Welcome to Gluten Free Rosie!
The past three years of my life have been life-changing. I gave up a job where I was very happily working in the fashion industry – taking trips to Paris and experiencing London Fashion week – Im currently spending four years training to be a nutritionist and dietitian at university.
What lead me to make this change was a mixture of personal experiences, along with having a latent interest in nutrition and wanting a more vocational career. I have to admit I thought going back to university would be a doddle, but mastering the likes of biochemistry, metabolic pathways and physiology has been pretty tough at times! With one year left to go, my Vogue magazines have been replaced with science journals and my eyes have been opened to the fascinating, yet complex world of nutrition. Though it’s been a challenge, I understand the need for such rigorous training to be a dietitian, and I haven’t looked back.
Why did I start my blog?
After being quite unwell when I was younger, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, a lifelong autoimmune disease which requires me to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life. Good nutrition is especially important to me, after developing complications associated with being a coeliac such as: osteopenia (low bone density), anaemia and poor digestion. I started my blog a year ago after realising there’s a common misconception that gluten-free means healthy. Though the gluten-free industry is booming, packaged gluten-free foods can be highly processed with refined sugar and flour, making them relatively energy dense, but not necessarily nutrient dense. A gluten-free biscuit is still a biscuit. Though some people I meet may like to think otherwise 😉
I love to use local, seasonal food to create recipes which are full of colour, flavour and variety. I follow what is considered to be one of the healthiest diets in the world to eat: a largely whole-food, plant-based diet. For me this means my recipes mainly focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and oils, and at times incorporate good quality meat, fish, eggs or dairy. I’m therefore not vegetarian or vegan but many of my recipes at suitable for someone following this lifestyle. Apart from gluten, I don’t exclude anything from my diet and broadly follow an 80% healthy vs 20% indulgence rule.
Should I follow a gluten-free diet?
There is no robust scientific evidence indicating all humans should follow a gluten-free diet. Although those who suffer from coeliac disease or have a wheat allergy (a rare condition) need to strictly exclude wheat or gluten, the existence of gluten intolerance (aka non-coeliac gluten sensitivity) for which there is no clinical, diagnostic test, has never been proven or disproven. In fact, the true existence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity has recently come into question with the possibility that FODMAPs are the real cause of this particular population’s symptoms, not gluten itself (Biesiekierski et al, 2014). If you read something extreme about gluten on the internet, it is highly likely the source of evidence for the claim is anecdotal, and has not undergone critical scientific scrutiny e.g. via a randomized controlled trial.
(Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence. The highest level of scientific evidence starts at the top of the pyramid with systematic reviews/meta analyses/randomised controlled trials, and moves downwards)
What if I think I do have a problem with gluten?
Coeliac disease is common affecting 1 in 100 people. However only 24% with this disease have been diagnosed which means there are currently nearly 1/2 a million people who have coeliac disease but don’t yet know! If you believe you may have a problem with gluten, it is important not to self-exclude it from your diet. First, rule out coeliac disease via a blood test with your GP followed possibly by a gut biopsy with a gastroenterologist. For this test to be accurate, you must have been eating gluten for a least 6 weeks before, and during the tests.
And lastly some food for thought, if you do decide to cut gluten out of your diet and happen to feel better, ask yourself how you know that it is the gluten in the foods that has specifically initiated this change in you? Food is a complex matrix of many different compounds, and the types of food that gluten is commonly contained in are often relatively unhealthful products such as: pastries, cakes, biscuits etc….perhaps it’s simply the removal of more energy dense foods from your diet which has made you feel better? Nutritional science is unfortunately not always black and white.
Nutrition and health, generally!
My life does not actually revolve around being gluten-free, and it’s certainly not the only thing I write about. The internet is full of misleading health claims, food fads and nutrition nonsense. Using my science knowledge, I enjoy investigating the evidence behind different aspects of nutrition and health with the aim to decipher fact from fiction. I do this both on my blog, and on a freelance basis for magazines and newspapers.
The Camberwell Kitchen: gluten-free supper club
I love to cook, and experiment with making the types of gluten-free food you can’t come across day-to-day e.g resh ravioli or Vietnamese dumplings…yum! Channelling this passion, I co-host The Camberwell Kitchen with my fiancé Ant in our SE London flat. Although this supper club is obviously totally safe for coeliacs, many people come who are not gluten-free and just want to eat some good food, or generally find out what the heck a supper club actually is! After the sofa has been hidden, we can fit 14 people down one long table so please come along with friends, or on your own. It’s a lot of fun.