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There’s no secret: Quorn, now gluten free

quorn-minceWhat do you think about free-from products that try to mimic the ‘normal’ product?

I don’t eat meat. As a vegetarian student back in the 1980s I tried TVP: textured vegetable protein. The idea was that it mimicked meat, so you could use it to replace mince in recipes such as shepherd’s pie, or chili.

However, it had to be soaked and then boiled to be rehydrated – and it stank worse than a butchers shop does to a vegetarian.

I believe it’s now much improved, but that experience means that I tend to avoid vegetarian food that tries to replicate meat. After all, if you don’t eat meat, you don’t eat it, right?

So I was intrigued though slightly doubtful when I received some vouchers to try the new gluten free Quorn products.

Quorn is a mycoprotein-based protein, so is suitable for vegetarians – indeed, it’s received a seal of approval from the Vegetarian Society. But we’ve been avoiding it, because for the most part it’s not been gluten free–until now.

There is now a suite of Quorn products that are gluten free, and clearly marked as such on the packaging–I looked at the Quorn range for the first time in years when I went to the supermarket recently. In fact, there are 27 different Quorn products certified as gluten free by Coeliac UK.

So we tried it. Well, Coeliac Daughter did: I couldn’t get past the TVP experience. And she reports that though the ham-style Quorn was OK (didn’t smell quite right, apparently), the mince-style Quorn was indistinguishable from mince, and worked well in her recipes. As a meat-eater who doesn’t have any TVP baggage to deal with, she found it to be very acceptable.

And apparently, more meat-eaters than vegetarians buy Quorn, especially since they are promoting it as #healthyprotein, rather than as vegetarian. Interesting…

Do go and look at their website. The link to their gluten free section is hidden down in the footer, so I’d recommend that they add it to the main navigation for easy access, especially since they’re promoting their gluten free range at the moment. They’ve got a small collection of gluten free Quorn recipes too.

I might suggest that Coeliac Daughter try the bacon-style Quorn next…

Erythema Nodosum – Will Going Gluten Free Help?

erythema nodosum pain

Soon after my diagnosis of thyrotoxicosis, I had a bout of erythema nodosum (EN). I hope never to have another.

If you’ve had EN, you’ll know exactly what it means: hot red lumps. Very, very painful hot red lumps.

Typically, these appear on the lower legs – on the shins – and the typical patient is young (aged 18-34) and more likely to be female than male. But of course there are many cases where the patient is atypical: for example, though I am female, I haven’t been 34 for a while, and my nodules were not (initially) on my shins!

It turns out to be a kind of panniculitis: an inflammation of the fatty layer in the skin. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?

There may or may not be something that triggers it: in about half of cases, no triggers are found. But it can be triggered by an infection such as a streptococcal infection, by an underlying systemic condition such as sarcoidosis or TB, or even by some cancers. People with IBS or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis can also get it. And occasionally it is triggered by pregnancy – or by antibiotics or the combined oral contraceptive pill. My medic niece tells me that they were taught it is related to the treatment for thyrotoxicosis…

It may be a one-time occurrence, or it may be recurrent. It may disappear on its own, or it may need medication. Typical recommendations for managing it include:

  • bed rest / elevating the feet
  • cool compresses
  • support stockings
  • anti-inflammatory medicines
  • corticosteroids

Anecdotally, people say that going gluten free has helped them deal with it. There’s not much official evidence for this… I found a couple of papers online which discuss a few cases where someone with erythema nodosum has been found to have coeliac disease, and for whom, on switching to a gluten free diet, the EN has subsided.

Will it help you? I don’t know (I’m not a doctor) – but I’d have thought it worth a try.

Isn’t it astonishing how many things a gluten free diet can apparently help with?

Useful resources:
Patient.info
Dermatology Online Journal
World Journal of Gastroenterology
Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America
MedScape

Missing Twix? Try Schar’s Chocolix

Are any of you going to the Allergy and Free From Show in November? It’s in the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on 7/8th November – don’t forget you can get free tickets.

breakfast-bakesThe November show is being sponsored by Schar, as part of their big UK launch this autumn. I was delighted to find out about their expansion into the UK because their products can reliably be found in supermarkets when we go on holiday. It’s been frustrating that we can find products abroad that we can’t find here!

Schar, of course, has the DS gluten free range here in the UK, but these will be rebranded, and the completely new products look interesting. And in fact, I did spot some of the new products and the new branding in Sainsbury’s yesterday.

Coeliac daughter has enjoyed the Bonta d’Italia Salami pizza in the past, when we can find it, and I gather that Asda will be selling twin-packs of their (now lactose-free) Margherita pizza in the frozen aisles – I hope those roll out into other stores soon, as we don’t have an Asda near us.

I’m not sure that the new vegetarian dish Caserecce Con Pesto will be something we’ll buy: after all, pasta with pesto is practically a staple here so we don’t need it as a ready-meal. Cooking a pan of pasta and adding pesto is just about as easy as a ready-meal. But the other one, Cannelloni with Spinach, may well be a handy standby as this isn’t something I’d typically make myself.

