Being Gluten Free is not the end of the world….

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week so I wanted to share a post about my experience with Coeliac disease and to share a bit more information around this disease in terms of what it is, tips and my favourite gluten free foods and cafes.  I hope you find it helpful.

I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease in my mid 20s and I did think my life was over – that was after the doctor had to explain to me exactly what Coeliac disease was and then what gluten was. Once I got my head around this, I just thought, no more of my favourite foods. But on the plus side, would changing my diet really make me feel better….?

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It also probably didn’t help that back then my food choices weren’t great – eating processed foods (most of which probably contained gluten) and I probably didn’t spend much time in the kitchen cooking dishes from scratch, oh how times have changed.  In my mind, gluten was in all the “good food” (well what I thought was good food) and now I would have to eat dry, bland, tasteless, crumbly Gluten Free (GF) food for the rest of my life.  I must also mention that since my diagnosis (10 years ago) the GF foods available both in store and at restaurants/cafes and more importantly the awareness has improved dramatically! In fact, back then purchased gluten free food often did not taste great, thankfully this is not the case anymore.

For most people, being gluten free is a self diagnosis, a process of elimination – removing gluten from your diet and noticing that you feel better.  For others, like me we are medically diagnosed with the life-long disease of Coeliacs.

For those of you not aware of what Coeliac disease is, according to Coeliac NZ, it is:

“a permanent autoimmune disorder that cause a reaction to gluten which is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats….. In Coeliac disease the cells lining the small bowel (intestine) are damaged and inflamed. This cause flattening of the tiny, finger like projections, called villi, which line the inside of the bowel. The function of the villi is to break down and absorb nutrients in food. When these villi become flat, the surface area of the bowel is greatly decreased, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. This may lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.”

In terms of the symptoms of CD, they can differ but the most common include (and are not limited to) diarrhoea, fatigue/weakness/lethargy, anaemia, weight loss, constipation, flatulence, cramping or bloating, nausea and vomiting and osteoporosis. Please note that symptoms can differ in adults vs. children.

Currently, the only treatment of CD is a lifelong strict gluten free diet.

And for those of you unaware of what a gluten free diet is – its when we must avoid food that contains (or derivatives of) wheat, rye, oats and barley.

In terms of my story, my CD took a long time to diagnose. I had been on a trip to Vietnam and caught a terrible bug that either triggered or coincidently the onset of CD happened to take affect at the same time. As a result, my Doctors attributed my sickness/tiredness to the bug and continually put me on various diets to get rid of the bug. It wasn’t until lucky for me (and not so lucky for my doctor), my Doctor broke her arm so her replacement who didn’t know my history sent me off for a few tests and Coeliac Disease was FINALLY diagnosed. Diagnosis comes firstly from a blood test and then a Biopsy (of the small bowel). When the initial results did come through, I had no idea what Coeliac Disease was (which was quite common back then, gosh this makes me sound old…..).

Straight away, I removed gluten from my diet (once I found out what it was), and slowly (it’s not an instant fix) I started to feel better. For those with Coeliac Disease, not only do we feel rotten, but eating gluten also causes irreversible damage. So really, it’s not worth continuing on a diet containing gluten. Unlike those who are gluten intolerant and can sometimes tolerate a bit of gluten – even when they feel ill, the gluten is not causing irreversible damage.

As you are probably aware coeliac disease (or gluten intolerance) isn’t really the end of the world and there are so many tasty gluten free options available. There are also simple yet tasty GF recipes to make at home. Most Restaurants/cafés have GF options and even supermarkets often have a Gluten Free / Health Food section making life for us “Glutards” (as my husband often refers to me), much easier. Not to mention my favourite “wholefood/organic’ stores where I’m in heaven (sad, but true – I can spend hours in there).

See below for a few tips, eateries, favourite breads and my “go to” flour blend.  I also have many gluten free recipes on my blog.

