Health

What is leaky gut syndrome?

“Leaky gut syndrome” is a term used to describe symptoms and conditions caused by the immune system reacting to particles, toxins or other substances that have been absorbed into the bloodstream via a porous (“leaky”) bowel (source: NHS).

What is leaky gut syndrome? - A Free From Life
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The digestive system not only breaks down food and absorbs nutrients, it plays an important role in protecting the body from harmful substances. The walls of the intestine act as a barrier to control what enters the bloodstream for transportation to the organs.

Small gaps in the intestinal wall, known as tight junctions, allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking the passage of harmful substances. When these tight junctions become loose, the gut becomes more permeable, which may allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream.

In a healthy gut, the layers of cells that line the intestinal wall act as a protective barrier that absorbs particles from food, toxins, and other microorganisms. Any damage to these cells can cause them to become porous or leaky. This is what we commonly term as a ‘leaky gut’.

When the intestine becomes permeable, particles from food, toxins, and other microorganisms are able to make their way into the bloodstream, undigested. This triggers an immune response, whereby the particles are treated as foreign bodies.

“Intestinal permeability, also termed leaky gut, can be responsible for a very long list of symptoms,” says Nutritionist, Caroline Gilmartin of Nutraclin.

“Digestive system issues are on the increase (GP’s and Natural Practitioners will both agree) and in my opinion, the integrity of our digestive system is becoming weaker and weaker. This is linked to many auto immune conditions, but also many sub-clinical conditions which have not yet received a medical diagnosis.”

Leaky gut is linked to inflammatory conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, where inflammation causes the gut to become porous.

Other factors thought to have an impact include:

• Excessive sugar intake: a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, particularly fructose, can harm the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): long-term use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen can increase intestinal permeability.
• Excessive alcohol intake
• Nutrient deficiencies: particularly in vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc have each been implicated in increased intestinal permeability.
• Stress: chronic stress is a contributing factor to multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including leaky gut.
• Dysbiosis: the imbalance of the good and bad bacteria, which is disrupted by all the above factors, as well as by antibiotics.

Some health practitioners claim this can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, and cramps, as well as psoriasis, eczema, and allergies, fatigue and an inability to absorb nutrients, including vitamins B and D, magnesium and certain amino acids.

“Logically, if your body’s ability to absorb nutrients is compromised, how can there not be a long list of symptoms which can be linked to leaky gut,” says Caroline.

“Everyone has their own genetic susceptibilities and therefore different people will be affected in different ways. For one person, it may manifest as allergies, for others it could be severe fatigue of arthritis.”

However, whilst gastroenterologists acknowledge gut permeability, many disagree these undigested particles cause such symptoms, claiming they aren’t irritating enough. Whilst leaky gut syndrome is a distinct medical condition claimed by nutritionists and alternative medicine physicians, the wider medical community rarely acknowledge its existence.

Very few scientific studies mention leaky gut syndrome and according to the NHS, there is currently little evidence to support the theory that a porous bowel is the direct cause of any significant, widespread problems.

There is also little evidence that the “treatments” some people claim help to reduce bowel “leakiness”, such as nutritional supplements and herbal remedies, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they supposedly help.

However, there are medical studies that cite intestinal permeability and leading expert on gluten sensitivity, Dr Fasano, conducted some interesting research on the effects of gluten and gut bacteria on the small intestine, along with the effects of gliadin amongst coeliacs.

“In my clinic, there are many ways to ascertain whether or not the likelihood of leaky gut is causing an issue. There are lab tests which can be done privately, but I also use iridology, muscle response testing and case history,” Caroline says.

“These tests are not available on the NHS and if they were, there is no pharmaceutical drug which can cure. The only way I know to help leaky gut, is an individualised nutritional programme. One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a new practitioner, is that clients who have leaky gut do NOT necessarily have severe digestive system issues of IBS. The range of symptoms I have seen with Leaky Gut Syndrome is very far reaching, from rheumatoid arthritis, to chronic fatigue”.

