Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Dramatic Change of Lifestyle: Getting to the Grain of the Problem

I have some news so share with you all. At the end of September 2010 I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease. When I was told I was completely flabbergasted – I think I almost laughed in disbelief and my first words were ‘Oh my word!’ Then my brain started to kick in with what this meant – no wheat flours, no bread, cereals, pasta or cakes. My second thought that flashed through my mind was ‘but… I was planning a trip to Paris to eat my way around all the patisseries!’ Hmm guess that’s out the window.

However, despite feeling a little overwhelmed I also felt incredibly thankful. For the past year I have been loosing weight for no apparent reason with the last 9 months resulting in quite a dramatic and alarming weight loss. At first I was not too bothered and put it down to stress of finishing uni and searching for work but when it got to the stage where friends and family began making comments and I got dangerously thin I became very scared. I went to the Dr’s and had a range of blood tests done for various things – thyroid, diabetes and they all came back normal. I was told just to try and eat more. I had already tried this myself and so my mum had helped me to devise some high calorie meals, I was eating enormous breakfasts, cooked meals at lunchtimes and I knew I already ate plenty of cakes, bread and desserts (just look at my blog contents) – but still the weight was falling off.

The person who I feel has suffered the most through all this was my mum. She had the worry over seeing me loose weight while trying to fend off comments from people insisting to her that I was anorexic and why didn’t she do something about it. I felt like screaming at them all – I eat people – it’s not my fault!!

In the end I sought out our old family doctor and within minutes of seeing me he suggested I be tested for coeliac disease. Having done a 4 year food & nutrition degree at university I was well aware of this disease but had discounted it as a possibility as I didn’t fit all the symptoms – sure I had a fair few of them, bloating after eating, stomach cramps, weight loss and fatigue, but I had accepted this as being just the way I am. I hadn’t been sick or suffered chronic abdominal pain (turns out the disease can present itself in three different ways). However, I was just so greatful he was taking me seriously and so went off to get tested, if not a little skeptically. So when I went to get my results I was astounded to be told it had come back positive, but also immensely greatful and relieved that finally there was an explanation and something that could be done about it. I also felt a little foolish I hadn’t picked it up myself. It just goes to show we all suffer with the delusion of ‘it won’t happen to me.’ You get tested for coeliac disease with a blood test which is usually followed by a biopsy of the gut. They test the blood to see if you have any antibodies, know as TGI’s that try and attack foods containing gluten. These in turn damage the lining of the gut which stops you absorbing all the nutrients from foods – hence the weight loss. A normal person can register between 0-6, my reading was over 120 – yikes!! I guess that’s pretty positive then!

After a brief moment of panic I am actually feeling very positive and even a little excited by the prospect of a gluten free diet. Yes I am going to miss some foods terribly, especially sourdough and rye breads, breakfast cereals and cakes – some of my all time favourite foods – and the t.v. seemed to suddenly be full of baking programmes or adverts for bread which is just cruel… but I also feel lucky that I have such a great interest in food and knowledge gained from my uni course. I am actually looking forward to experimenting with recipes and finding out about new flours and ingredients – I already know and love buckwheat scones and pancakes and have used maize meal to make vegetable fritters but it’s the others – tapioca starch, rice flour, gram flour and the exotic sounding xantham gum which have me daunted.

It’s going to take ages to go food shopping now, reading all the ingredients lists. Aside from the obvious ones, wheat, rye, barley, couscous, semolina, bulgar, spelt and malt, manufacturers seem to have a knack for hiding gluten in the most unlikeliest of foods – soy sauce (made from fermented wheat), rusks in sausages (vegetarian ones too), thickers in soups, sauces and stews, coatings on potato wedges, malt vinegar in chutneys and dressings, its even hidden in some chocolates and ice creams and in the coating added to the skin of fruit to make it shiny.

