FOOD INTOLERANCES

Coeliac (Celiac) Disease

Coeliac Disease is a life-long auto-immune disease that has no cure, but can be managed by removing all sources of gluten from your diet.  Gluten is found mainly in wheat flour, oats, barley and rye.  Gluten is one of those products that manages to get everywhere in processed foods; the main culprits are bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, cereals, pizzas, etc but it can also be found in hams, yoghurts, stock cubes and crisps (chips).  I once even found gluten had been added to supermarket bean sprouts!  Recent EU labelling laws mean that if gluten is present in a product it must be included in an allergy advice label.  Find out more about food labelling laws and suitable food products at coeliac UK.  

If you are here because you find problems with foods but can't pinpoint what, or if you have been given an IBS diagnosis without further investigation then please get a simple blood test for coeliac disease - it is known as a silent disease and is often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Recent UK figures show 1 in 100 have coeliac disease, but only 1 in 600 have been diagnosed!

Safe coeliac foods (always read the label):  all unprocessed fruit and veg, dairy products, millet, quinoa, polenta, buckwheat.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is poorly tolerated by many, causing problems for some.  Although not widely recognised by GPs, many coeliacs report suffering from lactose intolerance.  It can be a momentary phase as your villi recover from the onslaught of gluten in your diet, or it can be longer term.  Many coeliacs never revert to tolerating lactose again.

The enzyme that processes and breaks down the lactose sugars in dairy products, lactase, forms at the end of the villi in the small bowel.  Without the lactase enzyme, the body cannot break down lactose and it ferments in the large bowel, where millions of bacteria feed off it, producing methane as a by-product.  Osmosis (water uptake by the bowel) also occurs and the result is diarrhoea and wind.

Most people continue to produce a small amount of lactase, and so some dairy products can be tolerated.  Suggested NHS safe daily amounts are 2 tablespoons of yoghurt, 1/4 cup milk, 2 tablespoons custard, 1 scoop of ice-cream or 50g milk or white chocolate.  I tend to go without any true dairy products apart from cheese; hard cheeses have a lower lactose level, with parmesan being one of the lowest.  Other low lactose cheeses include Cheddar, Emmental and Edam.

Alpro and Lactofree ranges offer a good variety of dairy alternatives, and most are available in UK supermarkets, although you might have to shop around to get a full basket.

IBS - Low FODMAPs

The LowFODMAP diet started in Australia by Shepherd Works in response to patients problems with IBS.  It has recently been adopted by the NHS, and dieticians in the UK are being trained to support the diet.  It removes a range of carbohydrates from the diet; mainly wheat products, dairy, fructose and a wide range of everyday veg.  It is possible to react to one type of carbohydrate and not to others, so a reintroduction of some foods is managed after 8 weeks on the very strict initial diet.

Some people may be intolerant to Fructose, or have Fructose Malabsorption, and will restrict their diet from certain fruit and veg and many processed foods that contain Fructose, such as tomatoes.  You may find, if you are following a Fructose Free diet, that some of my recipes need further adaptation (I'm one of the lucky unaffected by Fructose Malabsorption).

Safe foods on a LowFODMAP diet are the grains listed under coeliac (above) and the lactose levels or alternatives above.  Also include nuts (avoiding pistachios), spinach, celery, carrots and sweet potatoes.  

There is a much longer list of do's and don'ts - far too long to publish here, I would really recommend seeing a dietitian to advise you if you want to follow the LowFODMAP diet.  It is still a diet in the early stages of development, so some foods are changing on the lists.  I would really recommend looking into it if you suffer IBS type symptoms.

Reactive Hypoglycemia

Reactive Hypoglycemia is a malfunction of the blood sugar system in the body.  Whenever anyone eats, it triggers insulin to be released into the bloodstream to convert the new glucose in your blood into energy for the cells and muscles of the body.  With Reactive Hypoglycemia, for one reason or another, there is too much insulin released into the blood, which results in a dip of blood sugars.  When blood sugars get to low, a sufferer will experience some or many symptoms; sweating, palpitations, confusion, vertigo, anxiety, slurred or confused speech, loss of vision....  Basically, the brain is being starved of its energy (blood glucose) and begins a shut-down process.  

There is no cure for Reactive Hypoglycemia, but dietary changes can help.  Blood sugars should be kept stable, by eating 6-8 small meals a day with low intakes of carbohydrates.  Sugars (including fruit sugars), caffeine and alcohol should be limited, if not removed from the diet and meals should be centred around veg, pulses and protein.  Carbohydrate should never be eaten on its own.

Safe foods are any food with a Glycemic Index of under 50.


About the Author

I have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease for 10 years, and have gone from being a ready-meal girl to cooking everything from scratch.  I developed Lactose Intolerance 9 years ago, and although I can eat the odd piece of cheese, I generally avoid all dairy products unless they are Lactofree.  I have been following the LowFODMAP diet since December 2011 and have found it to be really helpful with my IBS.  I have managed some reintroductions (welcome back mango and sugar snap peas!) but have also found I can't tolerate onion even in small amounts.  This is still work in progress!

In March I was also diagnosed with Reactive Hypoglycemia.  Just when you think you have the short straw, something comes along and snips off a little bit more!  However, rather than be defeated by a restrictive diet it has made me even more inventive with my cooking.  I don't give in and think about what I can't have.  People often say to me that they are amazed I stick to such a restrictive diet, but with a little forethought it can still be tasty and varied.  There have been too many days before diagnosis spent listless in bed, or hugging my tummy in agony to be tempted to stray from my diet.  I know that it is what makes me well.

I started this blog to support others who may be going through some of the problems I have faced and be full of the positive things we can eat.  I'm a very busy single mum and full time teacher, and although I love my food I like it to be quick and simple with the least amount of washing up!

Since following my diet I've been able to get back to the outdoor lifestyle that I love -  that is what keeps me going and keeps me optimistically thinking I Can Eat That!  I hope it works for you too.

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