Going gluten-free in Norfolk

Sara Matthews of Your Gluten Freedom

Sara Matthews of Your Gluten Freedom - Credit: Archant

SPONSORED: The chances are you know someone who follows a gluten-free diet, but what exactly is gluten and is it so difficult to cook foods without it? Sara Matthews, founder of yourglutenfreedom.co.uk and a long term allergy sufferer herself, explains...

The presence of gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye, contributes to the structure, texture and kneadability of dough-based foods. But not everyone can digest gluten and some people choose not to for a variety of reasons.

Eating a gluten-free diet is a necessity for people with coeliac disease and it has also become a popular lifestyle choice. Cutting down on gluten is also fast becoming a popular recommendation by nutritionists and dieticians for many other health issues.

Coeliac disease affects one in 100 people. However, according to Coeliac UK, only 24pc who have the condition have been diagnosed – which means there are currently nearly half a million people who have coeliac disease but don't yet know it. If a first degree family member (such as mother, father, sister or brother) has the condition, the chances of having it increase to one in 10.

If you have coeliac disease, your immune system reacts to gluten and leads to damage to the lining of your gut. This causes symptoms of coeliac disease, including bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, tiredness, headaches and mouth ulcers. This only happens if gluten is eaten.

Once diagnosed, the only treatment for coeliac disease is a gluten-free diet. Once gluten is removed from the diet, sufferers should start to feel much better.

But following a gluten-free diet doesn't mean you can't be creative in the kitchen. There are plenty of dishes that are safe to eat and many more that can be made gluten-free. Just because you're on a gluten-free diet doesn't mean you have to miss out on the pleasure of eating fabulous tasty foods. Fantastic news!

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We are lucky in Norfolk that many pubs and restaurants offer gluten-free options as more and more restaurants are now catering for those on a gluten-free diet. We also have some of the country's best gluten-free producers offering a variety of gluten-free foods.

Plus, in Norwich, we have Britain's first totally gluten-free shop, two 100pc gluten-free cafés with more due to open in the region in the coming months, a gluten-free bakery which is due to expand so it can cater for the trade – local restaurants, shops and delis around the area, as well as domestic consumers.

Navigating the world of gluten-free eating can be overwhelming. How do you know where to go and what to eat? At Your Gluten Freedom, our aim is to help people to find and get in touch with the vast range of wonderful producers and places to go.

For more information on cooking, gluten-free cookery classes, eating out and what to buy, news of new gluten-free shops, restaurants, or if you are in the food industry and need staff training, advice on menu development or just help to get started offering gluten-free, visit www.yourglutenfreedom.co.uk or get in touch via sara@norfolkglutenfreedom.co.uk