condition since a young age.
So what is coeliac disease?
“Coeliac is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten” Coeliac UK
An Autoimmune Disease… That’s not a choice, or a preference, or a fad diet. It is a disease. It is where the immune system mistakenly attacks it’s own cells causing the lining of the small intestine to get damaged.
If my wife has even a crumb of gluten it can cause bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, much ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia.
For me I was aware of it but by no means fully. Like most people I suspected it was some sort or allergy or intolerance. The shock for me was how little a coeliac could eat. Gluten is in everything. Naively I thought a boycott of cakes, pies and anything bready or pastry like would do the trick. I even felt jealous (I know, any coeliacs reading this, I know) that my wife would enjoy a more healthy diet (sorry). But it’s in absolutely everything. Vinegar, cereal, processed meats, crisps, ice cream, sauces, frozen foods, ready meals, if it doesn’t say gluten free on the label it contains gluten, for the curious try picking up a few of your regular products and seeing how many contain gluten. Now pick up every item you are going to buy and really read the label, check the ingredients to see if they contain barley, or maize, or vinegar. Because that’s what a coeliac has to do every single shop, every single item.
This is where my frustration built up. Because like the naive me of 2010, most people, have no clue what coeliac or gluten actually is. And unfortunately in 2010 there were no labels to say gluten free, or listing allergies. In 2010. When you can speak to someone on the other side of the world in a video call, you don’t know if your can of soup contains gluten or not. What are we eating?
And restaurants were none the wiser. No labels, staff were ignorant. Fast food restaurants had nothing at all to eat. But vegetarian options are on there, a requirement. (I have nothing bad to say about vegetarians. My argument is with the absurdity that a restaurant that caters for a vegetarian but not a coeliac. After all if a vegetarian did eat a crumb of meat it wouldn’t damage the lining of their small intestine, causing, bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, mouth ulcers, sudden or unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia).
Ok so that was 2010, 4 years on things should be better right. I must admit yes things are better. But not, sadly by much. Labelling is a lot better. It was a law to include gluten related products in the allergy section now, and the range is better, but again not by much. In that whole supermarket, only one tiny section is for the coeliacs, and they have to share it with the lactose intolerant and the food allergies. Bread is less stiff and crumbly these days. My main grip these days though is that gluten free products are sooooo expensive. Shame on you mass food producers.
Is it related to the new celebrity of Gluten Free diets? Don’t get me wrong I’m sure the coeliacs would like the exposure but I feel it’s making coeliac disease seem like a fad diet. Whether this is the cause or not it is not for me to say, but still gluten free food is expensive. Now add to that the fact we have to provide for 4 children as well, and what if they get Coeliac later in life too. £2.90 for a loaf. And that is just the bread, and that is just the supermarket, when we go out to the restaurant there are still problems. My wife can only have fries in most of the usual fast food restaurants. There is one chicken related fast food place we never go too any more.
But that is why I am so frustrated. People seem to fall into 3 categories, the ignorant, who don’t know, the exploitative’s, who do know but take advantage and make it really expensive, or the frustrated, the coeliacs or coeliac supporters who do know and are trying to make a difference.
But the positive is that things are getting better, some restaurants do cater for gluten free, and are informed. Some fast food places have rose up to the challenge. My favourites are Pizza Hut, who now do a stunning gluten free pizza with all the toppings of a regular pizza. With healthy gluten free sides. My wife has to box it up there’s so much Gluten free food. Also, Nandos. Most things/everything on the Nandos menu is Gluten Free. Date night has never looked so good. Thank you Nandos. Both these restaurants charge the same price for the gluten free options as the normal items.
I wanted to make a change for my wife, as a supportive husband and family man, when my Nana, who will never understand Coeliac disease, continually offers my wife biscuits. I realised that I can’t change everyone, even raising awareness I can’t make people make affordable gluten free options. But I can change myself and my family.
We look for fresh food, vegetables and meat. We make our own sauces. All to ensure we know no gluten free products are used. I make a point of making meals that are gluten free for everybody, so that the kids and I aren’t having a slap up meal while my wife chews on gluten free toast and cheese. Everyone eats the same, except when me and Mrs Berg eat separate from the kids for romantic purposes. By doing this we are not buying for 2 different sets of people and makes it infinitely more affordable. This also ensures that the kids who could develop coeliac in the future, have a wealth of recipes under their belt. We make bread together and I have started to make gluten free bread as well.
We stay away from processed foods and I find that it does make us feel like we are being healthier.
I will share with you some of the meals that we prepare in this blog and any gluten free specific recipes we find. I hope that you will find them useful and realise you are not just restricted to a “diet” and can incorporate it into your lifestyle, cheaply and easily.
As a final note, I would like to say that this blog is only my opinions. If you feel you have coeliac disease please consult your doctor and read specific coeliac websites like https://www.coeliac.org.uk
Also if anyone has any suggestions for coeliac recipes and advice contact me through twitter. Any advice is welcomed