Caroline Gilmartin is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist who practices in Kent, Manchester and London. She owns and runs Nutraclin and is a full member of the Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA) and an associate member of the General Naturopathic Council.

Health

Allergen labelling rules mean people with food allergies and intolerances are more confident about eating out, says FSA

Since the introduction of allergen information rules in 2014, are people with food allergies and intolerances more confident about eating out?

Are people with food allergies and intolerances more confident about eating out - A Free From Life

Over 2 million people in the UK have a food allergy, with an estimated 600,000 having coeliac disease and in acknowledgement of this, in December 2014, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (EU FIC) changed the way food businesses had to provide allergen information to consumers.

To understand the effect of this change, the Food Standards Agency commissioned detailed research on a UK representative sample of people with food allergies and intolerances. Undertaken by the University of Bath, the study focused on consumer preferences when eating out, both before and after the implementation of the EU FIC.

The study also compared views from consumers on how food businesses responded to the allergen rules pre and post-implementation.

The research found that, following the introduction of the new food allergen labelling rules:

  • 70% of food allergic and intolerant consumers feel more confident in asking staff for allergen information
  • 56% of food allergic and intolerant consumers value staff more as a source of information
  • 44% of food allergic and intolerant consumers are more ‘adventurous’ about eating out
  • 67% feel allergen information on food business websites is dependable
  • 63% say talking to the chef about their allergen needs can be relied on
  • 35% report an improvement in allergen information in the menu.

Those with food allergies and intolerances feel more confident about eating out and are more likely to eat out than they used to, according to this research. Equally, they are more likely to return to and recommend venues where the staff are helpful and attentive about their allergen needs.

Providing detailed and accurate allergen information is good for business

Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘Everyone should be able to trust their food. When people live with a food allergy or intolerance that can make them really ill or be life threatening, that trust becomes critical. This new research shows that many food businesses have a good understanding of the allergen information rules, with the result that consumers trust them and feel confident that they’ll be safe when eating out.

‘I’m delighted that we’ve been able to work with food businesses to make such a difference, improving public health and enhancing choice and confidence for millions. Some, often smaller, food businesses haven’t got on top of providing allergen information yet. I hope this research helps them see the importance of meeting their obligations and the benefits it delivers. At the FSA, we’ll be increasing our efforts to ensure businesses understand their responsibilities and their customer.’

Do you agree with these findings? How do you find your experiences of eating out? Personally, I think the labelling legislation for food establishments is a good thing. It has definitely made restaurant owners more aware of their obligations to cater for allergies. On the other hand, some restaurants feel it is enough to provide information about what is in their food, without actually fulfilling a need to cater for those with special dietary needs. On occasion, we have gone out to eat, been given a ‘catalogue’ of information containing everything that is in every dish on offer, only to find we can’t actually order anything for our son who is both dairy and gluten intolerant.

It is one thing to offer this information, but what point does it serve, if he can’t eat anything?

In most, good and knowledgeable restaurants, you only deal with the manager or head chef when it comes to dietary needs and in our experience, when we have a special request, like gluten and dairy free, they will offer to make something suitable.

I would love to be able to go into a coffee shop and freely choose something both dairy and gluten free though. That is yet to happen in most establishments near to me. Gluten free, yes, dairy free, perhaps but unlikely, both – well, you might find one thing if you’re lucky and whilst everyone else tucks into a sandwich, you are left feeling a little excluded as you nibble on your dark chocolate coated coffee beans, or something similar!

Health

The realities of living with IBS

Today I’ve had a terrible day as far as my IBS is concerned. The irony is, I’d only just been thinking to myself yesterday how good it’s been.

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good all round, which I put down to taking a multivitamin designed specifically for women, along with a vitamin B complex. I’d been feeling ridiculously tired before I started on these supplements, in a way that didn’t feel down to the stresses and strains of normal life or even my age. I craved to have even just a smidgen of energy to get me through the day.

