Whilst perusing the FreeFrom aisle at my local supermarket, I was delighted to discover Helen’s gluten-free bread mix, and what made me even more excited was the fact it was reduced to £1. How could I pass this bargain by? Not only would this give me the chance to bake my own bread, but also to get crafty in the kitchen and try creating some marbled bread using spices and natural powders.
Peter Rabbit has certainly moved on a long way since I was a kid, when my mum used to read me those little white books that came in a beautifully designed white box. Watching the CBeebies program in the morning before my kids go to school, I already feel that the writers have lost the true spirit of the cheeky bunny who everyone (well at least everyone in Cumbria) loves so much.
However, many think that Peter Rabbit has gone too far this time, with reports that the new film features a scene where Peter and his friends throw blackberries at Mr McGregor, knowing full well he is allergic to them. The poor McGregor is then forced to use his EpiPen.
Since I started working for Safer Eating, I’ve learnt so much more about my allergies and the entire free-from community. And I’ve been amazed at the amount of people who are working hard each day to make the world a little safer and a little easier for tricky eaters. You may know today is International Women’s Day and to celebrate this fact I wanted to highlight some of the women I’ve come across who are building a better future for people with food intolerances.
https://twitter.com/LynneRegentAC – Lynne has been the CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign for the past nine years and has pushed the charity from strength to strength. Between 2013 and 2017 she led the largest even European survey of the allergic population, looking at an integrated approach to food allergies. She is also co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy Group and is a member of the Patient Organising Committee for the European Association of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. She also finds time in her busy schedule to tweet and is well worth a follow.
https://twitter.com/beckyexcell – Few people are as well known in the free-from world than the lovely Becky Excell. She is a writer for both Gluten Free Cup Of Tea, which is her own blog, and The Metro. Her blog is wonderfully visual, and she brings a huge array of interesting recipes and videos (even ones from her international travels), which is perfect for any foodie who wants to create delicious gf food.
https://twitter.com/IntolerantG – Natalie runs the blog Intolerant Gourmand, which is a wonderful read and was the winner of Allergy Blog of the Year 2017. It was started after her son Callum was born with severe allergies, eczema and asthma (I know your pain, Callum). It is such a good blog, in fact, that it is ranked 45th in the Foodies top 100. Not one to rest on her laurels, Natalie is also a recipe developer, food writer, consultant, trainer, reviewer and an accredited nutritional therapist.
https://twitter.com/freefromfairy – Vicki is the writer of The Free From Fairy and a bona fide scientist with a degree in biochemistry and genetics. She was inspired to start the blog when her daughter (she uses the pseudonym Roo for her in her blog) was diagnosed as coeliac. But like most of the inspirational women in this blog, Vicki didn’t just stop there. She also created the world’s first wholegrain gluten-free flour blend, which I’m informed by Safer Eating MD Karen Woodford, is brilliant.
Alexa is a journalist, freelance writer and food allergy campaigner who writes her blog Yes No Bananas, which on a personal note, may just be my favourite blog name of all time. She is a mother of a little one with allergies to eggs, peanuts, nuts, sesame and lentils (again I can empathise here). And not only does she write a fabulous blog, but she is also co-founder of Allergy Hour, which is a fantastic resource on Twitter every Thursday night from 20:30 to 21:30 for any parent wanting to learn more and network with a community of people who really care.
Sarah volunteers for Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign and the Alex Curtis Trust. So it’s no wonder she was granted the Allergy UK Friends and Family Hero Award in 2016.
https://twitter.com/safereatingco – Finally it would be a bit off of me if I didn’t mention the Safer Eating El Capitano. Since I’ve been working with Karen, I’ve seen what a tireless worker she is and just how much she cares. Not only did she set up Safer Eating while pregnant with her second child, but she also managed to grow the company to help the twenty thousand tricky eaters who are registered as members, while also keeping a full-time job at the NHS as a top speech therapist. This year she was chuffed to bits to be asked to judge the Free From Awards and her big heart is what is guiding the company to help as many people as possible. *NOTE FROM EDITOR: She did not read this before it was posted.
At this point I’m going to have to apologise – there are so many more amazing women in the free-from world that I could have mentioned and was going to. But I’ve literally run out of time, so please don’t be offended if you feel someone else deserved to be on this list. There is always next year.
