My new website

logo beat

I know I haven’t written anything here for a while. I would like to apologise, but I have been quite busy setting up my new website. It is called Beat the grain, and incorporates my blog posts, tips and information, recipes and reviews, all under one roof. You can visit it here:

http://www.beatthegrain.com

Please do follow me on facebook on my two pages, The Coeliac Hub and Beat the grain gluten free reviews and recipes.

Thanks for following x

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Farewell.

farewell

Last November, I had a brilliant (or not so brilliant) idea.

I decided to start a facebook page, The Coeliac Hub to share information about coeliac disease and gluten related disorders. I was tired of hearing people complain about issues and the lack of available information on our Maltese social media groups so I thought, why not?

As a health care professional I had access to journals and latest research. As an Australian registered physiotherapist I could search Australian websites and could share this information with people by writing articles that were easier to understand if one did not have a medical background. As my page grew, I realised that most of my followers were from diffrent parts of the world, and I was humbled by that. I wish to thank you all for taking the time to read my posts.

However, I also set up a closed Facebook group so that people from my country could discuss issues that concerned them. My major rule was that there were to be no adverts at all since the other local groups seemed to be full of adverts which for me causes bias.Since then, I have sent countless emails about pending issues in Malta, done hours of research and written up many many articles. However, today I will say goodbye, at least for a while.

I need a break.

Malta is a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, and we are a passionate bunch. We also like to complain but do nothing about it unfortunately. I am currently viewed as the person who tries to ruin everything for everyone just because I ask questions and try to ensure the law regarding gluten free labelling is abided for our own sakes. A few appreciate my efforts, the reality is that most don’t.

We complain about things, but most of us do not really want things to improve at the end of the day. The idiom ”Nobody does anything for nothing” is really not accurate. I never gained anything from what I do except for a few ”thankyou’s” from a few. I did however, get alot of bad feelings and abuse targeted towards me.

So I wish you all the best of luck. I hope that I will get the courage back to continue with what I have been doing, but for now, as I said, I need a break.

Farewell for a while, and thank you to all of my followers xx

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3 myths and the truth about coeliac disease and diabetes.

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People with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of coeliac disease. Both conditions are autoimmune disorders. According to Coeliac UK between 2 and 10% of people with coeliac disease will also have type 1 diabetes. Some people with type 1 diabetes have silent coeliac disease, which means that no symptoms are apparent. It can also be easily missed because symptoms of feeling unwell may be attributed to the diabetes. Experts agree that all people who suffer from diabetes 1 should be screened for coeliac disease. 

 

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It is not the diabetes your grandpa developed when he turned 80. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. 

 

 

Common Myths:

1. People with coeliac disease have an increased risk of diabetes 2.

Diabetes 2 is non insulin dependent diabetes. It is the most common type of diabetes and is the type of diabetes that is diagnosed in late adulthood. The bodies of people with diabetes 2 do still produce insulin. But either their pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin well enough. This is insulin resistance. There is no link between coeliac disease and type 2 diabetes. The risk of diabetes 2 in people with coeliac disease is the same as for the general population. The risk factors for diabetes 2 are being overweight, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, family history, age, and others. These risks are the same for coeliacs and non coeliacs.

 

2. Sugar in gluten free foods causes diabetes 2 in people with coeliac disease.

This might be partially true. A diet that is high in sugar can contribute to weight gain, which combined with other risk factors increases the likelihood of developing diabetes 2. But this is not limited to people with coeliac disease. It is the same for the general population. If a person with coeliac disease does not have diabetes 1, the international health recommendations apply. Eat a healthy balanced diet and increase your activity levels to avoid health problems. Just make sure your diet is gluten free.

 

3. People with coeliac disease and diabetes 1 should follow a sugar free diet.

When a person with diabetes 1 and coeliac disease is established on a gluten free diet, absorption of nutrients from food will increase as the intestine heals. This will affect blood sugar control. It is important to follow advice from a healthcare team regarding possible changes in insulin requirements. However, many people think that they can eat all gluten free food as long as it is sugar free. This is a myth. In reality sugar can be consumed by people with diabetes as part of a healthy diet in cooking and baking. High sugar foods are not healthy for anybody and will not help with glucose control, but sugars are not prohibited. Sadly, many gluten free products are high in sugars. Try to limit the consumption of high sugar foods, but that is not enough. 

