CAOIMHE DUNNE was diagnosed as a coeliac when she was 19 months. Since birth she had been constantly sick and tired.
Meals would result in projectile vomiting, she had asthma-like symptoms, runny nappies and slept badly at night.
Although this was their first child, retired boxer Bernard Dunne and his wife Pamela knew something was not right. However, their GP could find nothing wrong.
After one particularly bad spell, they ended up in Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin. A doctor walking by noticed her protruding belly and suggested tests for coeliac disease.
At home that night the Dunnes looked up the symptoms online and saw that Caoimhe had all seven.
Coeliac disease is a disorder of the lower intestine that is caused by a reaction to gluten in wheat and similar foods.
Soon after Caoimhe was diagnosed, they set about educating themselves and adopted a new lifestyle. They also joined the Coeliac Society of Ireland, which now has 12,000 members.
Already healthy eaters, they simply refined Caoimhe’s diet and noticed an immediate improvement in her demeanour.
When eating out they now know to bring their own burger buns if a burger is on the menu, and they enjoy trips to Beshoff ’s for fish and chips as a treat as the famous Dublin chipper uses a gluten-free batter.
“I remember in the middle of the night I would sit in the kitchen feeding her porridge trying to comfort her. Now I can see how bad that was for her and how much discomfort she was experiencing,” says Pamela, adding that Caoimhe is now thriving at five years of age.
“She was diagnosed at such a young age she knows no different, so there is never a feeling of missing out on anything,” says Bernard. “If she’s going to a birthday party she brings her own cake with her and also the staff at her school in Lucan are very aware of it.”
In terms of eating out they find places very accommodating and understanding. “One in 300 people in Ireland are coeliacs so places need to be aware of how to deal with it,” says Bernard.
Watch for products that contain hidden gluten
What are the most common foods with gluten? Nutritional therapist Sally Milne (www.positivenutrition.ie) says gluten is in wheat (including spelt and kamut), barley, rye and oats and products made from them. Oats are not always problematic for coeliacs, but may be contaminated with gluten in the food-processing factories.
It’s difficult to avoid wheat in our diet and many food additives contain products made from it. In addition to foods coated in bread crumbs, such as fish fingers, chicken nuggets, or contain bread/wheat, like sausages, stuffings, puddings and sauces — modified starch, hydrolysed vegetable protein, monosodium gluta -mate, starch or vegetable starch, mustard powder and vegetable gum can all be made from wheat.
If you are gluten-sensitive, watch for malted products (extract, vinegar, syrup, flavouring and maltose). Dextrin or dextrose, used as a sweetener, is also made from wheat. Not all food manufacturers label these foods with a wheat warning. Read food labels closely.
Typical foods to avoid include: stock cubes, soy sauce, potato crisps, processed meat products like burgers, sausages, where starch is used as a binding agent, and fruit squashes containing barley. Many sweets and chocolate and/or caramel bars use starch as a thickening agent. Processed cheese and dishes made from it may also have starch as a thickener.
Tomato ketchup, brown sauce, baked beans, canned and chilled soups, and many pasta sauces are on the to-avoid list.
High-quality food is vital when it comes to maintaining a gluten-free diet. Increase intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and use pulses as alternative carbohydrates to wheat in soups and stews (these also contain protein), which will fill you up and provide healthy, nutritious fuel.
Where to eat
Judith Cameron is a coeliac and founder of coeliacpages.ie. She set up the site in response to the lack of information online about where suitable food and venues could be found. In Coeliacpages she has created a food directory and review forum for restaurant and food reviews for coeliacs.
The website works on smartphones so you can always check the nearest suitable food venue. She believes that being a coeliac doesn’t have to be difficult and she has just made it even easier.
Here are her top suggestions for eating out as a coeliac:
Rustic Stone by Dylan McGrath, South Great Georges St, Dublin — www.rusticstone.ie.
Prices vary but it currently offers a sharing menu for €25 per head.
O’Connells, Donnybrook, Dublin — www.oconnellsdonnybrook.com/coeliac. Starters average €7-€8. Mains cost on average €20 with steaks around €28.
The Millstone, Dame Street, Dublin — www.millstone.ie Starters from €3.50, main courses average at €17.
McNeans Bistro, Cavan — www.nevenmaguire.com Menus come with a set price and range from €48 for the vegetarian option up to
€82 for the prestige tasting dinner menu.
Hayfield Manor, Cork — www.hayfieldmanor.ie/hotel-dining Lunch in the Orchids Restaurant is €32.
Market Lane Bar, Oliver Plunkett St, cork — www.marketlane.ie Starters around €5-€8. Mains start around €13 and increase to €25 for the fillet steak.
Castlemurray House Hotel, Donegal — www.castlemurray.com Set menu is €45.
Tamarind, Spanish Arch, Galway — www.tamarind.ie/menus/coeliac-menu.html Starters are priced from €4 for salad and go up to €9.50 for Thai fish cakes. Main courses average around €20. .
Olive Grove, Athlone — www.theolivegrove.ie Starters from €5-€9, main courses range from €16-€25.
Strawberry Tree, Wicklow — www.brooklodge.com/foodanddrink/strawberrytree.asp A set menu is currently €62.
. See www.coeliacpages.ie
. The Coeliac Society of Ireland provides guidelines for gluten-free eating at www.coeliac.ie
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved