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Managing Gluten in The Kitchen

Supporting a gluten free diet can be a bit overwhelming at first especially with the large number of foods we would normally see on the supermarket shelves. However it is possible with good planning and organisation. By following a gluten free diet we are avoiding grains that contain gluten, namely barley, wheat and rye.

What we eat is the most important aspect of gluten free living and the eating habits of the vast majority of families revolve around both the kitchen and where we shop for groceries.

It sounds good to buy gluten free food however if cross contamination is allowed to happen in the kitchen it is pointless. To be exact, cross contamination in the kitchen can be as little as a few breadcrumbs from a wheat based loaf.

In a way it is easier to change to a gluten free diet as a family, then contamination is not an issue. If the motivation for following a gluten free diet is purely a lifestyle change as opposed to a verifiable medical condition such as celiac disease, then a little contamination will not be a problem.

However, if one or more family members have a medical condition then gluten free and gluten containing foods should not be prepared and cooked together. Likewise, utensils should not be shared and the food should not be fried in the same oil. Different breadboards should be used and surfaces need to be washed down.

A toaster just for preparing gluten free breads and muffins is a necessity along with separate spreads such as butter and jam. Other products such as mayonnaise and ketchup should also be kept separate as they are susceptible to cross contamination.

Checking food labels of all bought foods and condiments for gluten (unless they are marked gluten free) is required since many foods, particularly those that are processed, contain gluten through additives and emulsifiers, such as malt flavouring and modified food starch.

It is important to note that wheat free is not the same as gluten free since these items could still have rye and barley which would affect someone with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. In those cases it is worth contacting the manufacturer to verify the ingredients.

There are a number of common acronyms to watch for when reading food labels as they often indicate gluten; Fu-dried wheat gluten; MSG-monosodium glutamate; HPP-hydrolysed plant protein;
TPP-textured plant protein; HVP-hydrolyzed vegetable protein; and TVP-textured vegetable protein.

Unfortunately this does result in the kiss of death for the majority of takeaways unless they indicate that their food ingredients are gluten free and have been prepared in a gluten free environment. MSG is often added to food, especially Chinese, to give it more flavour and it is found in many soya sauces.

Luckily, there are a number of foods which do not naturally contain gluten including most dairy products such as cheese, butter and milk; fresh fruit and vegetables, potatoes, corn, rice, meat and fish as long as they are not breaded or marinated at the store.

Other foods need to be checked to see whether they qualify as gluten free. Common offenders with gluten include canned soups, instant cocoa, bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits, pies, cakes, gravies, sauces, rice mixes, sliced lunch meats and sausages which are filled with wheat based fillers.

If you have children then outside factors need to be examined. Again this is more of an issue if they have a medical condition or if you are adamant in following a complete gluten free diet. Acceptable foods would need to be discussed with staff at their schools or day cares as well as steps to take in the event of an episode or illness if they have celiac disease. Parties and going on vacation should also be reviewed. Unfortunately, you may be in your child’s bad books since crisps contain some form of gluten often hidden. So unless it is marked gluten free it needs to be avoided.

Accepting and following a gluten free diet is becoming easier for people, especially now, with many of the larger supermarket chains sourcing a greater variety of gluten free foods for people to choose from. Also there are more and more people considering such an approach to their food intake and it is much easier to find support and ideas with the invention of websites and social networking.

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Gluten in The Bathroom

Gluten in the bathroom may sound odd but when you think about it if there is one room in the house where you keep all your medicines, that is generally the bathroom. And these products might contain gluten.

There is some controversy as to whether a product containing gluten has to be ingested to cause a reaction. For instance, some people argue that topical creams are not an issue whilst others say that gluten can be absorbed into the bloodstream and will trigger a negative response. To prove either theory, the individual will have to try and see what happens.

One item we use on a daily basis is toothpaste. The vast majority of big manufacturers such as Crest and Colgate, as well as others, do produce gluten free products. Nonetheless, it is worth checking with the manufacturer to ensure you are getting gluten free products. After all, the toothpaste is in your mouth every day at least twice, if you brush in the morning and before going to bed. Take a look at Gluten Free Bathroom Products and Gluten Free Toothpaste to see what is available.

In regards to medications, both prescription and over the counter, they all have fillers added to the active drugs. These fillers are known as excipients which are inactive substances that are used simply as carriers for the active ingredients found in medicines. They provide the shape of the tablets and make up the bulk of the substance. For example, paracetamol, can aid in water absorption which helps the tablet to break up in the body. These fillers can be derived from a selection of starchy sources including corn, tapioca, potatoes, and wheat. It is only the wheat, though, which contains gluten.

At this point it is important to note that there is a difference in products based on where you reside. Thankfully gluten in medicines is not the same issue in the UK as it is in other countries.

In the UK, GPs (General Practitioners) always prescribe medicines that are licensed under and listed in prescribing guides such as the BNF (British National Formulary) and MIMS (Monthly Index of Medical Specialties). The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) is a government agency entrusted with ensuring that medicines are acceptably safe. They have stated that all medications listed in the prescribing guidelines are gluten free.