After some health concerns earlier this year, that has led to me having a few tests, including a colonoscopy (not nice) and a hydrogen breath test, the only thing the results showed up is that I have some fermentation going on in my lower intestine. This means food is taking longer than it should to pass through and a little colony of bacteria have set up home to take advantage of that. It’s the supposed reason for my stomach pains.

What anyone with IBS will tell you, though, is how the pains can come seemingly out of nowhere.

It’s often the case where you can’t for the life of you fathom what could have caused it. To go from feeling fine and relatively pain free for a reasonable length of time and then suddenly be struck down and spending all day feeling nauseous, is pretty depressing.

I just started taking probiotics again and am left wondering could that be the cause? Probiotics are meant to be the good guys, but that’s not to say there isn’t something in the pill that could cause problems, if you are particularly sensitive. The ones I take say they may contain milk as it is used in the media where the bacterial strains grow.

My life without dairy is proving successful in terms of clear skin and all-round general well being. It has definitely made a difference to me.

I’m thankful to have no major health concerns, but I guess I’ve become a little complacent during my ‘well period’ and forgotten what it’s like to suffer an IBS attack. My symptoms today I would describe as being like a hangover. With a dull headache and a feeling of being zapped of all energy, the sickness I’ve been feeling goes away temporarily every time I eat, but soon after leaves me feeling worse than before.

It’s annoying at best and debilitating at worst; these collective symptoms that have no apparent one-cause or cure. For anyone else who suffers like this, know that you are not alone, nor are you crazy or a hypochondriac. Keep pushing through the pain and hopefully one day, we will find a way to beat this.

Cookies

Pecan Cookies – gluten, dairy and egg free

Pecan cookies - A Free From Life

Few things are more comforting in life than the smell of freshly baked cookies (fresh baked bread and ground coffee are up there too). It’s home, it’s childhood memories and a great big hug all wrapped into one.

‘Free From’ cookies don’t have to be tasteless, dry or gritty and just because you have to avoid gluten and dairy, doesn’t mean you can’t experience that same home-baked, fresh cookie experience.

The ideal mix of crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, this cookie recipe is gluten, dairy and egg free, but is so tasty, I’d put money on no one telling the difference, or even caring for that matter.

Pecan cookies - A Free From Life

This recipe includes chopped pecans, but if you want to make it nut free, just change this part of the recipe for something else, such as raisins or chocolate chips. The combinations are endless, really. You can take out the cinnamon and add ginger, substitute the vanilla for almond essence or for a citrus flavour, add orange or lemon juice.

Pecan cookies - A Free From Life

These are so easy to make, my 10 year old made a batch all on her own. She used dark chocolate chips, instead of nuts or raisins and kept the cinnamon. It was a lovely combination.

Pecan cookies - A Free From Life
Pecan Cookies - Gluten, dairy and egg free
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
14 20 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings Prep Time
14 20 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Pecan cookies - A Free From Life
Pecan Cookies - Gluten, dairy and egg free
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
14 20 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings Prep Time
14 20 minutes
Cook Time
12 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Weigh out the flours, baking powder, bicarb and cinnamon and mix together well. Set aside
  2. Cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or electric whisk. Add the golden syrup and vanilla extract
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar and continue to beat to until the mixture is incorporated into a soft dough
  4. Weigh out the pecans and chop, either by hand or in a coffee grinder. Add these to the dough and mix well
  5. Take desert spoonfuls of the dough and make into a round before putting onto a baking tray (lined with non-stick parchment paper) and flattening with the back of your hand
  6. Bake at 180C/Gas 4 for 12 minutes or until golden
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Reviews

Catering for multiple food intolerances and allergies at Wagamama

Restaurants should look to Wagamama as an example of how to cater properly for those with multiple food intolerances or allergies.

Yes I know, I know, I moan a lot about how difficult it is to eat out when you have multiple food intolerances or allergies, but I’ll keep on moaning until the message gets through. And it seems that some people might actually be listening, well the manager at Wagamama Canterbury, at least. He contacted me to invite me over:

‘We’d like to show you how well we cater for people with food allergies and intolerances,’ he said.

