At Piko Wholefoods we have a commitment to providing a large range of foods for people with allergies, who need special diets; gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free.
Gluten Intolerance / COELIAC (see-le-ack)
What does it mean?
As far back as 250 AD coeliac is used to describe a disease in which an abnormality in the small intestines exists. Other names for it are tropical sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, or coeliac sprue. (It is spelled celiac in American references). A coeliac refers to a person with coeliac disease.
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is the protein component of many grains. The particular component of this protein to which people react is called gliadin. Gluten is a major component of wheat, and hence why it is the most problematic grain. This protein is particularly elastic, making it great for baking by helping substances stick together well. This is why often gluten-free foods tend to be crumbly, dry quickly, or not easy to make without a knowledge of baking hints.
What exactly is Coeliac Disease?
The exact mechanism causing Coeliac Disease is unknown, however it is known that an allergic reaction to gluten plays a key role. This implies one's body, for some unknown reason, recognises gluten as a foreign and harmful substance mounting an immune response against it. Effects of the chronic inflammation within the intestinal tract cause it to breakdown the lining of the tract leading to improper functioning and malabsorption. Today Coeliac Disease is more commonly recognised and diagnosed, but dates as far back as 250AD. Christchurch is known for a higher than average number of coeliacs-1 in 83 people according to recent research. Either our local practitioners are well onto it, or some phenomenon here exists. The diagram below may help you to understand what is occurring within a coeliac.
Will my abnormal looking intestine ever heal?
YES it can! Over time, with proper diet (i.e. gluten removal) and nutrient intake, the villi of a coeliac will revert to normal and allow for greater absorption of nutrients and therefore reduction of symptoms.
How does one get tested for it?
A blood test may confirm coeliac disease. However, to truly diagnose a biopsy of one’s intestinal tract is required to determine if it looks like the picture above. Most people, however, depend upon making diet changes and getting results.
Is coeliac disease genetic?
Yes, it is considered genetic. Often times, however, people go undiagnosed or may be asymptomatic so you may not be aware if it runs in your family.
What are the signs & symptoms of Coeliac Disease?
Due to various and individual reactions, it is difficult to diagnose. This is why it has taken many doctors so long to recognise coeliac disease, because the cases rarely fit the textbook model. However, this is now changing. Additionally, symptoms develop at different stages and with varying degrees of severity throughout one’s life.
The most common signs & symptoms in adults may include any of the following:
- Diarrhea/constipation - Weight loss - Flatulence - Bloating
- Abnormal stools including-bulky, pale, frothy, foul-smelling, greasy,
or contains fat
- Nausea/vomiting - Fatigue - Anemia
The most common signs & symptoms known with children:
- Abnormal stools - Failure to thrive - Diarrhea/vomiting
- Small stature - Mood abnormalities, particularly after eating
- Abdominal distension - Nutritional deficiencies - Skin rashes
So what foods should I avoid if I am a coeliac?
A simple way to help you remember what to AVOID is to think of the word “BROW.”
B for Barley. R for Rye. O for Oats. And W for Wheat.
(Research shows that oats do not actually contain gluten, however many people are unable to tolerate them. You must determine if it is tolerable for you).
So I’ve avoided the above foods, but still have symptoms. What now?
Sometimes you may remove gluten and still obtain symptoms wondering where you have gone wrong. Here are some suggestions:
- Get used to reading food labels, you may find the answer since many sources of gluten are put into foods, particularly pre-prepared and packaged.
Watch out for the following in your foods: modified food starch, baking powder, cornflour (sometimes wheat-based as thickening, thickener, or emulsifier), soy sauce, ice cream, soup, beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, malt. The best advice is to stick to whole food sources (i.e. foods that have not been modified).
- In more extreme cases, one may be reacting to foods within the grain family, which extends into foods such as millet, rice, corn or cane sugar. (Definitely seek help from a qualified practitioner such as a medical herbalist, naturopath, doctor or nutritionist in these cases).
- You may have more than a gluten allergy. For example, many people intolerant to gluten are also intolerant to dairy products. Again, it’s recommended you seek help.
- The presence of an associated disease or complication may exist, such as a nutritional deficiency. For example, a zinc deficiency will not allow for one’s digestive tract to heal. It is a mineral of ultra importance for intestinal health and healing. Again, seek help from a practitioner!
So what is left to eat?
LOTS! Don’t despair and know that we are here to help you find new foods! The best advice we can offer in regards to foods is to try new things, don’t be afraid, and determine what best suits your taste. Remember, you’ll feel better and it’s so worth it! Other good news is that more and more companies are producing gluten-free products, in addition to cafes and restaurants. Always ask! The more people ask, the sooner they will respond!
Recommended flours, grains, and other substitutions to try:
- Buckwheat (despite the name, it is gluten-free. It is not a grain, but a seed of a plant in the same family as rhubarb and dock).
- Amaranth & Quinoa (keen-wa)-These grains are very distance relatives of grass/grain family. They are the lowest reacting grains within the family and are gluten-free.
- Millet grain (Although beware that the odd person may react to it)
- Rice (All rice is safe, even "glutinous" rice... that refers to the texture when cooked, not the protein)
- Soy bean flour & other pulse flours (e.g. chickpea, pea, lentil)
- Potato flour
- Arrowroot or tapioca starch (for thickening)
- Corn/Maize flour, Cornmeal, Polenta (check supermarket "corn flour", some is wheat!)
- Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
- See display for various snacks, crackers, and breads available
The Piko Cookbook is an essential companion; specifically to cook for those with gluten and wheat allergies.
Where can I get more information?
- Contact Allergy Awareness (03 388-7741 or (03) 329-5238
- Good references:
1) Tired All the Time? By J. Steincamp, a booklet by a local woman, available at Piko.
2) Coping with Coeliac Disease by Karen Brody (1997), Sheldon Press. (at the library)
3) The Piko Cookbook, written by our own Nadine Driver-provides varieties of recipes that work and are adjustable to a variety of allergies. It includes good information and those useful baking hints.
- Internet- Search under Coeliac. As with any internet reference, beware of the source of information. Coeliac Disease is becoming so commonly known, however, most likely there is quite a bit of good information on the internet. One we know is www.coeliac.co.nz.
* Please note, this is not to be used as a medical reference, but merely educational information about coeliac disease. Piko Wholefoods advises one to seek help from a qualified health practitioner when experiencing abnormal and chronic symptoms such as mentioned above.