- Did you love pizza before your diagnosis? No worries, there is a pizzeria claiming to serve gluten free pizzas in every corner.
- Do you miss those yummy gluten filled cupcakes? Just join a local social media group and you will find people who bake cakes in every flavour and design who are willing to sell and deliver.
- We have restaurant owners who are promoting their gluten free foods, shops stocking home made gluten free products, cooking classes organised to teach gluten free cooking, even adverts for lectures about the gluten free lifestyles by people claiming to be experts in the field.
Isn’t that great!
Um, no it isn’t actually.
It is not so great because in actuality, some of these have no clue about what the gluten free diet really entails. It is not so great because the authorities concerned with implementing laws that concern the gluten free label are not giving these issues the importance they deserve.
At the moment in Malta, the gluten free label is being used by some major companies with all the proper licences, testing for parts per million of gluten and with the necessary precautions taken. But in some other cases it is being used freely just because the manufacturer feels that they have used gluten free ingredients to make the product. How can we know which products we can trust? How can we be sure that a person who is selling home made gluten free treats is taking all steps to avoid cross contamination when gluten filled baked goods are also prepared? Do we even ask questions in these cases?
When a person offers a cooking class, do we ask about their background in preparing gluten free foods, and what training they have? Or do we blindly trust that it is fine. A lovely person who I met through my social media adventures once told me that she was approached by somebody who held gluten free cooking classes asking for a bread recipe that was based on spelt. I would expect that a person who is educating newly diagnosed coeliacs would at least know that spelt is not gluten free!
Now, before I get accused of trying to harm anybody’s business, I am not. I really have nothing to gain by doing that. My only concern is the health of people in the gluten free community.
Coeliac disease is a serious auto-immune disorder in which the body is triggered to attack the lining of the small intestine if even traces of gluten are ingested. Symptoms range from absent (as in silent coeliac disease) to severe. Repeated ingestion of gluten can have serious effects including osteoporosis, infertility, and some types of lymphoma amongst others. People must understand that the ingestion of gluten will cause damage to the intestinal mucosa, even if no symptoms are experienced. In other words, it is not fine just because you did not experience symptoms.
I sometimes see people comment that their coeliac blood antibody levels were found to have decreased at their out patient follow up visit. However, sadly, antibody levels do not always reflect the damage that is done in the intestine. I am living proof of that. My antibody levels were normal after a few months on a gluten free diet. Four years after my diagnosis, and four years on a strict gluten free diet, I still only had partial healing of my intestine. I know this because I had another endoscopy and biopsy for an unrelated health issue.
So my message is this:
I know we sometimes miss certain foods, and the convenience of finding ready made products is extremely tempting. But lets take care of ourselves. Ask questions and make informed decisions- some services are trustworthy, other’s aren’t. Join a local coeliac association for support. Join social media groups but filter information wisely.
A few treats are really not worth a lifetime of complications and illness.
It has been pointed out to me that this post might be promoting an unhealthy lifestyle since I spoke about gluten free products and foods that include cakes and pizza. My intention in this piece was to discuss and point out the importance of vigilance in dining out, buying products and using services. As I always state in other posts, it is important to include plenty of natural healthy gluten free products in one’s diet. But if a person does choose to consume these products, they should do so with care. We are currently having major problems in Malta with the gluten free label being used without testing, the crossed grain symbol being used without a licence and other services offered with no appropriate training or background.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/kellysue/2831068087/”>Kelly Sue</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>