I liked them already. With a confidence that what they’re doing is a positive thing, they were keen to prove to me that not all food service operations are equal in their approach.

‘I’m in,’ I said, given that I don’t go to Wagamamas, so had no idea what they offer.

As I avoid nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, potatoes) and no longer eat dairy, I wondered how I would get on. My friend who came with me doesn’t eat gluten, so between us, I expected we were going to be a challenge. Not so for manager Lloyd, who sat down with us and went through the entire menu.

Wagamama, like most restaurants, has a complete breakdown of every dish offered. They have one version for the customers and another, more detailed version for the management. There were several positives I’d like to point out that make Wagamama stand out against other restaurants:

  • The manager is the only person who takes with and deals with your order.

Lloyd, as I said, went through everything with us, perhaps in more detail than he might if we hadn’t have been there for this specific purpose. Either way, nothing was a problem and the reason for this is Wagamama’s flexibility when it comes to their dishes. There are several alternative options to their menu items, which means if you can’t eat one of the ingredients (for example, noodles in the Ramen because they contain gluten), they will swap them for something else (in this example, rice noodles).

A 'Free-From' Life
Image courtesy of Wagamama

It’s not enough to give a customer an allergen menu and expect that it’s enough.

My pet hate about eating out is that restaurants give you an enormous allergen menu detailing all their dishes and once you go through it, you find you can’t actually eat anything. Thankfully, Wagamama’s recognise this and make every effort to be flexible with their dishes.

  • The manager marks your place with your specific food avoidance item(s), so there is no mix up when it’s brought to the table.

This is another positive, because even though the manager is the only one dealing with the order, it’s still important, if not life-saving for some, to make sure the right order is given to the right person. With serious allergies, you can’t afford to mess this up.

  • They have a separate gluten free menu.

This is in addition to the full allergen menu and includes dishes that are specifically gluten free. Lloyd checked to make sure what we wanted to order was also dairy free, again this double, triple checking of everything shows how seriously they take things and also the level of training the staff have received.

A 'Free-From' Life
Image courtesy of Wagamama
  • The food is prepared in a dedicated area with a dedicated chef.

This I was very impressed with. You can see the food preparation area at Wagamama, as it’s completely open and with one specific area kept for preparing special orders, it’s reassuring. Lloyd explained we were likely to get our food in waves rather than all at once. This is because each order is prepared separately, with the surfaces being thoroughly wiped down between each one. Again, this shows a deep level of understanding and commitment to customer safety.

My overall impression of Wagamama was extremely positive and I would be happy to recommend it to anyone with multiple food intolerances or allergies. You feel looked after there and equally as important, are never made to feel as though you’re being awkward (we’ve all been there with this haven’t we?). We’re not a generation of overly paranoid individuals, we’re more educated about the food we eat and realise how ill it can make us. Perhaps in the past we just got on with it, ignoring the stomach pains and associated problems, but not anymore and it’s not just gluten that we’re avoiding.

Food service providers, if you’re listening, take a tip from Wagamama’s and wake up to what your customers need.

My one request, as I finish this review, is can you get more creative with some dairy free desserts? If there’s one thing anyone dairy free really misses out on, it’s this.

Desserts

Peach and blueberry cobbler

This peach and blueberry cobbler was something I literally just cobbled together at the weekend – I know, bad jokes aside, this came out of a need for some comfort food, as well as to use up whatever ingredients happened to be available.

I’m trying to teach my eldest daughter about cooking at the moment

We talked about how it’s an intuitive process whereby you must use your senses to guide you. You might add a little more salt or pepper upon tasting, give the pasta a little squeeze to see if it’s cooked enough, or put a splash of water in a sauce that feels too sticky and thick.

I rarely follow recipes, preferring instead to make up my own, but I recognise it’s not so easy to wing it when it comes to baking, particularly with gluten free baking. Baking is more of an exact science, but it doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with flavours and this cobbler is the perfect example of that.

