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No gluten – no choice

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This Coeliac Awareness Week (June 7-13) Coeliac NZ is diving behind the label to show Kiwis that coeliac disease is a serious auto-immune condition and that a 100% gluten-free diet is the first-line, lifelong treatment – it is not just a trend.

“It’s important people are aware - removing gluten from your diet isn’t a choice but a way of life for up to 70,000* Kiwis living with coeliac disease,” says Coeliac NZ General Manager Wendy Bremmer.

“For those living with coeliac disease, a strict life-long gluten free diet is the only treatment. Even a tiny portion of gluten has serious consequences and that’s why families living with coeliac disease need two toasters - one for toasting gluten free bread and one for regular bread to prevent cross-contamination. They also need to learn how to avoid even trace amounts of gluten, in food but also in medications and when eating out.”

“We’re highlighting the ‘gluten free’ label and what it means, to help remove the stigma around the condition and to demonstrate that eating gluten free for life is mandatory – there’s no choice.”

Coeliac disease is when gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats, causes inflammation and gut damage. Left undiagnosed, coeliac disease can cause long-term health problems such as neurological issues, difficulty concentrating, miscarriages, infertility, and early onset osteoporosis, so getting tested and eating the right foods is literally lifesaving.

The number of people being diagnosed with coeliac disease has increased and affects people of all ages. Coeliac NZ has developed the Dining Out Programme and Crossed-Grain Logo programmes to help families identify which foods in supermarkets, restaurants and eateries are 100% gluten free and safe for them to eat.

Countdown’s own Free From Gluten range has grown to meet the needs of the increasing number of people in New Zealand with coeliac disease.

“For those living with coeliac disease, accessing gluten free foods should be as simple as going to the supermarket, says Deb Sue, Countdown’s nutritionist.

More brands have embraced the need to clearly identify which products are gluten-free. The Crossed Grain Logo is internationally recognised by those who follow a gluten free diet as being coeliac safe. All products that display the Crossed Grain Logo have been reviewed and approved by Coeliac NZ’s certification programme, including selected gluten free products from Kellogg’s and Bakels.

The Coeliac NZ Dining Out Programme provides an independent endorsement to gluten-free restaurants and cafes and caterers. This includes 74 Hell’s Pizza stores nationwide.

During Coeliac Week, the Park Hyatt in Auckland will be including a special gluten free menu for Coeliac Awareness Week developed by Coeliac NZ Ambassador, Executive Chef Brent Martin. The menu has been inspired by Brent’s father, Eric Martin who lived with coeliac disease and navigated the challenges of accessing gluten free foods.

For those in Canterbury, the Riverside Market will have cooking demonstrations with Kiwi kitchen legend and Pavillion Foods Ambassador, Jo Seager; a high tea with a range of gluten free goodies and, for the kids (and kids at heart), DIY Brownie decorating workshops with Bakels gluten free brownies!

Coeliac New Zealand supports people of all ages to navigate the complexities of eating gluten free, manage coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity long-term, and live a healthy life.

Over the last year, we have witnessed the importance of regular health checks and getting tested. Testing for coeliac disease is no different” says Ms Bremmer.  

“There are more than 200 symptoms, ranging from cramping and bloating to neurological issues and difficulty concentrating. If you think you might react to gluten, take the online, self-assessment via the Coeliac NZ website and talk to your healthcare professional.” 

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