Being gluten intolerant isn't a fad, it's a complete lifestyle overhaul

"Do you do anything gluten free?" is not a question that I have ever had to ask until recently, yet now I find myself asking it everywhere I go.

A few weeks ago my mum was diagnosed as coeliac, meaning she has an intolerance to gluten that can only be 'cured' by cutting gluten out of her diet completely.

It's a whole change of lifestyle for her now and is not one that I could see myself adapting to as easy as she has - what about the bread and pasta and pastries?!

As she said to me, though: "I've no choice, I've just got to get on with it." This is very true, but I still shiver at the thought of a life with no pasta and bread. Of course, she can still eat these if they are from the gluten free section of the supermarket and wants to pay extortionate prices for them.

I understand that gluten free products are not as in demand but surely they shouldn't make people pay over the odds for something they are not buying out of choice. Products that are sugar free aren't hiked up in price for all those people trying to be healthier.

My mum was told by the doctors that her children may also have an intolerance to gluten and that we may need to get tested too. Since she told me that, and since her diagnosis, I've paid much more attention to food labels and the ingredients I use when making meals. It's amazing how many foods and drinks have gluten it that you would never have expected!

The first weekend after her diagnosis we had a barbecue but, because sausages and burgers contain gluten (who knew?!), mum had to buy her own gluten free alternatives. They had to be cooked separately, to avoid cross-contamination of the fats, which is not an easy feat on a barbecue!

But it's not just burgers and sausages that surprised me with their gluten content. Most stock cubes have gluten in - meaning that, unless restaurants or cafes have made their own stock, the soup (which, to me, would seem like the safe option) is also a no-go.

Cross-contamination is also a big thing. Mum can't use the same butter as dad and Jack incase there are any crumbs from bread left in the butter, or incase there's any trace of gluten on a knife that's been in the butter. She can't use the same spoon to get her gluten-free stuffing for Sunday dinner as we used for our regular stuffing because the gluten can be transferred.
Then there's coke!

I'm a big fan of cooking a joint of ham in the slow cooker in coke and then smothering it in barbecue sauce and honey and cooking it in the oven (my mouth is watering at the thought). I thought this would be a fail-safe tea for me and mum, with a bit of salad and some homemade wedges, but apparently not.

After picking up some coke in Marks & Spencer (I don't usually shop there but the Aldi coke had been used when we had friends round) I read the label when I got home, only to discover it had gluten in.
I fished the empty Aldi bottle out of the recycling and discovered that one was gluten free. After work, I nipped into Morrisons and picked up their own brand of coke and the same as the M&S one - it had gluten. I ended up having to buy actual, proper Coca Cola because all the cheaper alternatives contained gluten.

When I told my mum she was shocked as her current go-to coeliac app (which basically tells her what is safe and what isn't) had told her coke was fine!

It's a whole change in way of life for my mum and for the rest of us as we learn what is ok and what isn't.

For my mum, who absolutely loves to bake, she is finding it particularly hard knowing that she won't be able to enjoy all the amazing things she creates. She's just bought some Phil Vickery cookery books which are all gluten free and had a test-run with some baking last weekend and, at the moment, it's looking like the star baker will continue being a star.

She made some amazing chocolate fudge brownie muffins and a beautiful chocolate fudge cake which, if you'd not told me, I'd never have guessed it was gluten free.

In the meantime, I look forward to testing out all the gluten free creations that she makes as she practices her new way of cooking.

All the websites and cook books say it's not as simple as swapping normal flour for gluten free flour, so I expect there will be a lot of weekends spent by her testing out methods and new recipes.

Gluten free diets have always seemed to me like one of those 'fad' things, like the Atkins diet. In America, pretty much everything is gluten free because people think that by not eating gluten they are being healthier.

Hopefully, in time, most things over here will be gluten free as well to make things easier for people like my mum who are dealing with this sudden change to her lifestyle.

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