We had some tinned peaches in the cupboard and some blueberries in the fridge that were on the turn.

I thought they’d make a perfect combination, and as we’d already had a crumble recently, I came up with the idea of a cobbler instead. The cobbler topping is very much like a scone mix and this gluten and dairy free version doesn’t disappoint. The addition of ground almonds and almond milk give it a lovely nutty flavour.

Made with ordinary flour, you would be able to shape the dough into rounds and place them on top of the fruit, however, a gluten free version comes out more like the consistency of thick cake mix. This means you have to spoon it on instead, but by using an ice cream scoop, you can still get the cobbled shape upon baking.

Peach and blueberry cobbler - A Free From Life

I added the minimum amount of sugar to this recipe, just 25 grams, as the fruit is sweet enough on its own.

You could use an alternative such as coconut sugar, if you wanted to make it refined sugar free. The cobbler topping, I think, would be delicious on it’s own. Scooped into muffin tins, it would work as a gluten and dairy free scone alternative.

Here’s the recipe:
200g gluten free plain flour (I used Free From Fairy plain flour blend)
2tsp baking powder (if you use self-raising flour, you don’t need this)
100g ground almonds
25g sugar
100g dairy free ‘butter’
180ml almond milk
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg
Fruit of your choice

  • Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar, then add the butter and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • In a measuring jug, weigh out the almond milk, add the lemon juice and then beat in the egg.
  • Add this to the flour mix and stir until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Lay out your fruit in the bottom of an ovenproof dish big enough to serve 6 people.
  • Using an ice cream scoop, add the topping mix on to the fruit, making sure it’s completely covered (tip – start on the outside, work your way around and towards the middle).
  • Bake in the oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Peach and blueberry cobbler - A Free From Life

Serve with dairy free ice cream or custard.

Le Coin de Mel
Uncategorised

Dairy free diaries

Dairy Intolerance - what you need to know - A Free From Life
Image courtesy of tiverlucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My son is dairy and wheat intolerant and although I make most things to suit him, I don’t always avoid these items in my own diet.

Having suffered long-term with IBS, I’ve found my own symptoms are worsened by nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, mainly). Avoiding these foods definitely helps keep my stomach from tying in knots and my skin breaking out in hives, but one thing it hasn’t helped with is my skin.

I haven’t talked about my skin problems on this blog before, but it’s time to finally ‘come out’!

Although I suffered with bad skin as a teen, it cleared when I started taking the pill. When I came off the pill, I went on to have three children, and during this time my skin was clear, which I think was mainly down to the hormones swimming around my system during that time.

It was after having my third child that things began to unravel. A year after having him, I sought help because my IBS was at its worst and my skin was terrible.

Having taken measures to help with both of these problems, I’ve since changed my diet to get the IBS under control and the products I use do a good job of controlling my skin – mostly.

The area I can’t seem to do anything about is my chin.

I’ve looked into it (thanks Google), and found the cause of outbreaks in this area is hormonal related and common amongst women of 30+. Great. Even better news, it’s a recognised form of acne. Wonderful.

So it seems unless I go back on the pill (not going to happen) or take some form of hormone regulating medication (I’m in my early forties, so I’m not going there yet), there isn’t a lot I can do. Or is there?

Some suggestions indicate poor digestion as a possible contributor to these forms of outbreaks (that’ll be me then), with a link to dairy. So it leaves me with little choice but to give this option a try.

I’m reaching the end of week one of my dairy free trial. I tried to kid myself that I didn’t each that much dairy in the first place, but I’ve found the difficulties arise when you go out.

What has changed this week?