Thank you to all the inspirational women out there making the lives of tricky eaters easier every day. I doff my cap to you.
You wake up and have the worst headache you have ever experienced.
You’re stuck in bed for ages, but when you finally make it downstairs and start frantically searching through your medicine box… disaster! You can’t find a single strong painkiller you can have. If you’re anything like me, your medicine box is quite disorganised – it’s one of those things you forget about until you desperately need it. Arghhhhh! Give me some god damn pain relief.
Usually you need medicine in an emergency and I’d say the majority of pills contain lactose in the coating. Some even contain gluten in the form of wheat starch (I have coeliac disease and lactose intolerance). It’s the times when you are in a rush, in a lot of pain or just feeling horrendous that you need things like this and trying to read the ingredients label on meds at the best of times is mind boggling. Sometimes you can’t even find it in the first place. I have spent many a time holding up the queue in the pharmacy doing this with the tutting growing loudly behind me.
I don’t like to bother people.
I’m quite lucky, in that it’s been around thirty years since my last anaphylactic reaction. OK, yes, I’ve had to be careful along the way, but considering how easy it could have been for cross-contamination to change my life, I consider myself fairly lucky.
That being said, I’ve had a number of allergic reactions over the years of varying severity, some of which led me to spending longer periods of time stuck in a bathroom, or at very least having to linger very near to one.
The one thing I really don’t like is telling people when this is happening. This is mainly because people just fuss and worry. I think when you can die from allergies, people often also overreact. So I do my best to hide it.
When I was younger, I was well known for this very thing. I remember finding myself in the bathroom after one such incident, when I was on holiday in Portugal. It ended with me having a conversation with my brother, Guy, through a toilet door when I had been in there longer than usual (and I’m also a toilet reader which can make matters worse… you get it?!)
The conversation went like this…
Guy: Hey, dude, you OK?
Me: Suddenly straightening up and putting on a voice to cover the pain and torment I was in: Yeah, fine man.
Guy: “It’s just… you’ve been in there for a while. Even for you.
Me: Ohh have I? Must’ve lost track of time.”
Guy: OK then (pause). It’s just… this is exactly the sort of thing you’d do if you were having an allergic reaction.
The thing is, having allergies can affect your whole family. In the case above, we were having a lovely meal at a nice restaurant and everyone was having a good time. For me to admit I was having a reaction would have led to everyone fretting, so in my head it was much better to man up and go it solo. At the end of the day, as long as I wasn’t dying, there was no need to bother anyone.
Now I’m a parent, it’s a bit different – toilet time is a brief sanctuary. Time away from my children to read the sports headlines. Getting carried away and spending a few hours in there is not unusual.
Now though, I’ve got even better at just suppressing the pain. When it does happen, I just power through it, thinking of myself as hardcore as a soldier who’s just got shot but managed to make it back to base. But I think as you get older, pain becomes more manageable and easier to bare.
Am I wrong to do this under wraps? Maybe! But, personally, I don’t even like to confide in my wife these days, as it will detract from her day. She has enough on her plate as it is. Saying that, she also has Crohn’s disease and I regularly catch her doing the same thing, and it pisses me off to hell. My own hypocrisy is well known to me, but that’s it really isn’t it? At the end of the day, when you’re mid-reaction others can’t fix it. If I really need help I will ask for it, but otherwise I will try to ensure everyone around me is happy.
If the world around us is smiling and reminds us of beautiful things, it is far easier to forget the pain and just get through it.
This all makes me think about what others do in these situations.
What do you do when you have a reaction?
Do you think I deal with this in the right way? I would really love to hear your thoughts.
My six-year-old daughter, Megan, recently decided she wanted to do baking as her chosen activity at after school club. Which is easier said than done.
Having coeliac disease means this activity is NOT a piece of cake. So I had to write a letter to the school teacher to check if it was even possible. I said I would be happy to bring in any additional ingredients but it was cross-contamination that I was most concerned about. This is where it becomes rather handy having the Safer Eating ‘gluten‘ and ‘keeping your kitchen safe‘ info at your fingertips.
