Coeliac disease and Gluten or Wheat Intolerance


Imagine never being able to enjoy a lunchtime sandwich or tuck into a big plate of pasta. Coeliacs and people with an intolerance to wheat or gluten have to search out special products and ingredients. Take a look at our suggested books and websites, where you'll find information, advice and delicious recipes.

Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or simple food intolerance. It’s an autoimmune disease which means that the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. In coeliac disease, this response is triggered by eating gluten.

Coeliac disease is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people. In those with the condition, eating gluten causes the lining of the small intestine to become damaged. This means there is less surface area available to absorb nutrients properly. There are serious problems associated with coeliac disease including osteoporosis, certain kinds of gut cancer and increased risk of other auto-immune diseases.

Symptoms of coeliac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Symptoms can include bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, wind, tiredness, anaemia, headaches, mouth ulcers, weight loss, depression, recurrent miscarriages and joint/bone pain.

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people are also sensitive to oats. A gluten-free diet means avoiding these cereals and ingredients derived from them e.g. wheat flour, wheat starch, rye flour etc. A gluten-free diet is therefore much more restrictive than cutting out wheat alone.

The most obvious sources of gluten in the diet are cereals, breads and pasta, biscuits, cakes and pastries, but gluten can also be found in some sauces, sausages, mayonnaises, mustard products and ready meals.

Confirmation of a diagnosis of coeliac disease is important. Anyone who suspects they might have coeliac disease must not cut out gluten from their diet before getting tested. The first step in diagnosing the condition is to discuss symptoms with your doctor who can order a simple blood test. If you are on a gluten-free diet or low gluten diet before this test, you will not get an accurate result.

We have had a number of requests for recipes catering for people on a gluten-free diet, so we know it is an important issue for you. However, Delia is not an expert on this condition so we are unable to make any recommendations without seeking specialist advice.

Gluten-free flours are widely available however they do not behave the same way as ordinary wheat flour. For the best results you should use recipes specially designed for use with these flours.

As a general guide gluten-free baked goods do not rise as much and are often more crumbly and dry. This is because gluten provides the binding quality in wheat flours and therefore gluten-free products need other ingredients to provide that quality such as honey, molasses, yoghurt and egg whites. They also absorb more moisture than ordinary flours and so you should use more liquid or add fruit to recipes to keep baked items moist. 

However, xantham gum can be used in gluten-free baking as it is an excellent binding ingredient, and results in cakes and breads that are more elastic and, therefore, more palatable.

Useful websites:
Coeliac UK (formerly The Coeliac Society) is a useful place to find more information

Helpline: 0845 305 2060 open 10am-4pm Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri and 11am-4pm on Weds. 

Membership of Coeliac UK is available to those medically diagnosed with coeliac disease. Members receive a welcome pack with detailed information a gluten-free diet, quartely Crossed Grain Magazine and Food and Drink Directory which lists 10,000 gluten-free foods. 

For a range of information on gluten free products
Gluten Free Foods
Sainsbury’s can supply a product list of own-label foods suitable for coeliac disease sufferers or for those who need a wheat-free diet. Sainsbury’s Freefrom range: (follow the signposts to healthy eating and food intolerances), endorsed by Allergy UK (see below), is the first specially produced supermarket range of gluten-, wheat- or dairy-free products. The Sainsbury’s website also features about 100 recipes suitable for allergy/intolerance sufferers. Sainsbury’s: 

PK Foods, supplies wheat-and gluten-free foods by mail order. Contact PK Foods, Unit 270, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, Herts WD6 3SS 

(020 8953 4444; fax: 020 8953 8285); 


PK Foods: 

Allergy UK (020 8303 8525) is a medical charity for people with allergies, provides advice and support via its helpline on 020 8303 8583 (9am-9pm, Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm, Sat and Sun) and will send advice booklets to its members on all aspects of allergy; e-mail:
Allergy UK: 

Stamp Collection products are made without wheat and cow’s milk. They contain no added sucrose, are low in sodium, are not irradiated and are made with organic ingredients wherever possible. The website gives information about the products, where to buy them and includes wheat-free/gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. The Stamp Collection 

NB Recipes on the above sites and in the recommended books have not been tested by Delia Online.

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