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.