If you're unfortunate enough to suffer from coeliac disease then to remain healthy it is essential that you keep to a gluten free diet. Some people who are not coeliac also keep to the diet for it's alleged health benefits.

The protein gluten is contained in:

Gluten is the protein that makes dough sticky and adds to the moistness. When keeping to a gluten free diet it is important to avoid any product that contains any of the grains above. On first sight this seems fairly easy but when you start to think about it, things get a bit more difficult, especially if you can eat three shredded wheat! Typically, coeliacs have to avoid breads, cakes, pasta, cous cous, soy sauce and all Chinese food, battered and breaded food, gravy, most breakfast cereal (cornflakes are normally okay) and lots of different processed food. This can cause a great deal of angst and worry.

Now, it's very easy to have meat and potatoes and keep gluten free but you need a varied diet. It's processed food that causes the most problems and here are listed just a few:

  • Sausages - One of the normal ingredients of the good old British banger is rusk to save on meat and keep the cost down. The EU don't like this and neither do coeliacs because they cannot, of course, eat them. There is hope, however. Most continental sausages are gluten free as are Marks and Spencer premium quality pork sausages (I hate to advertise). The problem now is that typically you have to rely on the packaging and ingredients and nine times out of ten they are inadequate.
  • Marmite/Vegemite - Marmite is gluten free, Vegemite isn't. Don't ask why, it's just the way it is.
  • Walkers cheese and onion crisps - The normal variety of cheese and onion are not gluten free, whereas the low fat Walkers variety are. It's due to different ingredients in the flavouring but when you read them, nothing obvious springs to mind. The lesson to learn is that you cannot trust the ingredients.

Help is at hand, however. Most countries have their own coeliac society (in the UK it is CoeliacUK at http://www.coeliac.co.uk) who provide a multitude of food lists that list, often by supermarket, what is safe and what isn't. It's also possible to get gluten free flour etc. for baking. The only domain that still needs care if you're armed with the above information are restaurants. Chefs are normally up to speed on the issues so just ask. If the waiting staff don't know (and they normally don't) it is ofter much better to talk directly to the chef. Airlines should be told in advance.

One final thing to be careful of is cross-contamination - you must make sure that you have clean utensils that haven't touched any products with gluten in (or even fat that has cooked something with gluten before). This can be difficult for a couple so usually the non-coeliac partner eats gluten free at home too.

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