The Gluten Free Diet

Following a gluten-free diet doesn’t have to mean eating tasteless, boring food. A revolution in the way we think about gluten-free has meant an explosion in food products suitable for people who are looking to remove gluten from their diets.

Traditionally, a gluten-free diet was a medically-prescribed diet for people diagnosed with coeliac disease. Whilst about 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease in the UK (though only 10-15% are diagnosed), the number is rising year on year.

In addition, more and more non-coeliacs are starting to follow a gluten-free diet to improve their health and wellbeing. In fact, new research has found that there is a spectrum of intolerance to gluten, with coeliac disease at one end of the scale, non-sensitivity at the opposite end, and other intolerances to gluten falling somewhere in between.

If you have only a mild gluten intolerance, you might be able to eat small amounts of gluten without any negative effect. In contrast, diagnosed coeliacs have to follow a lifelong diet completely free from gluten to prevent any further damage to their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, caused by an autoimmune response to gluten in their bodies.

The good news is that removing gluten from the diet of a coeliac can result in complete recovery for the GI system, and disappearance of all symptoms. Support is key, and organisations such as [Coeliac UK][1] provide an invaluable wealth of information about living without gluten. With over 50,000 members, this is by far the biggest, and most comprehensive, source of information on following a gluten-free diet.

But how easy is it to actually live gluten-free? Some foods are naturally gluten free, like rice, potatoes, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, and now there are also a whole raft of gluten-free products that allow people avoiding gluten to eat many of the same foods as everyone else. Compared to the foods on offer back in the 1960s, when Coeliac UK was first formed, the choices now are vast, and it’s getting much easier to follow a gluten-free lifestyle.

Some gluten-free foods are available on prescription – usually staples like bread, pasta and flour mixes. To supplement these products, many supermarkets and online retailers also sell gluten-free foods ranging from cupboard essentials like spaghetti to complete meals like casseroles and curries.

Whatever your reason for choosing gluten-free, you can feel safe in the knowledge that there will be a wide range of different foods out there to maintain a healthy balance in your diet.

[1]: http://www.coeliac.org.uk

New Labelling Requirements for the Most Common Food Allergens

People can react to a huge range of different foods and food ingredients, which makes life pretty tough not only for the allergy sufferer, but also for food manufacturers. However, new food legislation is coming into force over the next 12 months which will create a more universal approach to allergen labelling – something that has been welcomed by consumers and the food industry alike.

Food manufacturing companies who practice due diligence when it comes to food production will know exactly where their ingredients come from, and whether there are any known allergens present in the food (or potentially through contamination of the ingredients). Being up-to-date with the science is important, too: knowing what foods could cause a reaction lets companies make informed decisions about the ingredients they use.

The existing food labelling law lists 14 of the most common food allergens and requires them to be clearly labelled on any pre-packed food sold in the UK. This list obviously doesn’t cover every single food that might trigger an allergy or intolerance, but it goes a long way to help support people with the most common food allergies and intolerances.

The 14 major food allergens the law mentions are:-
– Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut or their hybridised grains)
– Crustaceans (shellfish)
– Eggs
– Fish
– Peanuts
– Soybeans
– Milk (including lactose)
– Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia or Queensland nuts)
– Celery
– Mustard
– Sesame seeds
– Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
– Lupin
– Molluscs

If any of these 14 major allergens are included in a recipe, or are knowingly added to a food, the new legislation requires that they be declared in the ingredients panel, in boldface, so that it’s easy for the consumer to see exactly which potential allergens are in a food. The best news for allergic people, however, is that the new law also requires the label to give the common name for each allergen [e.g. “whey hydrolysate (milk)”], which should go a long way toward simplifying things. Just think, no more memorising lists of complicated ingredients!

Thanks to the new laws, anyone who wants to avoid a specific allergen will soon be able to use food labels to quickly and easily make an informed decision about the food they buy and eat – a real bonus. (All manufacturers are required to label their packaged foods this way by December 2014, so you’ll probably start to see changes in your supermarket very soon!)

Come see us at the Allergy Show; 2013 Free-From Food Awards

The fabulous [Allergy & Free From Show][1] is coming to London’s Olympia from June 7-9, and ilumi will be there! Our area will have lots of information on our meals and how they’re developed and made, plus free samples to taste (always the best bit!) So come by stand 181 to say hello and see for yourself why we’re the best-tasting allergy-free food on the market! (We’ve even arranged for you to get free tickets – just head over to [www.allergyshow.co.uk/go/ilumi][2] to sign up. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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This year’s Free-From Food Awards were presented in April, with a touch of celeb style courtesy of well-known chef and TV presenter [Antony Worrall Thompson][3]. Awards like these are always a great place to spot new must-try products (N.B. Look for us there next year!)

