Monday, 23 May 2011

The nuts and bolts of gluten

I've had a few readers contact me and tell me that they have not only enjoyed reading the blog, but particularly learning about gluten and the impact it has on some people.  I was honoured to have such comments, this meant that my goal of reaching people through this blog is well on the way to being achieved.

When I reflect on the posts I have written, I haven't really given a description of what a coeliac is or the difference that and a gluten allergy/intolerance. This might help readers understand the puffer fish and why it is so important to follow the gf diet, we aren't being a pain in butt when we ask thousands of question when we eat out, its really important that we don't accidentally eat gluten.

The following information is from the Coeliac Society of Australia I guess the first question is what is coeliac? Firstly it's an autoimmune disease which affects 1 in 100 people! "It is a permanent intestinal intolerance to dietary gluten". Left untreated the lining of the small bowel becomes damaged. Unfortunately coeliac isn't something that just happens you are born with a genetic predisposition to the disease, so thanks alot mum or dad!!! (in my case I think dad!!). Basically in coeliacs any consumption of gluten causes an abnormal reaction predominately inflammation and damage to the small bowel.

What are the symptoms? For those of you who have been reading my blog you will know that bloating (I describe it as the puffer fish) is one of the most obvious symptoms, ummmm wind (yuck and perhaps not polite to talk about but one of the symptoms, and I have to confess that I still find 'fart' humour rather funny!), anemia (I also suffered from rather severely), tired/lethargic (a side affect of anemia too), there are other symptoms (your bowel working too much or hardly at all) and some more serious ones left untreated can lead to miscarriage, infertility (both very scary for me as I have endometrosis which has its own horrible statistics for this), depression and cancer! Not very pleasant to say the least.

How do I find out if I have it? Unfortunately the only exact diagnosis is a endoscopy, a camera down the throat (I call in channel 9 camera crew doing some research, you have to make light of the situation). There are blood tests that can be done but they aren't conclusive.

Can it be cured? At this stage there are no cures, the science and medical world are in the trial process of developing a vaccine for gluten. The very good news is that it is very controllable, by following a strict diet, the symptoms disappear and you are able to live a happy regular life.

What's the difference between a gluten allergy/intolerance and coeliac disease? An allergy/intolerance to gluten gives a person similar symptoms to that of someone with coeliac disease but it doesn't have the same damaging affect on the small bowel and extreme health issues. Some people with an intolerance may choose to eat small amounts of gluten if it doesn't affect them or they may completely remove it from their diet. My advice would be if you are experiencing any of the symptoms check with your doctor, you need to ensure that you aren't a coeliac. There are lots of health benefits from gluten containing grains if you don't suffer from coeliac disease or have an allergy to gluten, so not always a good thing to remove completely from your diet if there isn't a medical need.

I hope that this information has been relatively helpful and given you an understanding of the nuts and bolts of coeliac disease and gluten. In future post this week I plan on writing about the pros, cons and success of a gluten free diet for autism and various behavioural problems (particularly in children, as I am a qualified, and experienced teacher I feel that my experience teaching students with various problems combined with research I will do, may be beneficial to parents and care givers).

Recipe of the Day
Stuffed Chicken Breast with handmade chips and vegetables
Serves 2 (double ingredients for 4)

1 large chicken breast (I used 2, 1 small and 1 medium, and there is half left for dinner tomorrow night!)
2 slices gf ham
Dijon mustard
2 pieces of swiss cheese
approx 1/4 cup white wine (I used a traminer riesling, it was what we had in the fridge, any white would work)
1 teaspoon chicken stock powder
Olive oil
3 washed potatoes cut into eighths
Sea Salt
Mixed vegetables (I used frozen vegetables that you steam in microwave for 3minutes, easier than chopping lots of vegetables or throwing away vegetables that have gone rotten)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place cut potatoes into a baking dish lightly coat with olive oil (the less oil the more crispy the chips will be), sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary and place in the oven.

Flatten chicken with the back of a wooden spoon. Coat chicken with mustard add ham and cheese, fold the breast in half and place in a baking dish/tray. Lightly sprinkle rosemary and thyme on chicken breast. Put some oil over chicken and add wine and chicken stock (in liquid and on chicken). Put chicken in the oven for 25 minutes.

Put vegetables in microwave for 3 minutes or as specified.

Plate up chicken, potatoes and vegetables and lightly pour liquid over all.