This week is Coeliac Awareness Week. We had a chat with Chloe, one of our product developers here at ilumi.
Tell us a little about yourself…
Hi, I’m Chloe and I’m 23. I work in new product development of food products. I live with my fiancé Christopher in Northumberland.
What are you allergic to and when were you diagnosed?
I have never been formally diagnosed after years of testing, but after experimenting with my diet, I found cutting out gluten to be beneficial to my symptoms.
What was eating like before you realised you had a food allergy?
If I ate a gluten-heavy meal out with friends, I found I developed severe heartburn within an hour of eating and then felt incredibly sleepy and bloated. My friends found this quite amusing as it’s usually associated with older generations or pregnancy! I would blame the rich sauce or the white wine, until this started happening more and more in every day eating situations.
What did you have to change; did you find this easy or difficult?
I originally cut gluten out of my diet completely for around 4 months. This really did help, although it is so hard. It’s the little things that you wouldn’t automatically think have gluten in that you might eat or be accidently given. For example vinegar isn’t gluten free because it contains barley - I was aware of this but my fiancé wasn’t. You find yourself having to talk to anyone who cooks for you about it. Most people are aware of carby things like bread, pasta and cake containing gluten, but not others.
The world is definitely becoming a more gluten free friendly place, so it is getting easier. There is now a wider range of convenient products available that aren’t overly processed, like ilumi.
What was the positive impact to how you felt after diagnosis?
After cutting out gluten, life went back to how it was before the problems started. I have more energy; I feel I can exercise again without having pain in my abdomen. I am more efficient at work, my mood has improved… Being bloated like a whale, in pain and trying to sit at a desk all day was making me very grouchy!
What are the biggest challenges you face when food shopping?
I used to regularly cook for my best friend who is a coeliac, so most of my household ingredients such as soy sauce and stock cubes are gluten free, so I’m quite used to knowing what to buy when I go shopping. Chris and I usually make everything from scratch and tend to use gluten free substitutes such as pasta that are easily found in the supermarket, and just do a straight swap.
What are the biggest challenges when cooking at home? For example, does everyone in your household eat the same thing?
I think breakfast is one of the biggest challenges - I used to eat cereal or toast but gluten free bread is higher in calories so I don’t eat it. I have found that the gap in calorific content between gluten containing products and gluten free is closing over time though. Sometimes I end up skipping breakfast or just eating a banana if I don’t have time for gluten free oats. Chris is quite accommodating and will eat what I’m eating to save making two meals, but I do find it challenging when he is eating eat bread and cake…
How is eating out, where are the best places to go?
Chinese is often a no go. Spanish is normally good as I can eat the rice and potato dishes, but have to be cautious of chorizo. Indian is usually fine. Italian can be tricky but more and more places now offer gluten free pasta. I remember a few years back I had to take my own!
Are there any other day to day challenges that you have not already mentioned?
My work involves a lot of tasting. There are certain situations where I do have to have a small mouthful of gluten containing product to be able to review it - I find that in small quantities, gluten doesn’t tend to affect me too much. However, if I have to do a large tasting session, it does and I become sluggish in the afternoon when my stomach is in pain.
What are your go to products/brands that make life easier?
Gluten free oats and bars such as Eat Natural are great for breakfast. I’m also a big fan of Nature’s Store chocolate rice cakes. Tesco also have a good range of own label gluten free products.