how to be gluten free

How to be gluten free

The Coeliac Society of Ireland’s resident nutritionist Andrea Murray answers your top questions about eating and living a healthy gluten free life.

Q. I’ve just been diagnosed with coeliac disease, what should I do if I become accidentally glutened?

A. When you have first been diagnosed, it is difficult initially to know what foods to eat and what not to eat – it’s a steep learning curve. Firstly, get in touch with the Coeliac Society to obtain their Food List, which lists all foods suitable for coeliacs (membership is just €30). With the help of the Food List you can go through your store cupboard to remove items containing gluten – beware of condiments and sauces! Initially, until you get to know the foods that are suitable for your glutenfree diet, all you can do is your very best.

A food diary initially is really helpful so if you get symptoms you can track what might have caused the problem. Remember always that foods in their natural state are gluten-free: meat, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, pulses, dairy and nuts/seeds. In learning some tasty, quick, nutritious meals to prepare and cook, you will ensure you will not be glutened – good luck.

Q. I’m a coeliac, and my boyfriend has been accusing me of overkill in the kitchen as I keep all of our food completely separate. For example, I’ve just invested in a new toaster. Am I going overboard?

A. No, you are not going overboard at all – when preparing food at home there is a high risk of crosscontamination and in purchasing a second toaster you are ensuring this risk is eliminated. Cross-contamination is where gluten grains enter or touch non-gluten grains, hence now making this food not suitable for a coeliac to eat.

If you are away from home or wanting to prepare some food in work, toaster bags are a great solution to ensure no gluten enters your food. It can often be difficult for others to understand your dilemma, so we always recommend that you speak to your loved ones and explain about living a coeliacfriendly diet and how important it is to your health. On our website there is useful information which might support you on this ( live-gluten-free/telling-others). It may also be helpful to give those close to you a Food List so they know what to cook for you.

Q. I keep hearing different views on oats. Should I avoid them completely in my gluten-free diet?

A. There is a lot of confusion about oats, I totally agree. Many oats and oats products are contaminated by wheat. However, now that pure oats are available, the majority of coeliacs should be able to use pure oats without problems.

Importantly though, we do not recommend oats when newly diagnosed, until your antibodies have gone down to normal – this may take one to two years after starting a GF diet. Even with pure oats, some people will get symptoms and realise they are sensitive to oats. Therefore any coeliac wishing to consume a diet containing pure oats should receive regular followups at a specialist clinic to ensure tolerance. Conventional oats carry a high risk of cross-contamination and it is best to avoid.

Q. I’m following a strict gluten-free diet, but every time I get a blood test, I test positive for coeliac and my antibodies are high. How can this be?

A. Well I am particularly delighted that you are continually being tested. So many coeliacs, once they are diagnosed, forget that they need to be checked one year post-diagnosis to ensure their anti-bodies are reduced, hence reassuring them that their GF diet is working and healing their digestive system. If your anti-bodies are high, firstly I would suggest that you write up a food diary taking a clear note of all the foods you are eating over a period of time – ideally two weeks, but longer if you can.

Once you have done this, you need to become a bit of a detective and see if there is a possibility of gluten sneaking in somewhere. In most instances (not all) there is a possibility of contamination entering the diet somewhere. The key ‘red flags’ are:

Eating out in restaurants or cafés – cross-contamination is more likely. Most outlets really do try their best and may be able to guarantee a meal without gluten containing ingredients but unfortunately cannot guarantee that the environment in which is it prepared is entirely gluten-free.

Eat out when loved ones are cooking – unfortunately many of our loved ones do not realise that even the slightest bit of gluten is going to impact health.

• Condiments can always be a bit tricky and you really need to check labels thoroughly. Now if you have done all of this and you are 100 per cent confident that the diet is totally GF, I would advise to revert to your gastroenterologist. Best of luck and keep us posted.

gluten free

Q. I need a fibre supplement to help with my constipation, what can I take that’s gluten-free?

A. Here at the Coeliac Society we really try to encourage all of members to manage their health through natural means. If you are struggling with constipation, there are lots of natural options that you can try:

• When you first wake have some warm water with the juice of half a lemon. Try to leave 30 minutes until you eat, this is a really great way of naturally clearing toxins from your body.

• Increasing natural oils in your diet, coconut oil is fantastic and is naturally gluten-free*. A teaspoon a day is a great support to constipation as often our bodies are very ‘dry’, by increasing natural oils it lubricates the body allowing for better bowel movement.

• The government say five portions of fruit and vegetables a day however for optimum health the more the better. Ideally each day you would have three portions of fruit and seven vegetables (a portion is the size of your fist). This increased level of fruit and vegetables will provide lots of natural fibre. Great sources of fibre are the ‘green leafy’ kind; spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, etc.

• Nut and seeds are also a great source of fibre and all again are naturally gluten free*. A handful a day will also support constipation.

If you have implemented all of the above suggestions and things are still not moving, here is my suggestion:

  • Soak a tablespoon of Linseeds in half a glass of warm water overnight and drink it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning – this is an absolute winner in all cases I have worked with.

*Read the labelling of natural glutenfree products to ensure they haven’t been cross contaminated with gluten during the packaging process.

Q. I’m following a strict gluten-free diet, but I’m feeling fatigued a lot of the time. How can exercise help complement my diet?

A. Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, here at the Coeliac Society we recommend and support health on all levels: diet, stress management, and of course exercise. Being fatigued can often be a result of a lack of vitamin D, which coeliacs can often struggle with. What I would suggest to combat your fatigue and possible lack of vitamin D is to get your recommended 20-30 minutes outside in the daylight.

Go for a gentle walk initially but over time and as your fitness improves bring this up a notch to a power walk or even a little jogging. When walking (and if its warm enough), wear a short sleeved top as vitamin D is absorbed through our skin so the more skin showing the more nutrients! But remember to apply some SPF as your skin can be damaged by the sun on even the cloudiest of days.

Exercise on any level supports energy, mood and of course our heart. Get outside and enjoy. Walking also reduces your risk of osteoporosis.

Q. I feel like my whole life is consumed by planning and organising since going glutenfree, how do you recommend I manage this so I’m not overwhelmed by it all?

A. Requiring a gluten-free diet for medical reasons can initially be a big change for any household and it does require planning.

Firstly, empty your kitchen of any gluten containing products, hence you know that everything in your home is coeliac-friendly.

Secondly, do a menu plan for the week, this works a treat as once it is done you do not need to think about it. Once a weekly plan is made, you then just need to get the ingredients to enable the foods to be prepared. So with a little initial planning takes all the stress away from the week. When doing your menu plan refer to the Food List, allowing you to choose tasty and totally gluten-free products.

Finally, which works well for most busy people is batch cooking. At the weekend or evenings prepare double – great options for this are soups, casseroles, pies (cottage pie and shepherd’s pie), bolognese and chilli. If you can invest in a good freezer with plenty of space this will allow you to prepare lots of meals in advance.

About Andrea

Andrea Murray works for the Coeliac Society and has a BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Therapy. Andrea is a busy mum of three and her children are the reason for her interest in the benefits of healthy eating, after dealing with food intolerances from a young age. Working with the Coeliac Society, she continues her support of people who wish to maintain a gluten-free diet.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.