Thanks to stars such as New Girl actress Zooey Deschanel, who has coeliac disease, Victoria Beckham, who is sensitive to gluten, Chelsea Clinton, who has an alergy to gluten and Miley Cyrus, who has recommended everyone go gluten free, awareness around coeliac disease has continued to grow in recent years.
To mark Coeliac Awareness Week, HELLO! Online have had a chat with expert Ann Perkins, who has been diagnosed as coeliac herself, and since established her own gluten-free range of products with PERK!ER.
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New Girl star Zooey Deschanel has coeliac disease
We ask the expert – who has a career in the food industry and works closely with The Coeliac Association – about her own personal experience, what to look out for if you think you're coeliac, for examples of naturally gluten-free dishes and her top tips for coeliacs.
How did you discover you were coeliac?
After a number of years of different symptoms, which were never really understood by a doctor, my partner Steve and I realised that some food was definitely causing me issues, and that it might well be gluten, as when I reduced the amount of wheat in my diet I felt so much better. I went back to the doctor's and insisted on a referral to a specialist, and then I was diagnosed.
The average time for diagnosis is estimated to be 13 years as many symptoms can be misinterpreted as IBS, or the strains of a busy life. I think in my case it could have been 20 years, as some symptoms went back to when I was very young.
Gluten-free lemon drizzle cake
What are the symptoms someone might be suffering if they are coeliac and don't know it?
Symptoms vary from one person to the next, but can include bloating, abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, tiredness, headaches, sudden or unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia. Many consumers also complain of "brain fog" – not being able to think so clearly.
It is now medically recognised that some people with coeliac disease don’t have any recognisable physical symptoms but still have the damage to their gut on the inside, so if you do have a family history of coeliac disease it’s a good idea to ask your doctor for a blood test.
Quinoa is gluten free
Any restaurant tips for coeliacs?
Call ahead if you can to check they can cater for you, as some restaurants are more restricted than others in the food they have available and the methods they use for food preparation.
When you arrive, make sure you mention to your waiter that you need a strict gluten free meal. Make sure they understand what gluten is, gluten is in wheat, barley and rye. Sometimes I do meet staff in restaurants that confuse gluten with dairy.
Tip: Sauces and soups which may have been thickened with wheat flour and food fried in the same oil as a battered food, meaning the batter will contain wheat flour.
Can you name some meals/desserts that are naturally gluten-free?
Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, so all meat, fish, fruit, vegetables (including pulses and beans) and dairy is naturally gluten-free, as well as many grains like rice and corn, and the ancient grain quinoa.
Naturally gluten-free dishes
• Roast dinner (just watch the gravy)
• Rice based dishes (be careful with sauces and soy sauce)
• Indian (without the naan unless it's gluten free)
• Ice-cream and Sorbets
• Mousse and Panna Cotta
5 tips for coeliacs?
1. Join the national charity, Coeliac UK. They have lots of fantastic information to share, including a neat little book listing gluten free food and drink, recipes and local volunteer groups.
2. Connect with other gluten-free consumers to share tips on great new products, recipes and places to eat. There is great community called "gluten free & me" on Facebook, Twitter is fab for tips and a virtual hug if something is getting you down!
3. Try to buy naturally gluten-free foods in the supermarket (many sauces and soups are gluten-free) but always check allergen labels as manufacturers do change their ingredients and manufacturing processes.
4. Go to The Allergy & Free From show in July, it's like heaven for the gluten-free consumer! Click here for free tickets. www.allergyshow.co.uk/go/perkier
5. Experiment in the kitchen with new recipes and your old favourites as there are lots of delicious gluten-free recipes out there.
PERK!ER offers a range of gluten-free snacks
Report by Miriam Foley