  • I went to Costa (once), for a takeaway and had a soya milk cappuccino (wasn’t too bad). Didn’t choose anything to eat because the choice is limited to dried fruit, nuts or some mini cherry bakewells (too sweet for me).
  • I took my eldest daughter plus friends to the local trampoline park on Saturday and it was over lunchtime. Again I had a coffee with soya milk, but there wasn’t anything I could eat except crisps (and I don’t do potatoes do I?) By the time we left and called into town on the way home, I was starving and ended up getting a slice of banana bread from the local gluten free cafe (it was one of three choices that were both gluten and dairy free).
  • Today, I was out shopping with my middle daughter, whilst my eldest and her friends went to the cinema (this, and the trampolining, were because of her birthday, not that I take her to stuff and don’t do anything with the other two – just in case you were wondering). I needed caffeine (as you do when you’ve had three teenagers for a sleepover), so we dropped in to M and S.

Although there were a few choices of gluten free cakes, there wasn’t anything dairy free. Even if I’d opted to forego the gluten free, the choice didn’t improve because all the sandwiches included dairy. I ended up with a gluten free bread bun, spread with margarine and you guessed it, a coffee with soya milk.

I will say one thing for this week, I have definitely eaten less and avoiding dairy has meant not giving into the sugar cravings. I can also appreciate, more than ever, what my son has to live with on a daily basis and it’s the reason why I always take snacks for him wherever we go.

As for the skin (the reason for doing this) I can’t say I’ve seen any improvement yet, although it’s early days and I wouldn’t expect to. The test will be to see how it fairs over a complete cycle because after all, it’s the hormones at work here, and diet may not be the contributing factor.

I’m off to make a peach cobbler now. It’s a simple recipe and will be both gluten and dairy free, plus low sugar. It is Sunday after all, and with the log fire burning away, some comfort food feels like the perfect end to the week.

Uncategorised

Frangelico chocolate truffles

Frangelico chocolate truffles - A Free From Life

These chocolate truffles were so easy to make and took next to no time to prepare. I made them with my daughter and whilst she made a batch and added vanilla extract, I added Frangelico liqueur to make mine boozy!

Have you tried Frangelico? If not, what are you waiting for? It’s the hazelnut equivalent of Amaretto and in my opinion, far superior. I’ve never been a fan of Amaretto anyway, finding the almond taste too overpowering. Frangelico, on the other hand, combines sweetness, with the nuttiness of the hazelnuts in order to complement the warmth of the alcohol. It’s delicious and I’ve been wanting to try it out in something like this for ages.

Don’t you just love Christmas? It gives you the excuse to go over the top and indulge. Love it!

Frangelico chocolate truffles - A Free From Life

I managed to get 9 truffles from my batch, whilst my daughter made 14! Hers were very small though, but as we used dark chocolate, they are quite bitter, so you don’t need much to make an impact. They would be ideal to offer with after dinner coffee, to clear the pallet after a big meal. If you want to make them sweeter, use milk chocolate.

We made this using dairy free cream – a coconut cream to be precise, so they are both gluten and dairy free. As you can see, we rolled some in cocoa powder and others in dessicated coconut.

Frangelico chocolate truffles - A Free From Life

The preparation to make these took no more than five minutes, but once the ingredients are melted together and mixed, they must be cooled before you can work with them. The tricky side to making the truffles is in the working of the cooled mixture. You have to work fast so they don’t melt.

It’s an ideal recipe to get the kids involved with though, especially those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.

Frangelico chocolate truffles - A Free From Life
Frangelico chocolate truffles
Print Recipe
Servings
8-10
Servings
8-10
Frangelico chocolate truffles - A Free From Life
Frangelico chocolate truffles
Print Recipe
Servings
8-10
Servings
8-10
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Break up the chocolate and add it to a mixing bowl with the butter and cream
  2. Sit the bowl over a pan of boiling water and stir until melted, then add the Frangelico or vanilla
  3. Leave until the bowl is cool to the touch before transferring to the fridge. Return at five minute intervals to stir. In the meantime, set out a plate with cocoa powder and another with the coconut and lay out your truffle cases
  4. Once the mixture has hardened to the consistency of fondant icing, remove from the fridge and roll teaspoonsful into balls
  5. Roll each ball in either the cocoa powder or coconut and put into truffle cases. Store in a refrigerator
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