This year’s overall winner was a corker: [Bessant & Drury’s][4] Lemon dairy-free frozen dessert, which looks utterly tempting (and is also, incidentally, free from gluten, egg, and soya). It cleverly uses [coconut milk][5] to replace the dairy whilst keeping the luscious richness that makes ice-cream so wonderful. The runners-up were no slouches, either, from a gluten-free paratha to a frangipane tart that’s got us longing for teatime. Have a look at the [shortlist][6] before your next shopping trip – you just might find a new favourite!

[1]: http://www.allergyshow.co.uk/london/london-home.php
[2]: http://www.allergyshow.co.uk/london/e-ticket-registration/?referrer=ilumi
[3]: http://www.awtonline.co.uk/
[4]: http://bessant.phusevm2.co.uk/Home
[5]: http://www.bessantanddrury.com/The-Humble-Coconut
[6]: http://www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk/shortlist_13.html

Eat the seasons: Asparagus

UK asparagus is widely considered the best in the world, and it’s in season right now, but it won’t be for long! In just a few weeks, it will disappear from our farmers’ markets and greengrocers, so why not make the most of it?

Not only is asparagus naturally gluten-free, it’s a nutritional powerhouse as well! Asparagus contains high levels of vitamin A and folic acid, which are believed to play an important role in the fight against cancer. It’s rich in soluble fibre, known to help protect against heart disease, and it has heaps of potassium, which may help control blood pressure. Asparagus is also one of the richest sources of rutin (a natural substance found in plants) which together with vitamin C, can help energise and protect the body from infections. Asparagus is also a source of iron, which boosts the immune system and prevents anaemia. And on top of all that, it’s a mild diuretic… all of which makes it perfect for a light (and delicious) spring detox.

We think the best way to enjoy asparagus is the simplest: drizzle a generous bunch with some extra-virgin olive oil and grind over a bit of sea salt and pepper, then grill the spears on the barbecue for just a couple of minutes, until they’re marked but not charred. Squeeze over half a lemon, and enjoy a true springtime delicacy!

Spotlight on Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a relatively common issue, and although the actual number of affected people isn’t known, it’s thought that perhaps 1 in 5 people experience symptoms (including severe discomfort and bloating, nausea and diarrhoea) after consuming milk products. That number is even higher in certain ethnic groups, especially those who come from cultures without a milk-based cuisine.

Lactose intolerance isn’t an allergy; it’s an inability to properly digest the sugar that is found in milk and dairy foods (lactose). When we digest milk products, we use an enzyme called lactase to break down these sugars, but lactose-intolerant people don’t produce enough of it to do the job.

Lactose intolerance can sometimes be temporary – after a nasty tummy bug or a bout of diarrhoea, for example. This is known as transient lactose intolerance, and happens essentially because the body’s store of lactase is wiped out by the illness. In most cases, this type of lactose intolerance will resolve itself, although it may take a few weeks or months for the person to recover completely.

For other people, lactose intolerance is a lifelong condition, and the only real solution is to remove all dairy foods from the diet. Lactose is found in all mammal milks (such as cows’, goats’, sheeps’ and buffalo milk) in equal quantities. Some people appear to be able to tolerate small amounts of milk – for instance, a dash added to a cup of tea – but wouldn’t be able to cope with a glass of milk or a latté.

A recent survey of people avoiding lactose in their diets, conducted by [Allergy UK][1], found that nearly half of those asked had self-diagnosed their lactose intolerance, relying on online searches, unconventional allergy tests and alternative practitioners for their diagnosis. The majority (72%) had completely removed dairy from their diets.

The Symptoms
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Unsurprisingly, most of these people had stopped eating dairy because of digestive discomfort – 69% citing stomach/ abdominal discomfort, 57% bloating and 54% diarrhoea – with symptoms improving after cutting dairy from the diet.

If you have symptoms like these, the easiest way to find out whether it is dairy/lactose that is causing them is to remove it from your diet and see whether the symptoms clear up. Although this might seem like quite a simple thing to do, you’ll need to be aware of hidden milk or lactose in foods by reading labels and checking ingredients lists. If avoiding lactose for a couple of weeks gets rid of your symptoms, then it’s important to get some professional advice from your GP before embarking on a completely lactose-free diet. Replacing dairy with an alternative source of calcium is vitally important to make sure you’re still getting a good balance of nutrients in your diet.

[1]: http://www.allergyuk.org