 

The Facts:

If a person has diabetes and coeliac disease these points are important to remember: 

  • Eat regularly and do not skip meals. Try to include a starchy carbohydrtae with every meal. Carbohydrates are important to control blood sugar levels. Follow the advice of a dietitian with regards to how much carbohydrates to include in your diet as this varies depending on age, activity level and weight. 
  • Include foods with a lower glycaemic index. The glycemic index, or GI, measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with a low or medium GI raises blood glucose less than foods with a high GI. Fat and fiber tend to lower the GI of a food. As a general rule, the more cooked or processed a food, the higher the GI (although there are exceptions). This means that gluten free highly processed packed products tend to have a high GI index and will raise blood glucose levels fast. Low GI foods that are gluten free include basmati rice, naturally gluten free grains, gluten free pasta, gluten free multigrain, wholegrain or seeded bread, sweet potato, corn, yam, beans, peas, legumes, lentils, most fruit, and non starchy vegetables. 
  • Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Aim for 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Avoid diabetic foods and drinks. The ‘suitable for diabetics’ label is a gimmick. These foods contain the same amounts of fats and calories and have a laxative effect that can affect blood glucose levels.
All naturally gluten free!

All naturally gluten free!

And finally…

Include plenty of naturally gluten free foods in your diet. Do yourself a favour and limit the packaged highly processed gluten free junk. And don’t forget to exercise!

 

___________________________________

Sources and further reading:

https://www.coeliac.org.uk/coeliac-disease/associated-conditions-and-complications/type-1-diabetes/

 

http://www.diabetes.ie/living-with-diabetes/educational-articles/diabetes-and-food/coeliac-disease-and-type-1-diabetes/

 

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/duisburgbunny/707028783/”>duisburgbunny</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/themeetingplacenorth/4112011298/”>www.themeetingplacenorth.co.uk</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Come on, I dare you. Get your head out of the sand!

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Lets get our head out of the sand. Until we do, there will be no progress.

I have had a terrible week. As many of you know, I have a facebook page called The Coeliac Hub that I use to raise awareness and share information about gluten related disorders. My blog posts are shared on that page.

My first issue started when I decided to start a campaign to make gluten free pizzas free from gluten here in Malta. Although most were thankful, the feedback I received from restaurants could have been more detailed. But I know that they all read the guidelines and hope that some change will be made for the better to safeguard our health. However, the response I got from members of the gluten free community was a little surprising. I received a few private messages and other comments to the effect that I should be grateful  that so many restaurants are willing to cater for us, and that I should not undermine this by placing unrealistic demands on restaurants. Some messages were worded more nicely than others. Shocked? I was.

Then just yesterday, I was yet again disappointed by many members of the gluten free community here in Malta.  Here is a brief recount of the story.

A company recently started selling a huge amount of packaged products labelled as gluten free and bearing the crossed grain symbol. For those of you who do not know what the crossed grain symbol is, it is a a registered trademark at a national and European level, as well as in the United States. Coeliac UK owns the worldwide copyright for the symbol. It can only be used with a licence, and certain criteria must be met to obtain this locence. Products have to be tested in an independent, accredited lab to be either gluten free (< 20ppm of gluten) or to contain very low gluten (<100ppm of gluten). Unfortunately, although these products may (or may not) have been gluten free, they had never been tested for ppm of gluten. Hence, the gluten free label should never have been used. They also had no licence to use the crossed grain symbol. A better option would have been to state that the products contain ‘No gluten containing ingredients’ which means that although ingredients are gluten free, and efforts have been made to minimise cross contamination, the product is not labelled as gluten free due to lack of testing. This label is adopted my many companies including Thorntons chocolates here in Europe. It is then up to the consumer whether to buy these products or not.  The company’s attention was brought to the issue, and although the crossed grain symbol was removed, they continued to use the ‘gluten free’ label’.

For people with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity the ‘gluten free’ label is almost sacred- it should be immune to question or criticism. A gluten free label shows us that we can consume a product safely because it has been tested to have a very low level of gluten that most people with coeliac disease can tolerate. In Europe and the US this is 20ppm of gluten. To use the label irresponsibly is a huge offence in my book.

The appropriate authorities got to know about this issue and the products were recalled for a very short time until they were tested. They were thankfully found to be gluten free according to the manufacturer. The crossed grain symbol was removed from their products.

Happy ending? Yes- it is wonderful that the products are gluten free actually.