For years I’ve had to carry around an EpiPen, wherever I go. It was sometimes a pain, sometimes I forgot it, but most often it would just be a standard part of my going out… pocket pat down… wallet? Keys? Cigarettes (I know, booo – but I’ve quit now)? AND EpiPen? There are many fashionable ways of carrying them, e.g. a bum bag(!), but large pocketed trousers are always the best way, I reckon. If the pockets aren’t big enough, don’t buy them.
Over the years I’ve had a few ‘cool dudes’ come up to me and ask, “Can I please use it? I want to know what it’s like” or “What would happen if we stabbed you with that right now?” Ooohh, the levels of cool are making Zack from Saved by the Bell roll in his grave. But the thing is, I actually know the answer to the last question. So, allow me to set the scene…
I landed a dream job last week. I was asked to judge the FreeFrom Food Awards and even better – I landed the puddings and desserts category.
The FreeFrom Food Awards have been around for 10 years and the yellow awards logo is sought after by both large brands and new and small businesses. It lets tricky eaters know the product is quality. Products are judged based on factors, such as taste, texture, cost, nutritional value, labelling and uniqueness.
Poop. If there’s one thing tricky eaters and new parents have in common, it’s their obsession with poop. Whereas others shy away from the subject, it’s a steaming hot topic.
I now have a foot in both camps. I’m coeliac AND I have a daughter who is six months old. Which means I’m in weaning territory. And it’s scary.
WARBURTONS LOAF (Reduced price of £1.53)
B FREE BROWN SEEDED LOAF (Reduced price of 94p) I snapped up these half loaves that were at a reduced price, as you can freeze them and then just take the slices out when you need them. Perfect for smashed avocado on toast in an emergency.
KIKKOMAN SOY SAUCE (£2.60) Another everyday store-cupboard staple. I don’t reserve this simply for stir-fries, it’s also great on mushrooms, chickpeas, potatoes or Brussels sprouts.
KOKO COCONUT MILK (£1.40) 1 cup Koko milk, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp honey, ½ tsp ginger and a pinch of black pepper makes a delicious golden milk.
NATURE’S STORE MILK CHOC RICE CAKES (Reduced price of 38p) Couldn’t pass up on these at 38p – bargain!
THE COCONUT COLLABORATIVE CHOC POTS (£2) The richest, smoothest, silkiest chocolate – and all without the scary dairy.
GOSH! MOROCCAN SPICED CHICKPEA BAKES (£2.50) These are really tasty chickpea burgers with red pepper and Moroccan spices. They’re gluten and dairy free and handy to have in the freezer so you can bung them in the oven when time is short. To be honest, I don’t rate the rest of their line of products (I find them all very tasteless), but these are the exception to the rule.
CORN FLAKES (£1.43) A move away from my daily routine of morning oats… thought I would give these a try as a lighter breakfast for when we move into the warmer, springtime weather (I can’t wait).
OATLY CUSTARD (£1.20) When I cut out dairy, I REALLY missed custard. On discovering this, my heart skipped a beat. It’s thick, yellow and vanilla-tasting – just like custard should be.
COYO CHOC YOGHURT (£2) Coyo yoghurts aren’t the texture of your regular yoghurt, they are much thicker and almost like a soft cream type of consistency – but oh so coconutty, they are divine.
COCONUT OIL (£3) Pretty sure I’m going to turn into a coconut, but it really seems to agree with me inside and out. I use it for cooking, hair masks and dry skin salve.
By Jemma Woolley – our lucky guest blogger who has multiple allergies
Ah Ah Ah Ah… Keeping him alive, keeping him alive
Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m director of a company called Omnes Healing and the mother of Rory Mason (the second most allergic boy in Leeds). Thank you, Rory, for the vote of confidence in your blog: The key to staying alive for my first 18 years… Mum’s the word. But I do not think I can take full credit for your continued presence in this world as you have a lovely wife now who has come up with some amazing recipes to provide a safe and varied diet for you. (Frankly, much better than the boring food I used to serve).
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the second most allergic person in Leeds (see my first blog for more info). I was unsure of what to write about next so Safer Eating suggested I write about how I cope with allergies. Karen assured me this is what people want to know, so allow me to do my best. If I can help even just one person, it will be worth it.