This of course means that some gluten free recipes will probably start to creep into the blog too. It’s almost ironic that a blog dedicated to cakes, breads and desserts turn out to be the foods I’m not allowed to eat. I am not going to stop baking some ‘normal’ cakes and desserts for my family as they can still enjoy eating them and I still enjoy making them and seeing them devoured, but I have no doubt that future Daring Bakers challenges or The Cake Slice cakes might often make appearances as gluten free varieties. I have a few backdated recipes to post about but after this if things get a little quiet in the next few weeks I hope you’ll bear with me. I already have a great gluten free cake recipe but if anyone’s got any T&T recipes for breads, breakfast ideas, pastry or crackers etc I’d love to hear from you. My first attempt at bread has turned out with a crumb rather like a gummy wallpaper paste. Thankfully I’m not a lover of fluffy white breads, but I had to toast it to make it edible. I get the feeling I’m going to need all the hints and tips I can get.

I know its going to be hard and I’m sure at some point in the next few weeks it will truly hit me what this diagnosis means but for now with the wonderful support from my family I’m just focused on dealing with it and getting back to being healthy again. I’ve only been gluten free for a week and already I’m starting to feel a bit better in myself which is a great incentive to carry on.

If anyone wants any more info the Coeliac UK website is a great place to start.

23 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I'm so sorry to hear about that. It is good to see that you are seeing it all in a positive way. I am looking forawrd to seeing your gluten-free recipes and experimentations.

Cheers,

Rosa

Choclette said...

Katie, this must have been a real shock for you and I'm sure it will take you time to get used to the idea and new ways of cooking. There are so many gluten alternative flours these days, baking cakes at least shouldn't be a problem. I've often used other flours in my cakes. I am no expert by any means, but I had understood that spelt can often be tolerated by celiacs. Anyway good luck.

Brownieville Girl said...

It must be reassuring to know what's wrong ... not knowing is always the hardest part (at least I think so)

There are loads of gluten free cakes/scones etc in Harry Eastwood's book Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache - I have blogged about loads of them over the past couple of months.

Keep Well :-}

Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

Wow, that's a blow. I'm so impressed with your positive attitude to it. One thing I think is great is that you will still be doing your blogs and adapting the baking challenges. This will mean your blog will be a brilliant resource for others with Coeliac disease.
I occasionally have to cook for people who can't tolerate gluten as I'm sure many of us do so this will be my first place to come to if I need a gluten free recipe.
I'll also be interested to hear if you think some of the recipes are better than the equivalent ones containing gluten. Good luck with the challenge!

Shoshana said...

Thank you for sharing. I imagine there will be a lot of ups and downs adjusting to the new lifestyle, especially for someone with a baking blog. I found out I cannot tolerate gluten in April and as someone who absolutely loves to bake (and has a baking blog of my own www.couldntbeparve.com) there are days it seems harder than others, but as you said feeling better is a huge plus and overall it is completely do-able. While I am still posting all kinds of gluten filled treats, I have carefully labeled everything on my blog that is gluten free so check out the gluten-free list for some recipes that I have tried and liked, so I hope you can enjoy them too. It is growing all the time. I look forward to seeing what you come up in terms of gluten-free treats!

OvenDelights said...

WOW! I can't even imagine how I would take news like that! My whole life revolves around flour! I'm glad to hear your feeling better and that this didn't turn out to be something more serious. ~Anabel~

Más allá de 365 sonrisas said...

Don´t worry, it is not so caotic or dramatic, I promise. I´m coeliac since 2006 and I have rediscovered myself, I ´m pretty much better physically and psyquically. Since I was diagnosed, I really love cooking and now, in my blog, i upload gluten-free recipes and photos. You have many gluten-free blogs. Mine is in spanish but i have a google translator. If I can help, don´t hesitate. Many hugs!!

Johanna GGG said...

What a huge change for you! Your love of baking is clear to see in this blog and I am sure you will continue to love it with lots of other grains. Baking gluten free gives a great insight into grains. My advice is in this post on advice for Gluten Free beginners and kids. My favourite GF cake is this one which I highly recommend (sorry I forgot to record how many eggs - will amend as soon as possible) GF Apricot and Cranberry Cake

C said...

It must feel like a big shock, but I really hope you'll continue to feel better in yourself gluten free.

As a fellow baking enthusiast I can't imagine not having wheat flour, but your blog is testimony to your creativity so I'm sure you'll conquer the challenge by getting inspiration from all the gluten free blogs around and creating your own recipes.

