Meet Cassia. She’s one of my best friends. We have a lot in common including breathy laughs, boring conversation starters (including window cleaning, cats and politics) and we both DO NOT find Jackass movies funny. Yep – you read it right (ground breaking, I know). We do have our differences, however. For example, Cassia is in the small percentage of Australians who have coeliac disease. I am in the large percentage that doesn’t.
When people with coeliac disease consume gluten, an abnormal immune reaction occurs causing inflammation and damage to the small bowel lining. This impairs absorption of nutrients and can lead to a wide range of symptoms and medical complications1 (so I’ve been told..).
Aside from having some faint memories of stealing Cassia’s gluten-free pretzels at lunch time during school and them being strangely addictive, I’ve never really known too much about the disease. So I did some investigation!
One in 100 Australians have the disease.
80% of Australians remain undiagnosed.
Symptoms include lethargy, anaemia, nutrient deficiencies, loss of fertility, arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
People are generally born with the disease.
As Cassia is a member of the Coeliac Society (lol), we got discounted entry in to the Melbourne Gluten Free Expo so we had began the day on a high! We made a beeline for the hot jam doughnuts I had heard so much about, and they did not disappoint! They were delicious and didn’t taste much different from the regular kind, same with the bread samples. According to Cassia, these have made a big improvement compared to what they used to be. The chocolate eclairs however (aside from the cream of course) weren’t that great. Safe to say gluten-free pastry has a long way to go still. I also tried gluten free beer, brownies, cereal, pasta, chips and other various gluten free things that I didn’t even know usually contained gluten. It was all very educational, and most importantly tasty!
10% of Australians are currently following a strict or significantly reduced gluten diet.
This is 10 times greater than the total number of Australians thought to have coeliac disease.
The gluten-free industry is booming with a global market estimated to make US$4 billion over the next few years.
I am ALL about fads so I’m by no means hatin’ on anyone who’s adopted the gluten-free approach. Speaking to Cassia about this however, I did find it interesting that gluten-free diets aren’t actually recommended to everyone as there’s minimal evidence that people without the disease will get any benefits. I guess though with beautiful people like Gwyneth Paltrow endorsing gluten free diets, it’s bound to take off. As they say, each to their own.
It was a very fattening, interesting and delicious experience but I have to say I’m grateful I don’t have the disease. From what Cassia says, the food can still be a bit hit and miss and quite often expensive. But good on the gluten free society for being so cute and welcoming. And thanks to Cassia for showing me the ropes and letting me blog about her!
1. Everything you need to know about coeliac disease (and whether you really have it), The Conversation.