However, I cannot help being dismayed by the response from the manufacturer in question as well as from people with coeliac disease themselves. Rather than offering an apology for misusing the gluten free label and crossed grain symbol, they proceeded to publicly express their anger that people were out to harm their buisness by bringing the issue to the attention of authorities. They also claimed that various damaging statements were written about them. If there were, I never read them. However, what worried me is the response they got from fellow members of the gluten free community. There were responses that their products have always tasted wonderful (what has that got to do with anything?), that they have a Maltese product and that we should support them (Maltese, Italian, Australian- makes no difference- the issue is the gluten free label), and many other comments praising the company and thanking them. The company also claimed that many people who approached them were disgusted by the actions of people or groups who asked for their products to be tested.

Where is our pride? Do we even know how important these issues are? EU legislation as well as similar legislations worldwide have been put into effect to protect us from getting ill. On the other hand, if a restaurant claims to serve gluten free food but has no knowledge about cross contamination issues and what gluten is, why should we be thankful?

Lets get our head out of the sand. Until we do, there will be no progress.

Note:

For more information about the use of the crossed grain symbol please refer to Coeliac UK’s webpage by clicking here.

Campaign: Making ‘gluten free’ pizza free from gluten.

 

making

 

Have you noticed how many restaurants are offering gluten free pizza on their menu? And have you noticed that many of these restaurants are not dedicated to preparing gluten free pizzas only?

This can be very risky for a person with coeliac disease or other gluten related disorders due to the high risk of cross contamination.

Although a pizza cannot be guaranteed to be gluten free unless only gluten free foods are prepared in the kitchen, there are steps that can be taken to minimise the risk, even in restaurants that offer both gluten containing and gluten free pizzas on their menu. Some establishments in several countries are already taking measures to ensure the safety of their customers by implementing extraordinary measures to avoid cross contamination.

 

Here are 10 tips for the preparation of gluten free pizza.

 

  1. CHEF CLOTHING The person who will prepare the gluten free pizza must be wearing clothes that are not contaminated with gluten containing flour, or a disposable apron/overall must be worn over the clothes.
  2. CLEAN HANDS The persons who will be handling the food must wash their hands thoroughly before handling gluten free food items, and must wash them every time gluten free food is handled.
  3. USE A SEPARATE AND UNCONTAMINATED WORK AREA FOR GLUTEN FREE FOOD PREPARATION. If this is not possible, the work surface must be thoroughly cleaned before gluten free food is prepared.
  4. EQUIPMENT: the machinery, equipment, accessories and ingredients necessary for the production of gluten-free pizza must be absolutely distinct and separate. Food items must be covered with plastic wrap or closed in a container and utensils must be kept in a separate cupboard to guarantee that they will not be contaminated.
  5. ONLY USE GLUTEN FREE FLOUR TO ROLL OUT PIZZA DOUGHS Although this can be costly due to the price of gluten free flours, it can greatly decrease the cross contamination risk by keeping the kitchen free from wheat flour.
  6. A SEPARATE OVEN IS PREFERABLE:   pizzas containing gluten should not be cooked in the oven at the same time as gluten free pizzas. Either make sure that the gluten free pizza is placed in the oven separately, or have a dedicated oven for gluten free pizza. This solution means that it is not necessary to interrupt the production of pizzas containing gluten in order to cook the gluten-free one(s), thus also avoiding lengthy waiting times, besides guaranteeing that no contamination takes place during cooking.
  7. USE BAKING PANS WITH HIGH SIDES: if there is only one oven available, it is necessary to stop cooking pizzas with gluten and the gluten-free pizza must not be placed directly on the base of the oven. The gluten-free pizza must be isolated from flour by cooking it in a baking pan with high sides.
  8. PREVENT ALL TYPES OF CONTAMINATION: even passing utensils containing flour over gluten free pizzas increases the risk of cross contamination.
  9. INGREDIENTS FOR PIZZA TOPPING: all ingredients for topping pizzas must be gluten free and must be kept in separate containers. Hands must be washed thoroughly before touching pizza toppings and clean utensils must be used to prevent contamination of the ingredients with floury hands or utensils.
  10. SERVING THE PIZZA Serve the pizza without slicing it to prevent the risk of using contaminated utensils. Each pizza can be served with a clean cutter for the client to use themselves. Use an identifying marker to show that the pizza is gluten free like a different coloured plate or a flag/sticker to avoid mix ups when the pizza is served.

 

Finally, it is important to be honest. If any of the above criteria cannot be met, explain to the customer so that he/she can make an informed decision about whether they feel it is safe for them to dine at your establishment or not.

 

Source: http://www.hawaiifruit.net/ItalianRestaurantRulesforCeliacs.htm

Special thanks goes to S. Bugeja of Alfresco restaurant, B’Bugia, Malta for his feedback regarding gluten free pizza preparation.