Coeliac UK, the national charity for coeliac disease is challenging the nation to go gluten-free from 14-20 May to raise awareness of the daily food frustrations encountered by the 1 in 100 people in the UK who have coeliac disease.
The idea of the Gluten-free Challenge is for people to shop, cook or eat out completely gluten-free for a week in order to experience what it is like to be diagnosed with coeliac disease and have to check every ingredient on every packet to ensure it doesn’t contain any gluten.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by intolerence to gluten. There is no cure and no medication and the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life.
The average diagnosis period is 13 years and currently only 10-15% of those with the condition are diagnosed, with half a million people in the UK currently undiagnosed. Left untreated it can lead to infertility, osteoporosis and small bowel cancer.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and is found in bread, pasta, pizza, cakes and beer etc. However, it is also often used in a wide range of products including mayonnaise, soy sauce, sauces, sausages and many processed goods.
Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK said: “After struggling for years to get diagnosed with coeliac disease many people are then faced with a complete change in diet and lifestyle. People may be surprised by how good some gluten-free products are and how many naturally gluten-free dishes there are on a restaurant menu. However there may also be frustrations by the unnecessary limitations on your diet, such as sauces made with wheat flour or fruit salad being the only suitable dessert on offer. But by taking the Challenge you will be doing your bit to help educate and to get the changes needed. Popping into your local restaurant and asking what they have which is gluten-free is spreading awareness and will hopefully encourage caterers to offer more gluten-free options for all customers.”
There are a range of activities that people can get involved with including:
- Encourage your office to go gluten-free for work lunches or the office biscuits
- Invite friends to take part in Come Dine With Me Gluten-free, taking it in turns to shop for and cook gluten-free meals throughout the week
- Go out for dinner and ask about and only order gluten-free options to ensure that eating establishments know about the demand for gluten-free food
- Schools can hold a gluten-free cake stall or cook a gluten-free recipe in food technology classes
- Talk to local restaurants and ask them to provide gluten-free options on their menu
- When shopping check the back of packets to see how many items include gluten and choose the gluten-free options
- Get sponsored for the week if you’re taking on the Gluten-free Challenge.
Coeliac UK has a dedicated area for the challenge on their website www.coeliac.org.uk/glutenfreechallenge which includes recipes and cooking tips, information on gluten-free products and what to look out for when shopping. They will also be encouraging people to sign up and pledge they are going to take on the Gluten-free Challenge.