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What to do if you suspect Coeliac Disease..

I thought it might be worth while to share my experience with our symptoms and diagnosis of Coeliac Disease during Coeliac Week. We often pass off sore stomachs as a variety of things, whether it be something we’ve eaten, change of weather, gastro etc. But when you start writing it all down and seeing a continued pattern, it might alert you and encourage a doctors visit.

What is Coeliac Disease…

Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the lining of part of the small intestine. The lining of the small intestine contains millions of tiny tube-shaped structures called Villi, these help food and nutrients to be digested more effectively into our bodies. People who suffer from Coeliac Disease will have their villi become flattened as a result of the inflammation caused by the autoimmune disease which result in nutrients not being absorbed into our body.

The immune system is our bodies natural defence for fighting disease. It produces white blood cells (lymphocytes) & antibodies to protect against foreign objects such as bacteria, viruses and other germs. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system identifies parts of the body as foreign and begins to attack itself.

What to look for…

Symptoms of Coeliac Disease can include many of the following

  • diarrhoea &/or constipation
  • bloating & flatulence (particularly the ‘clear a room’ kind)
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea & vomiting
  • fatigue, weakness & lethargy
  • anaemia or low iron
  • joint pain

In Children symptoms can also include:
  • bulky foul smelling bowel movements
  • weight loss or poor weight gain in older children
  • delayed growth or delayed puberty
  • tiredness & irritability 
  • joint pain (knees is common)

How to get diagnosed…

The first step to getting a diagnosis is to continue to eat a Gluten diet. If you start eating gluten free food before you start the screening it will make the test unreliable.
If you have already adapted to the gluten free diet a normal diet must be maintained for atleast 6 weeks prior to testing (commonly known as the gluten challenge)

The second step is to visit your GP for the screening test (blood test). Coeliac serology measures the antibody (tTG-IgA) levels in the blood as they are generally quite high for people who have untreated coeliac disease. If you have a child under the age of 4 this testing can be unreliable as their antibodies naturally fluctuate so it is common for the same test to be run a few times months apart to ensure accuracy.

The third step is to book in for a gastroscopy of the small bowel. It is believed that a small biopsy of the bowel is the only way to diagnose Coeliac Disease in an individual. A gastroscopy is a simple procedure performed under a light anaesthetic where tiny samples/biopsies are taken from the small bowel and examined under a microscope for the presence of villous atrophy (as pictured above) 

What happens now..

Once diagnosis is confirmed you will need to follow a strict gluten free diet. I also recommend visiting a dietitian for diet & health advice. In my next blog I will go into more of ‘what happens now’ after diagnosis as I found this part to be the most isolating and depressing part of my journey. 
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When they sneak a treat…

My little Charlotte is guilty of sneaking in a treat with a may contain statement… a mini crunchie to be exact. Aside from the fact that Charlotte also needs to avoid wheat glucose syrup due to an allergy, the good ol’ Crunchie has a ‘May Contain Wheat’ Statement making it NOT safe for coeliacs! Thanks Cadbury <insert sarcasm here>

So last night was tear filled with sore joints (particularly the knees), a tummy ache and a sleepless night.. so what’s a mumma to do?! Well… this mumma has taken the ‘Tough Love’ approach which consisted of Charlotte having to reflect on the situation as it’s self-inflicted and continue on with the daily expectations of school & life in general. I honestly believe that this is the only way I can get through to her that this is the consequence for eating foods that you know will or might make you sick and having to just ‘get on with it’ may encourage her to make better choices in the future.

Then the mumma guilt kicks in… I know after today Charlotte will understand a little more about the life sentence she has with food.. and that sucks. It’s not fair that anyone has this disease let alone our kids. Childhood is supposed to be fun, cheeky and exciting not having to read labels before accepting a treat, feeling excluded from kids parties and events because your food is different or having to think twice before sneaking a treat from your friends grandparents stash. I guess it’s kind of our norm to all swarm around the food table frantically reading labels and quizzing staff at restaurants about cross contamination and shared fryers that when we leave our kids to make their own choices they just throw caution to the wind with the ‘whatever’ approach.

We all know childhood involves pushing the boundaries and I think yesterday Charlotte did just that and now her tummy has kindly reminded her that it doesn’t appreciate the wheat!

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The Great Oats Debate

For a while now there has been a bit of a misconception with Gluten Free Oats being sold in Australia, it doesn’t help that some brand titles are very misleading either.. so I thought I’d clear the air!

Unlike other gluten containing grains, oats contain a protein called avenin which has been found to produce a gluten-like reaction in many people with Coeliac Disease (but not all). Many studies have been performed within the last few years have shown that while oats are well tolerated by most people with Coeliac Disease, there are still a large number of participants that has shown that oats consumption have triggered a potentially harmful immune response. It is also advised that even if you do not display any symptoms after consuming oats, there is a strong possibility that there can still be bowel damage occurring in certain individuals with Coeliac Disease – This alone was enough for me to remove wheat free oats from my daughters diet very early on after diagnosis, her symptoms were always different & we weren’t always able to pinpoint the culprit, also the real cramping (after being accidentally glutened) didn’t occur until long after her body had begun healing.