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If you have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease or self-diagnosed gluten intolerance, as mentioned you must avoid food that contain wheat, rye, oats and barley.  Also avoid cross contamination by avoiding those foods labelled i.e. “may contain gluten” or “processed on the same production line as products containing gluten.”
This means avoiding (unless specified gluten free) e.g. bread, pasta, pastry, cakes, biscuits, crackers, stuffing, processed meats, beer, pizza, breakfast cereals, muesli bars, wraps, couscous, battered foods etc etc.

My favourite hot spots in Auckland for Gluten Free meals:

  • Little Bird (Ponsonby): Plant-based eatery. I get to Little Bird on Summer st at least once per week. My favourite dishes are the Vietnamese Crepe (definitely my ‘go to’), Kumera Hotcakes and the Kimchi Burger. They also have an amazing specials board that is always changing. You can’t go past their cabinet with all the sweet treats that are also dairy free and refined sugar free. However, a watch out for those with CD is they use “Wheat free oats” in some of the slices which are not gluten free, so always ask.  As an FYI, often those who are gluten intolerant are able to eat wheat free oats, but those with Coeliac disease should avoid them (even if you’re not feeling ill after eating them, they could still be causing irreversible damage – I will be writing another post on this soon). The staff are aware of this and don’t recommend those with Coeliacs consume the wheat free oats.
  • The Butchers Son (Herne Bay): Another plant-based eatery. Fairly new on the scene. They have many GF options and for those dishes not naturally gluten free, they make substitutions. So ensure you advise staff if you have Coeliac disease. I love the Beet Burger (the chips are fried in the same oil that some of the non gluten free food is fried in, so advise the staff and again and they’ll substitute something else). Also love the Buddha bowl. Just to name a few.
  • Ha! Poke (various locations): Health in a bowl – delicious raw fish mixed with rice and a fresh salad. I love the Teriyaki and Aloha bowls. A quick and easy takeaway
  • The Raw Kitchen (various Auckland locations): Plant-based. I love the Collard Wrap and buddha bowls. As well as the many delicious GF, DF, RFS slices.
  • Catroux (Westmere, Auckland) – Love the Fitness Bowl and Kumera Rosti and often get the Paleo cookies. Also have a range of delicious salads which are often gluten free.

My favourite breads:

  • Oh My Goodness Organic Paleo Bread – Hawkes Bay based. You can purchase from Little Bird in Auckland (see their site for stockists around NZ). You can also purchase bread mixes to make at home – how good is freshly made bread!!
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  • Dovedale Turmeric Paleo Bread
  • Vernadi Paleo Bread (Super-seeded or Almond & Linseed)
  • Purebread Vegan Young Buck (Paleo)

My “Go To” Gluten Free Flour mix (1 cup):

  • 1/4 c almond flour
  • 1/4 c Buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c Brown Rice flour
  • 1/4 c tapioca flour
  • 1/2 t guar gum (optional – it is a natural food thickening ingredient to bind thicken and emulsify gluten free ingredients. It helps to provide the structure that usually comes from gluten. A good pantry item for those with Coeliacs or gluten intolerant).

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Favourite ‘wholefood’ stores:

  • Huckleberry Harvest Wholefoods (Grey Lynn)
  • Commonsense Organics (Mt Eden)
  • Commonsense Organics (Wellington

I hope you now have a better understanding of what Coeliac Disease is, what the symptoms are, how to avoid it and where to buy gluten free foods.

Watch my blog for my favourite gluten free recipes – most of which are also dairy free and the sweet treats are all refined sugar free.

What are your favourite Gluten Free meals and restaurants etc? I would love to hear from you!

If you have any questions about Coeliac Disease or eating a gluten free diet, please do not hesitate to contact me!  I’m also available to catch up on a one-on-one basis to help those with Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance and in particular, those transitioning onto a gluten free diet – I know it can be very daunting!  I practice a holistic approach where I consider your individual needs related to health in terms of both nutrition and aspects of your lifestyle.  We can discuss your health goals and work together and look at how all parts of your life affect your health and make sustainable changes that improve your health and happiness. I would love to work with you (whether coeliac or not) one-on-one.  Contact me here

Until next time, stay happy and be well!

Bridge xx

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