Coeliac Awareness Week & Homemade Gluten Free Vegan Pizzas
It's currently Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia and this is a topic which is now very close to my heart. About 4 or 5 years ago I was first tested for Coeliac Disease after I had been experiencing intense daily migraines, chronic tiredness, depression, nausea, constant gastrointestinal issues, I would bruise super easily and kept gaining weight no matter what I tried. It was easy to say that I didn't feel my age, and certainly didn't feel at my healthiest or fittest like I should have been. In my last few years of high school I had tried everything. I tried every diet, would exercise daily, would go to the gym, at one stage I was running 10km every day and would just try anything I could to try and be healthy and fit like the other girls at my school. Instead of looking like the girls at school I looked the opposite, I was as pale as a ghost (always aneamic), overweight, tired and just felt horrible! After my GP referred me to the gastroenterologist specialist I was immediately booked in to get tested for Coeliac but after having a colonoscopy their results were inconclusive. I was told I could have possibly been lactose and fructose intolerant but it didn't look like I had coeliac.
Years went on and despite my diet and exercise regime getting better and better I was still feeling lethargic, getting migraines and couldn't shift my weight. Even when I first started this blog, although I had stopped eating gluten as much as I could, I was still unaware of my coeliac and was under the impression I didn't have it, so I still had it every now and then, and I wouldn't be phased if I thought something would be contaminated by gluten.
It wasn't until after I returned from my recent trip to Japan that I got extremely sick. My last few days in Japan were spent with my boyfriend propping me up as we (tried) walking around, sitting on any bench we could find as I couldn't see through my migraine and dizziness and I was suffering extreme nausea. It was the sickest I had been and felt in a long, long time and it didn't add up! After two days of being home in Melbourne I was taken to hospital as my migraines had not dispersed, I was vomiting everything and anything that was in me, had bowel issues and was suffering extreme tiredness and dizziness. We thought I must have picked up some sort of bug in my travels and thought I would be out of hospital in a night, maximum two but instead found myself getting sicker and in the end was in hospital for a full week.
I was lucky that because of my stomach issues the doctor looking after me in the hospital was a gastroenterologist and he was by far the best doctor I have ever encountered. He ordered a CT scan on my brain for the migraines I had been suffering since high school which had become worse and worse, they did blood tests, ultrasounds and in the end after finding nothing conclusive did a colonoscopy and biopsy. A week after being released from hospital I went to see the gastroenterologist who confirmed that I did in fact have coeliac disease which had depleted my immune system and had caused me to be very sick!
My doctor asked me if I had any experience with gluten free eating to which I said "my first cookbook is actually just about to be released!" and I felt so lucky that I had made this gluten free cookbook, unknowingly that I was actually coeliac when writing it! I just wanted to create a book that would be accessible to as many people as possible showing them they did have options which were healthy and still delicious that could fit in with their diet and lifestyle choices. I didn't think I would be writing a book that would in turn get used daily in my own household out of necessity!
In Australia the figure currently stands that around 1 in 70 people have Coeliac disease, and out of these only 1 in 5 are actually diagnosed. Leaving the others undiagnosed and suffering! Coeliac is a disease in which the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats) causing small bowel damage. This results in the bowel becoming inflamed and leads to malabsorption of nutrients. The symptoms of Coeliac vary from headaches and migraines, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, iron deficiency, bone and joint pains, mouth ulcers, altered mental alertness, skin rashes, easy bruising of the skin, unexplained weight loss or weight gain. By sticking to a strict gluten free diet you can lead to small bowel healing and reduces the risk of the long term complications such as auto immune diseases, infertility, liver disease, early onset osteoporosis and more.