So what can you do if you’re an avid oats lover!? There is still hope for you!! Coeliac Australia has recommended that individuals who would like to consume oats as part of their gluten free diet do so under medical supervision  (also known as an Oats Challenge). This involves undertaking a gastroscopy and a small bowel biopsy before and after 3 months of consuming uncontaminated wheat free oats so that your specialist can advise if oats are safe for you. My daughter Charlotte decided against the oats challenge and instead enjoys Quinoa Hot Cereal as a replacement BUT everyone has the right to decide for themselves if they’d like to do the challenge and it’s great that we have the option available to us!

Just remember Gluten Free Oats can not be labelled or sold in Australia – they are always labelled ‘Wheat Free’ and ‘Uncontaminated’.

Laura 🙂

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Breakfast Reviews

In GFG News this month we’ve been busy reviewing a range of breakfast cereals! I personally find Breakfast to be the hardest meal of the day for both Charlotte and I and with Charlotte becoming a little more ‘fussy’ with cereal choices I thought that creating a review with the main taste tester might get her back into wanting to try a few new things and have her say 🙂

So, I got together the 5 best sellers…

  • Nature’s Path Corn Puffs Gorilla Munch
  • Nature’s Path Chocolate Koala Crisps
  • Bob’s Red Mill Creamy Rice Hot Cereal
  • Orgran Quinoa Flakes
  • Orgran Quinoa Puffs

 Seeing as Charlotte’s absolute favourite is the Nature’s Path Chocolate Koala Crisps (Who doesn’t love a chocolatey cereal that resembles Cocopops!?) we decided it was only fair to get Ashlee from The Aussie Coeliac to review it for us, as well as the Orgran Quinoa Puffs – which are a fairly new product and Ashlee had put together a pretty impressive Quinoa Puff Cereal Bar Recipe that I was keen to see come together!

You can find Ashlee’s amazing recipe here. If you give them a go yourself be sure to leave a review on the facebook page with your thoughts! We’ll be putting the recipe to the test in the coming weeks 🙂
You can also view The Aussie Coeliac’s review on the Nature’s Path Koala Crisps here via her Instagram Account.

Bob’s Red Mill Farina Rice Cereal has been a long time best seller – I for one miss porridge (the real stuff) but unless you’ve undergone the Oats Challenge it is not advised for anyone with Coeliac Disease to eat gluten free uncomtaminated oats, so finding the perfect subsitute is an absolute must! I attempted to make this porridge on 3 occasions..

My first attempt was a massive FAIL (lucky you get 18 serves per packet) I followed the directions for the microwave, but cooked on the stove top as I only wanted to make a small amount – 1/4 cup rice cereal to 1 cup of water, bring to boil let rest then eat! Sounds simple enough… Ah No.. The rice cereal was like munching on course grains of uncooked rice, not the kind of experience I was after! So I thought I’d give it another go..

Attempt two.. follow microwave directions and cook in microwave! Sounds easy enough and it will be ready in under 5 minutes…FAIL! The contents exploded all over my microwave. At this point I was silently crying on the inside, wiping up the gruel thinking about the porridge I had really been craving and resorted back to the never fail toast option and a teaspoon of nutella!

So I left it for another day..Attempt # three..was a SUCCESS! I cooked them on the stove top following the 1/4 cup of rice cereal recipe but added 2 cups of water, cooked through until boiled and then simmer for 5 minutes. Once off the stove I allowed it to settle with the lid on for a few minutes. I still found it a bit grainy so I’m not sure if I didn’t cook it quite enough or if this kind of porridge is supposed to be that way, but in saying that it was really yummy and filling 🙂 Charlotte and I added a bit of raw sugar and milk and there were no complaints to the cook! I think this product requires a few attempts and experimentation before you get the desired result – OR I could just be really bad at making porridge!!

Nature’s Path Corn Puff Gorilla Munch is a cereal aimed at children. The delicious little corn balls have a sweetened coating (but not too sweet) and remind me a little of the childhood cereal ‘Frosties’ without the overloaded sugar coating! Apparently my sweet toothed taste tester isn’t a fan however myself and non CD husband enjoyed eating them every so often and found that were a delicious midnight snack option too!

Orgran Quinoa Flakes are a relatively new cereal option, the range is available in Quinoa Flakes, Quinoa Puffs and Quinoa Porridge. I found the flakes to have a nice crunch to them and adding fresh fruit or berries would help sweeten them up a little. Charlotte enjoyed them in numerous smoothies (I posted one up on our Facebook that consisted of milk, a banana, cacao powder, quinoa flakes and a teaspoon of nutella – that was her fav!) and they grinded down really well and kept her full until her recess at 11am. Charlotte said she preferred to have these in a smoothie over a weetbix as they tasted nicer. We also tried the Quinoa Puffs and thought they were delicious but I kept adding them to melted chocolate with marshmallows instead of using them as a cereal! You should really try that – they are a really yummy treat and easy to make considering the chocolates brand are coming out with more and more may contain statements!

Thanks for reading my review on our best selling cereals 🙂 Of course all the items listed can be found in our online shop, along with many more! If you’d like to add your ideas, reviews or thoughts please feel free to drop us a post on our Facebook Page, we’d love to hear from you!! I’d like to thank Ashlee from The Aussie Coeliac for reviewing a few products for us and coming up with an enticing recipe for the Quinoa Puffs! I think it’s a great versatile product that you can have some fun with and the kids can join in and help create a delicious school snack bar. We all know how much kids love helping in the kitchen – especially when it’s for something sweet!

Laura 🙂