Gluten free? Coeliac? meet Vanessa Hudson

Guest Post from Vanessa Hudson co-author of Goodness Me it’s Gluten Free

It’s estimated that 1 in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease which means that more than half a million people in the UK are affected and most of those have no idea.  Vanessa Hudson co-author of the two times  Gourmand Award winning cookbook Goodness Me it’s Gluten Free shares about her journey of discovery through the world of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance.

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For years I didn’t feel well, suffering from headaches, bloating, stomach problems, a sniffly nose, lack of energy and many other niggly health complaints. But I grew up in an era where, if there was nothing   identifiably wrong you just had to accept “that’s the way you are” and get on with life. So I ignored the messages my body tried to send me as I kept unwittingly poisoning it with gluten containing foods in my efforts to eat what most people would consider a “normal healthy diet” . But then, about 14 years ago after getting very ill my Dad was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Soon after, my sister and I discovered that we were both gluten intolerant and so a major lifestyle adjustment happened in our household as everyone adopted a gluten free diet.

Mary & Vanessa Hudson

Mary & Vanessa Hudson

When I eventually cut gluten containing foods out of my diet, it made such a positive impact on my wellbeing, my energy returned, I didn’t have aches and pains and a sniffly nose anymore, but then came the next problem, what could I eat? Everywhere I went I was confronted with an array of foods that were now “off limits”, a simple trip to a café or trying to grab “food on the go” was filled with frustration, and packed lunches…well, who could stomach the thought of the crumbly, cardboard or brick like, gluten free bread that was on offer back then? Not me! I persisted for a while and in that time I tried some truly dreadful “ready to eat” gluten free food and was so desperate for something resembling the food I used to eat I decided enough was enough.

I’m a foodie at heart and so have a large collection of recipes and food knowledge from years of living in the UK and France plus extensive travel in other cultures and in combination with my Mum’s scientific background we decided we could do so much better. So together at home we set about developing delicious snacks, treats, meals, desserts and of course lots of baking that tasted and looked as good as their gluten containing counterparts, often fooling guests to our house who had no idea they were eating gluten free!

We quickly realised, as requests for our recipes began to come in, that we were not the only ones wanting simple, easy to cook, fantastic tasting gluten free food, and with baking being the hardest to get right, we decided to write Goodness Me it’s Gluten Free so that other gluten intolerant people could also experience the joy of being able to have a sandwich, piece of cake, scone or biscuit again. We realised that often people were first-time bakers, having only started to cook as a result of needing a gluten free diet, so we focused our cookbook on simple to follow recipes each with a photo and lots of tips to help people at home to create gluten free food that not only looks fantastic but tastes amazing too.

It’s such a pleasure to share the recipes that have transformed my gluten free diet from bland and boring to tasty and terrific, and we were very blessed this year when we won two Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for 3rd Best Health Cookbook in the World and Best First Cookbook in New Zealand. Goodness Me it’s Gluten Free is available worldwide with links on where to buy it in each region on our website www.goodnessmeglutenfree.com

After returning from the Gourmand Awards we have been very busy in our kitchen creating new recipes for our next cookbook which we hope to publish in early 2014.

Lastly, I would like to encourage you that although living with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance isn’t always easy, the benefits of sticking to a gluten free diet definitely outweigh the alternative. So if you have a “gut feeling” that all is not right with your body do keep persisting until you have an answer whatever that might be. If its gluten intolerance then we look forward to sharing the journey with you on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/GoodnessMeGlutenFree

So what is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is a permanent, autoimmune disorder caused by an intolerance to the type of gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Oats are also recommended to be avoided as their gluten protein is similar and may not be tolerated by some Coeliacs. This intolerance to gluten causes the body’s immune system to produce antibodies, which cause inflammation and damage the lining of the small bowel impairing the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from food.

Both genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors play a role in a person developing coeliac disease. Common symptoms include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, lack of energy/tiredness, diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss, mood swings/depression, itchy skin, constipation, joint pain, mouth ulcers, headaches, eczema, stunted growth, vitamin deficiencies, nausea and often, other food intolerances.

The only treatment for coeliac disease is a lifelong gluten free diet. By specifically removing the cause of the disease, this treatment allows the damage done to the lining of the small bowel to, given time, recover. In most people, a gluten free diet will result in improvement of symptoms within weeks. Though some people report symptom improvement within 48 hours.

Recent medical studies have also recognised the existence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) which has almost identical symptoms as coeliac disease but as yet there are no medically accepted tests which can diagnose NCGS. But it might explain why for some people when traditional coeliac tests come back negative or inconclusive, they still feel better after adopting a gluten free diet.

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