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Being Coeliac

Genius Bread

Half-a-million people in the UK are unaware that they have coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is a life-long condition that causes your intestines to become irritated and inflamed. It is caused by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Coeliac disease is treated and managed by adhering to a gluten free (gf) diet.
Having been diagnosed for a decade now, I have experienced a lot of change in the world of ‘being coeliac’. Fortunately, with the term ‘gluten’ becoming more widely used and, more importantly understood, a number of popular supermarket and restaurant chains now offer gluten free products, menus and substitutes aplenty. Phew. 

When I was first diagnosed, making a sandwich as a coeliac meant firstly having to ‘refresh’ your tiny, cardboard-textured, crumbly bread slices that were overpriced and extremely underwhelming. I remember every food item being half the size of its gluten-filled counterpart and at least twice the price. When at last the full sized, fresh Genius loaf came out in 2009 it was like tasting bread for the first time.

Being undiagnosed until I was 21, I was used to unlimited choice when it came to food and flavour. This is something that I missed greatly once diagnosed. Although things are much better now, in terms of what is available to coeliacs, choice can still be limited. Some places I have eaten at (including fancy hotels) have been lazy, equating my ‘gluten free’ dietary request to ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ and given me fruit salad for two of three courses. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of places who have made an effort to cater for coeliacs, and provide a positive gf experience. Among them I would highly recommend Pizza Express, Wagamama, Carluccio’s and La Tasca, all of whom have gf menus. Supermarkets who are gf friendly include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and my personal favourite Wholefoods (also great in the US). 

A very useful resource, and the authority on gf living is Coeliac UK where there are extensive lists of gf supermarket foods, restaurant recommendations and recipes. I also like Phil Vickery’s recipe book ‘Seriously Good! Gluten-Free Cooking’, published in association with Coeliac UK. Some gf meals ideas that I enjoy include chicken and mushroom risotto, gf spaghetti, Pad Thai and steak with red wine butter (one of the recipes from the aforementioned book).

But, of course if you fancy a real treat that doesn’t involve home cooking, I can highly recommend indulging in gluten free fish and chips from the Water Orton Fish Bar in Birmingham. Simply the best! 

This article is a guest post from a someone living with coeliac.

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