If the medicine were to contain wheat starch then this would have to be disclosed on both the label and the patient pamphlet that accompanies the medication. However it is worth noting that the wheat starch used in these cases is considered pharmaceutical grade and as such is highly processed. As a result, it can be considered gluten free meaning that licensed medications which contain this grade of wheat starch are still suitable for people who have problems with gluten in their diets, such as celiac disease sufferers.

When purchasing over-the-counter medicine in the UK, as long as there is a Product Licence (PL) number on the packet, it can be assumed to be gluten free. Again this can be found either on the packaging itself or the informational sheet.

However if symptoms associated with a gluten intolerance or celiac disease do present themselves then a GP should be contacted. It is important to continue taking prescribed medicines unless advised otherwise by a professional.

If it is time to remove old medicines from your home, start with the ones which are used often before looking for gluten content in those medicines rarely used. Several organizations regularly publish lists of gluten-free medications and have directories of pharmaceutical company contact information. These can serve as a starting point to determine whether the medicines are gluten free.

A few steps should be taken to help minimise the likelihood of receiving gluten in medicines. Discuss the issue with your pharmacist and remind him/her every time a prescription is filled that it must be gluten free. Please remember, though, that the pharmacy staff are not likely to be experts in where inactive ingredients are derived. Ask your own doctor for first and second choice prescriptions so that you can substitute in case one turns out to be unsafe.

Contacting the manufacturer is important as they can state decisively whether there is gluten or not. It is worth pressing them, though, for the specific excipient so that you can look it up yourself. Some manufacturers categorise excipients based on sugar alcohol as a source of gluten such as isomalt, sorbitol, mannitol, malitol, xylitol and lactilol. However they are so highly refined that their existence in medications is unlikely to create any negative reactions.

A red flag when reviewing ingredients on the medicine’s leaflet is any starch based ingredient called pregelatinised starch and sodium starch glycolate particularly if they are not marked as coming from a gluten free source. Although it can be an effort, it is worthwhile checking through all medicines and they should be rechecked periodically as manufacturers do change their manufacturing processes.

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Celiac Disease Recipes

Celiac disease is a lifelong condition that prevents the absorption of foods containing gluten into the small intestines of those who suffer from the disease. Gluten, being a protein found in a variety of common grains such as barley, wheat and rye, is the specific culprit. In fact, some gluten sensitive individuals are also negatively affected by the protein found in oats.

Celiac disease sufferers have to be more diligent when cooking and shopping for foods because they need food items they can tolerate. Fortunately, just because you suffer from celiac disease does not mean your life is over or the quality of your life will be reduced. Nowadays, there are plenty of gluten free products being sold, and many celiac disease sufferers are able to eat relatively normal diets, as long as they use caution and heed their symptoms.

Manufacturers are now realising that there are thousands of gluten intolerant people out there. Thus, many products display information on the labels as to whether they contain gluten or not. There are still, however, many that do not, and it is these products specifically that celiac disease sufferers should watch for when purchasing their groceries.

Baked goods are notorious for causing a variety of problems for sufferers of celiac disease. Consequently, it is probably best that they are avoided unless the labels indicate otherwise. Often, store bought baked goods tend to be more expensive to buy, so making your own pastries and cakes from scratch makes good economic sense as well as giving you the safeguard of knowing exactly what ingredients have been used in the recipes.

Admittedly, gluten free baked goods do not have the same appeal as those containing gluten. This is due to the fact that gluten gives cakes and breads more texture and bounce. Also, gluten free flour can be a little more difficult to work with than regular flour. This can be overcome, though, with some perseverance, and it is actually quite realistic to bake delicious gluten free recipes.

Let’s review a couple gluten free ingredients and substitutions that can be used to make mouth-watering recipes.

* Gluten free flour Includes flours derived from rice, buckwheat, chickpea, potato and soy. Once the gluten is removed, anything baked with these flours tends to have a much crumblier texture. This should not be a problem, however, if some thought and consideration are given to the types of recipes planned when using these flours. Indeed, a very acceptable dish can be made.

* Xantham gum is a powder that can be used very favourably when baking with gluten free flours. The gum mimics the qualities of gluten and when a small amount is added to the recipe, it ensures the finished baked products, like pastries or breads, look more like other products baked with gluten flour.

* Gluten-free baking powder is quite useful when baking a cake. Ordinary baking powder contains gluten and cannot be used. But, gluten free baking powder makes an excellent substitute.

* Gluten free Pasta and Gluten Free Noodles are more widely available now, and can be bought Online or at specialty health food shops or in the specialist aisle of most larger supermarkets. Check labels and you will find there are products such as soba (the Japanese name for buckwheat) and rice noodles which are naturally gluten free.

* Grain usually contains gluten so take care when buying semolina or bulgur wheat, as many people mistakenly believe it is gluten free. Quinoa, polena and ground rice all make fairly nice substitutes.

There are more than plenty gluten free recipes sites on the Internet so do not assume your diet has to be boring, making the same dish over and over again. Just jump online and start exploring!

Places to visit for recipe ideas, as well as tips and hints for living on a gluten free diet include:

Gluten Free Products Online

Gluten Free Food Store

UK Gluten Free Foods

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