Getting tested for Coeliac now is easy, but it is crucial that you get tested if you do think you have Coeliac. Coeliac is a serious disease with lifelong implications so the earlier you can get onto it, the better! If you think you could have Coeliac go and see your regular GP. They can arrange a gene test and blood test but the best option is to get them to refer you to a gastroenterologist specialist you can organise a colonoscopy and small bowel biopsy. The only downside of getting tested is that you have to eat gluten regularly for at least 6 weeks prior to the testing (at least 4 slices of bread for adults and 2 for children), otherwise the results will be unclear and inconclusive. For those already following a gluten free diet this may be a challenge (it is said there are over half a million Australians currently sticking to a gluten free diet) but it is worth it to get the definitive results before you completely cut it out! Although the removal of gluten and wheat products from your diet may make you feel better, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are Coeliac - you may just have a Non-Coeliac Sensitivity so it is definitely worth getting tested!!
Lucky being Coeliac in Australia, the UK and USA now days is quite easy. Most restaurants and cafes provide gluten free options (just be sure to let them know you do have Coeliac before you order) and the range of gluten free products are taking over supermarket shelves. There are many cookbooks and online resources for gluten free cooking making it easy to enjoy all your favourite foods at home. My cookbook, the Kenkō Kitchen Cookbook is completely gluten free with over 93 recipes to keep your tummy happy and healthy and it is now available from all good bookstores and department stores across Australia as well as online across the USA and will be released this April in the UK.
I will do another post on Friday for Coeliac Awareness Week, so if you have any queries or questions or suggestions send them through!
Here are a list of very helpful resources and links to read up more information on Coeliac disease:
Coeliac Australia - http://www.coeliac.org.au
Gastroenterologist Society of Australia - http://www.gesa.org.au/consumer.asp?id=45
Bupa - https://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/az-health-information/coeliac-disease
Shepherd Works - http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/coeliac-disease
Better Health - http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/coeliac_disease_and_gluten_sensitivity
Celiac.com - http://www.celiac.com
Celiac Disease Foundation - http://celiac.org
Now it's onto the food! To celebrate Coeliac Awareness Week I am providing one of my favourite gluten free recipes from my cookbook. Pizzas are a must in a person’s life – not greasy fat-laden pizzas, though! This recipe is for delicious and simple vegan pizzas. You can top them with more or less ingredients depending on what you fancy. The dough is easy to make and the whole thing is so flavoursome. This dish is sure to please the family!
Prep time: 20 mins (plus rising time)
Cooking time: 40 mins
260g buckwheat flour
200g brown rice flour
7g dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons plant-based oil
TOMATO SAUCE FOR BASE
375g cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons plant-based oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
75g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground kelp
1 red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon plant-based oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 bunch basil leaves
YOU CAN ALSO ADD:
cashew "goats" cheese
To make the pizza dough, begin by combining the flours, yeast, salt and sugar in an electric mixer with the bread hook attachment. Add 250 ml water and the plant-based oil and mix until a nice smooth dough has formed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently knead for 5–10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl in a warm place for 35–45 minutes or until risen.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
While the dough is proving, make the tomato sauce. In a small oven dish place the tomatoes, garlic, oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 15–20 minutes until nice and roasted (see note). Remove and transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and blitz into a sauce.
Knead the dough again, before pushing it into 2 flat bases on 2 baking or pizza trays. You can make the bases any shape you like – round, square or rectangular, it’s up to you! You do want to get the bases quite thin (about 5 mm) and, then, once in the desired shape, prick them with a fork to stop them from rising too much in the cooking process.
Bake the bases in the oven for 5–10 minutes then remove.
Spread the sauce onto the bases and top with the tomatoes, zucchini, salt, pepper and kelp. In a small frying pan, fry the onion in the oil and maple syrup for 5–10 minutes. Add this to the top of the pizza.
Cook for 15–20 minutes until the base and vegetables are nice and cooked. Remove from the oven, slice, top with fresh basil and enjoy!
When I have a lot of time, I prefer to slow-roast the vegetables for the sauce over a couple of hours. But when we are making a speedy pizza, the quick roast works fine!