Good luck for a healthy, gluten free future!

Anonymous said...

I cried many times over missing pizza and beer but now I have a local gluten free pizza restaurant to visit I am very happy again. thank you Bruschetta (kingston)

Cupcake Crazy Gem said...

Yes it's hard for me to hear my family say they are turning on the heating and it's so cold over there when it's just scorching hot here every day! Thanks for the compliments on my brownies. I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now, that is pretty devastating news to a cake lover as big as yourself! but I'm sure the coeliacs out there will very much appreciate it as they start seeing your gluten free delicious recipes appear on the blog! it's a whole new baking challenge for you - one I'm sure you'll rise to! (excuse the pun!)

Katie said...

Thank you everyone for all your supportive comments and links to various sites and recipes. I'm going to have fun exploring them all and the different foods and grains avaliable.

Choclette, Spelt flour is still a type of wheat grain and so it still contains gluten. It can be tolerated by some people who are sensative to wheat but must be avoided if you are coeliac/gluten intolerant.

Emily said...

I'm just so relieved and happy you found out what was wrong. Now you can start getting better

There are so many gluten free products and recipes out there that I think you'll be absolutely fine!

Monica H said...

Katie, I'm sorry to read this. I don't even know how I'd handle this news if that were me. I'm glad you're seeing the positive side of things and you're looking forward to experimenting in the kitchen. I'm also glad that you now have answers to your weightloss. I hope you start feeling better soon!

I don't know if you follow any gluten free blogs, but a friend of mine (Sophie) has one and just posted gluten free flaky pastry!

Here's the link: http://www.flour-arrangements.com/

~Monica H

Becky said...

Thanks for a beautifully written and honest piece. I am sure with your extraordinary creativity you will be able to tackle this and are already providing inspiration for others.

Really impressed at a lot of food-fairs to see more and more gluten free labelled dishes

Look forward to seeing your creations

The Caked Crusader said...

It's awful to feel bad for a long period of time but at least you now know the cause and can direct all your baking/cooking mastery to getting better.
I truly sympathise with you - a life without bread or cake is not to be undertaken lightly. But nothing is more important than your health.

Andrew's Mom said...

I'm going through the same - one of my tests came back positive for Celiacs - but they also believe I have ulcerative colitis- so the testing continues. Good luck - I just won Gluten Free Girl's new cookbook - and am enjoying it. Her website is helpful as well.

Nicisme said...

Oh I'm so sorry to read this Katie. What a shock for you. But on the up-side, there are so many substitutes these days and forums/blogs where you can get help and support. I hope you start to feel better soon, and look forward to seeing your creative gluten free recipes. xx

Haftowane prezenty said...

I'm so sorry to hear what happened to you. But at least it's good you know what the problem is. Sometimes life makes funny tricks on us. But you seem to be so positive and I like the idea that now you will adapt the baking to your health requirements. I'm happy to see that you didn't break down and you still to continue your great blog.
What's important - now you can get better and better. So good luck!

Sam said...

Wow, that must have come as a big shock. It will mean big changes for sure but there are lots of really good alternatives to wheat available now, it's just going to take a bit of getting used to.

At least now you know the problem you can start to feel better again. I will look forward to seeing what delicious gluten-free recipes you come up with!

Allison said...

Thank you for sharing Katie. As you can clearly tell from all the comments, you have a ton of support out here and, as life changing as this discovery is, the recent focus on gluten-free baking in the industry means there are a ton of resources available to you. I look forward to your adventures into gluten-free baking.

Elle said...

Katie, It must be a relief to know what your problem is and to be able to solve it by monitoring what you eat. Also you have always seemed like an inventive cook and baker so I can see you making some delgithful baked goods that are gluten free and still wonderful.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

i really feel for you...it must be so hard, and you are right that manufacturers "sneak" so many things into foods you'd never suspect. but it's great that you've pinpointed your problem and begin to take care of it. you are great baker, and i'm sure you'll rise to the challenge of gluten-free sweets...there are lots of other wonderful bloggers who can give you GF ideas and tips