This month is Celiac Awareness Month in the US and in the UK, Coeliac Awareness Week runs from the 11th to 17th May 2015. It is a busy time of awareness raising and campaigning on both sides of the pond. Each year, Coeliac UK focusses the spotlight on a different aspect of understanding both Coeliac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH). This year they are centring their attention on a really important part of the population….. those who are not yet diagnosed…… with the headline question ‘Is It Coeliac Disease?’
Research estimates that the condition affects somewhere in the region of 1 in 100 people in the UK and Europe, yet only 24% of those have been clinically diagnosed (source : Coeliac UK). That is astounding and also very worrying as Coeliac is a condition which will have a profound impact on health and development.
It is important to understand that Coeliac Disease is NOT an allergy but is an autoimmune disease……. which results in a food intolerance. It is often genetically linked, and triggers the body to attack itself via the lining of the stomach when the sufferer eats gluten (contained in wheat, barley and rye and their products). The symptoms which vary from mild to severe, encompass anything from recurrent stomach pain, mouth ulcers and excessive wind through to hair loss, osteoporosis, depression and liver problems. Sufferers will not necessarily be born Coeliac, and for those who are not, they will usually have (in addition to the genetic propensity to develop the condition) experienced some degree of body ‘shock’ or imbalance, such as coping with a virus, pregnancy, bereavement, etc.
Coeliac UK states that the average time it takes for clear diagnosis of the disease in the UK (from the onset of symptoms) is an incredibly long and painful 13 years, which frankly, is unacceptable. It is not uncommon for sufferers to be diagnosed with anything from stress to Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS). The confusion over symptoms and the slow consideration of possible Coeliac Disease by health professionals needs to be tackled and this year’s Coeliac Awareness Week will kick off a two year campaign which, for the first time will use advertising to get the message out to the wider population, in the hope of ensuring the diagnosis rate improves.
As a family we were lucky. When our daughter was diagnosed at age 6 we had only taken her to the GP once for diagnosis. The reason? She was complaining of stomach aches. That’s all. Simple stomach aches!
Your average 6 year old probably gets plenty of those and as a parent, I considered that some (but certainly not all) of the aches being reported were likely to be attention-based. When I took her to the GP, I fully expected to be told to go away again and just keep an eye on her to see how things progressed. But our GP was amazing! Maybe she had prior close experience of the disease, but she asked 2 questions….. One about my daughter’s toiletting patterns (my daughter had from very early on been a child who did a lot of pooing) and the other about whether there was a known history of Coeliac Disease in the family (the answer being yes).
On the basis of that alone, my daughter was screened by blood test and with a positive result, an endoscopy soon followed. Diagnosis confirmed, the rest is history! If only everyone could have such an incredibly straight forward experience of the process….. knowing is half the battle after which everything slots in to place. A diet excluding all gluten repairs the system and prevents production of the offending antibody which causes the body to attack itself. Follow that basic rule….. for life…. and the disease will be under healthy control!
Since diagnosis, I can honestly say that our diet has improved in all respects, not least because we make so much more of what we eat from scratch, from meals to snacks. The kitchen is now the most used room in the house…..
One of the first things I mastered baking gluten free was fruit muffins. Cereal everyday was pretty tedious (there were nowhere near as many varieties even three years ago) and I had yet to master a decent loaf of bread. Muffins packed full of fruit seemed like a good breakfast alternative which would also give my daughter a clear message that being gluten free wasn’t so bad!
The recipe below is good to use with any variety of fruit and spices and has yet to fail me. You can easily substitute with dairy-free spread, dairy-free yoghurt and almond milk to make it dairy free. Leave them ‘undressed’ for simplicity as breakfast muffins or to take out as a reasonably healthy snack. Or slather in frosting for an extra special treat.
Being made with a sizeable portion of ground almonds, these muffins have a good nutritional base. The nuts alongside the yoghurt, also ensure the sponge remains beautifully moist. The muffins are soft, fruity, with a slightly nutty texture, bursting with juicy pockets of fresh fruit and are amazingly satisfying. The frosting I have used here, is also made with fresh blueberries and perfectly compliments the sponge. I think the colour is incredibly pretty too!
I am sharing this post with Brilliant Blog Posts at Honest Mum.
I am also sharing my muffins with the following :
Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse.
Love Cake with Ness at Jibber Jabber. The theme for May is ‘colour me pretty’. I adore the colour purple and the natural vibrancy added by the fresh blueberry frosting on these muffins is colour perfection!
Raspberry & Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Frosting (makes 18 standard muffins)
Extra blueberries and raspberries to decorate
- Line 2 muffin pans with 18 standard muffin cases. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each.
- Add the vanilla extract and beat again.
- Add the yoghurt and milk and fold into the mixture with a wooden/silicone spoon or spatula until evenly blended.
- Add the flour and fold into the wet mix until just combined (no dry bits), then add the fruit and gently fold through so that the fruit is evenly distributed.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases (about two-thirds full) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well-risen, the top springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- When cool, make the frosting : Place the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for a few minutes, squashing the blueberries against the side of the pan to release the juice.
- Remove from the heat when the liquid has reduced slightly and cool, before liquidising into a puree. Set aside
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter with a little of the icing sugar until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar, vanilla extract and fruit puree (alternating dry with wet ingredients), beating well between each addition. You will want a soft piping consistency which is able to hold its shape. Add extra icing sugar to stiffen or a little milk to loosen as needed.
- When the sponge is cold, Pipe or spread a little of the frosting onto each cake and top with fresh fruit to decorate.