Frequently Asked Questions
What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is a condition by which a protein called gluten, damages the small intestine, impairing the absorption of food. Gluten is found in the cereal grains wheat, barley, rye and oats*. The small intestine recovers and returns to normal when gluten is withdrawn from the diet. The incidence of coeliac disease in the UK is now believed to be between 1 in 100, although it is thought that at least 60% are undiagnosed.
*Oats do not actually contain gluten but a very similar protein called avenalin. Many individuals with coeliac condition may be able to tolerate oats whilst other individuals may need to avoid them. The majority of oat products are contaminated with wheat, rye or barley and therefore making them unsuitable for a coeliac diet.
Symptoms vary between individuals. In infants, coeliac disease typically presents as failure to thrive and in children it can present as loss of appetite, diarrhoea, constipation and anaemia. With the adult population it can present at any age and with a wide variety of symptoms including: diarrhoea (50%), iron or folate deficiency anaemia (80%), chronic tiredness and lethargy (80%), other abdominal symptoms (bloating, flatulence, distension) (30%) and weight loss (50%). At one time, it was thought that coeliac disease only presented with severe symptoms, being exclusively diagnosed in those individuals who were acutely ill. However, it has become apparent over the past twenty years that some patients diagnosed with coeliac disease can present with very mild symptoms. Some studies have suggested that up to 70% of patients diagnosed with coeliac disease only have abnormal blood test results, such as mild anaemia and/or vitamin deficiencies.
If coeliac disease is suspected, a blood test is carried out. If this test is positive an endoscopy will be undertaken at the local hospital. This usually takes place in an outpatient clinic and involves a small camera being placed into the small intestine to examine the lining. A small sample is also taken to be studied under the microscope, confirming the diagnosis of coeliac disease. As well as the endoscopy, a blood test is usually carried out to identify any mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
Treatment for coeliac disease is a life long gluten free diet. The sources of gluten can be divided into two sections:
The obvious sources which include wheat, barley, rye and oats, usually found in the form of flour. Therefore ordinary bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, pastries, puddings and pies should be avoided.
The hidden sources include ingredients used in packaged food and drink. These can be the most difficult to avoid. Wheat flour is commonly used as a processing aid, a binder, filler or as a carrier for flavourings and spices. Foods can also become contaminated with wheat flour during manufacture, and patients with coeliac disease should check food labels for hidden sources.
Firstly, you should be referred to a state registered dietitian. They will be able to explain the diet to you and offer you practical advice on how to follow the diet. Coeliac UK is a registered charity for people suffering from coeliac disease. They produce information on gluten free foods and can offer advice and information on all aspects of the condition. They will also be able to provide information on local coeliac groups that provide an opportunity to meet with others with coeliac disease. There are a wide range of gluten free specially manufactured products available to help replace those foods that must be avoided. These include breads, pasta, cookies, biscuits and pizza bases.
A strict gluten free diet must be followed for life, to minimise the risk of developing other associated health problems. Without following a strict gluten free diet, deficiencies of certain vitamin and minerals can occur, as there can be reduced absorption from the gut. Commonly, this is of calcium, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12. In the case of calcium the reduced absorption increases the risk of osteoporosis in later life. There is also an increased risk of intestinal cancer associated with poor compliance to the gluten free diet.
No, gluten is the protein found within wheat, barley and rye. This means that those individuals with coeliac disease need to avoid wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats (see section on ‘What is Coeliac Disease’). Those individuals on a wheat free diet can safely include other cereals in their diet. It is possible to remove gluten from the wheat grain, making a product gluten free, but not wheat free. For such products to be suitable for coeliacs, only a regulated level of gluten can be left within the grain. This is an internationally recognised standard level devised by Codex Alimentarius. Any food complying with this standard will be labelled as such E.g. this product contains Codex wheat starch. All of the products produced by Gluten Free Foods Ltd are both wheat and gluten free as other cereals (potato, rice, maize) are used in manufacturing.
Yes, a wide range of our products are gluten and milk free including the Barkat Bread Mix, which can be used to bake cakes, bread and scones. All of our pasta, breads and a wide range of our biscuits are also gluten and milk free. Many products are free from yeast, egg and soya. To find out more please visit our website www.glutenfree-foods.co.uk
The Barkat Bread Mix is both gluten and dairy free. Our Barkat Bread Mix recipe book can therefore be easily adapted for a dairy and gluten free diet by using an alternative margarine, where needed. Also, the Barkat range with the exception of the Barkat Flour Mix and Barkat Teacakes is dairy free. (Products may contain traces of dairy if made in a factory which uses dairy products. Please check the allergen advice page for further details.)
The Barkat Flour Mix works very well in a bread maker. The recipe can be found in our recipe book or on the recipe page of the website. We recommend that the Barkat Bread Mix is used in a conventional oven. It requires only the addition of 400mls water to be mixed in and then baked for 40 minutes. It is also yeast free, as it contains a yeast substitute.
Our Barkat Organic Porridge flakes are made from brown rice flakes and millet flakes and therefore they do not contain oats. Some individuals with coeliac disease are unable to tolerate oats, which makes these porridge flakes suitable for them. It is important to consult your dietitian, with regards to whether or not you should include oats as part of your gluten free diet.
Both our Barkat Organic Cornflakes and Barkat Cornflakes do not contain malt extract. Malt is produced from barley and therefore contains gluten. Coeliac UK advises that there may be some individuals with coeliac disease (although certainly not all) who may be particularly sensitive to malt extract. Therefore we have produced cornflakes that are malt free.