Schar sent us some samples of new products to try:

chocolix

  • Chocolix: my first thought when biting into these was ‘Twix!’. Coeliac Daughter, of course, doesn’t know what a Twix tastes like, but I can tell you that this is a pretty good version of a Twix. There’s a bit less caramel, and a bit more biscuit, but it definitely tastes Twix-y. We’ll be able to get these at Sainsbury’s, though they’re also available at Asda.
  • Breakfast Bakes, made with gluten free oats – and though we’re not a breakfast bar household, I was impressed with these, and would happily add these to our regular shop. In fact, I’ve just eaten one, and am very tempted to eat a second… though I have already had one breakfast this morning. Sadly, these too are apparently only available at Asda.
  • And ‘Mini O’s’ – lookalike Oreo cookies. Coeliac Daughter asked me to mention these specifically, as she really liked these, and finished the packet very quickly. You’ll be able to get these at Tesco or Morrisons.

According to the website, though, there are still products available in other countries that we can’t get. Please, Schar, bring Millefoglie (frozen puff pastry) and Tiramisu to the UK soon! Both have been given 5 star reviews online by those people lucky enough to be able to try them.

By |September 30th, 2015|Living Gluten Free|0 Comments

Surprise find: Gluten free French bread

bistronomeWe’re recently back from a camping holiday in France. Yes, thanks, it was great, though the tent was a bit leaky when it rained…

But the point of telling you this is that we had a meal out at our stopover point in Montreuil-sur-Mer.

We went to Bistronome, who were very welcoming to our party of 5 Brits, and entirely understanding about our need—explained in imperfect French—to check that the dishes Coeliac Daughter wanted to choose were gluten free.

Our waitress went to check with Chef, and indeed they were gluten free.

But imagine our delight later, when, completely unexpectedly, she brought not only bread for the rest of us – which we did expect – but a plate of gluten free French bread rolls for Coeliac Daughter.

And it was astonishingly good bread: crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, just as real French bread should be.

Coeliac Daughter ate four rolls … she was thrilled, having coveted proper French bread on holiday for years.

french-bread

We tried to find out the manufacturer of these outstanding bread rolls, but it turned out to be someone local, making the rolls for the restaurant trade rather than for retail customers. What a shame! We’d have bought some to take away with us…

Bistronome is new, and if you happen to be visiting Montreuil, we can recommend it: the food was delicious. We visited again on the way home, and the gluten free French bread—and the welcome—was just as good.

Gluten and the Thyroid

butterfly
Wondered where I’ve been? I started writing this post well over a year ago, but didn’t have the energy to finish it… Now, though, after a period of enforced rest and nearly a year on medication, I’m feeling a lot better!

***

Well, that was a surprise… and not much fun. I’ve been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid.

Did you know there was a connection between coeliac disease and thyroid problems? It was mentioned to us all those years ago, when coeliac daughter was first diagnosed, and has been tested for annually by daughter’s blood tests – at least, until she was discharged from paediatric care. But I hadn’t really focused on it and in any case, had assumed that since daughter’s coeliac disease was well-managed, her risk was no greater than anyone else’s.

Wrong.

According to Coeliac UK, “people with autoimmune thyroid disease are four to 15 times more likely to have coeliac disease than the general population.” And it works the other way round too… coeliacs are more likely to have thyroid problems than non-coeliacs – about four times more likely, it seems.

The exact connection isn’t known yet, but both are autoimmune conditions, so it is assumed that it must be partly to do with a common genetic predisposition.

Symptoms

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck, which produces hormones to regulate your metabolism, affecting every system in your body.

  • An underactive thyroid slows down your metabolism, and symptoms include: tiredness, weight gain, constipation, aches, feeling cold, dry skin, lifeless hair, fluid retention, mental slowing, depression, a hoarse voice, heavy menstrual periods, confusion…
  • An overactive thyroid speeds up your metabolism, and symptoms include: restlessness, irritability, tremor, poor sleep, anxiety, tearfulness, weight loss, palpitations, rapid heart rate, sweating, feeling hot, increased thirst, diarrhoea, breathlessness, skin problems, light or infrequent menstrual periods, tiredness, weakness, swollen thyroid gland, eye problems…
  • And of course coeliac disease symptoms include: diarrhoea, steatorrhea, excessive wind, constipation, nausea, vomiting, cramping, bloating, iron/B12/folic acid deficiency, aneaemia, tiredness, headaches, weight loss, mouth ulcers, hair loss, skin rash, tooth enamel problems, osteoporosis, depression, infertility/miscarriages, joint/bone pain, liver abnormalities, clumsiness, numbness/tingling in hands and feet, lack of periods in women, epilepsy, type 1 diabetes, failure to thrive in infants, distended stomach in infants/children…

Charming set of problems, aren’t they? And with a significant overlap…

Should people diagnosed with a thyroid problem give up gluten?

If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid problems it’s probably worth getting tested for coeliac disease – and certainly if you are still experiencing symptoms that might be related to coeliac disease.

If you have coeliac disease, then going gluten free is the only answer, and in this case a gluten free diet may help manage your thyroid-related symptoms. Anecdotally, people do say that a gluten free diet has helped them with their underactive thyroid symptoms.

Note that if you are experiencing nutritional malabsorption due to coeliac disease, and go gluten-free, that your absorption levels will change – and therefore the levels of thyroid medication needed may also change.

I haven’t found anything to indicate that someone with an overactive thyroid – and no coeliac disease – should go gluten free. I’ll let you know what I find out – and if you have any information, do please share!

(Note: I am not a doctor; if you are having medical problems, you should consult an expert.)

More reading:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2111403/

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/110310p52.shtml

http://www.thyroidmanager.org/

http://elaine-moore.com

http://www.british-thyroid-association.org/

http://www.thyroiduk.org.uk/tuk/index.html

http://www.btf-thyroid.org/