A little background…
Back in the UK growing up, I always had a sensitive tummy which the doctors always passed off as this, that and the other generic reason. During my high school years the doctors put it down to the anxieties of school, exams etc. Fast forward to my early twenties and my ‘sensitive tummy’ started to become a hindrance, having an effect on my everyday life to the point where I would avoid going to places where I would have to eat in a restaurant or at a friend’s house for example.
Getting a diagnosis…
After putting up with the symptoms for longer than I should have, I finally decided to go and see a new doctor. It was the first time I felt that someone was actually listening to me. We discussed all my symptoms and he diagnosed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which he thought was being triggered by something specific – now came the task to find out what that was.
The doctor started me on some prescription medication to try and gain some control over my tummy whilst I kept a food and symptom diary for 10 weeks. The prescription medicine did very little to help over those ten weeks which the doctor said was actually a good sign in some ways as it meant that it was more than likely a certain food group that was causing my issues. At my follow up appointment 10 weeks later, after a lengthy discussion over my diary, the doctor concluded that wheat (gluten) was the culprit. I was advised to cut it out of my diet completely and that if he was right, I should notice a big difference within a month.
What Is Gluten?
“Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.” – celiac.org
The Main Three: Wheat, Barley, Rye
Wheat is commonly found in:
Barley is commonly found in:
Malt (malted barley flour, malted milk and milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavouring, malt vinegar)
Rye is commonly found in:
rye bread, such as pumpernickel
Gluten Free Life in Spain
I moved to Spain in October 2019. Now 26 and having been Gluten-free for over two years, one of my biggest concerns was being able to manage my condition here and be able to find sufficient alternatives and Gluten-free supplies. Well, I needn’t have worried!
Spanish supermarkets are so well stocked with Gluten-free supplies that there has not been anything I have struggled to get my hands on so far. Both Carrefour and Mercadona have the best range of products, even stocking things that I couldn’t get in the UK and Lidl and Aldi also have the basics including bread and pasta. I must say, the addition of the new Tesco Food Co in Puerto de Mazarrón has also been a huge help (not so much for my waistline though!), particularly in the cooler months when us English folk love our roast dinners with lashings of gravy, stuffing and a sponge pudding for dessert – all of which Tesco Food Co stock in Gluten-free versions.
Eating out was a little more challenging, but even so, I think it has been much easier than I anticipated before the move. Admittedly I have found that the Spanish-run restaurants tend to cater for Gluten-free customers. Some of the smaller restaurants have very limited options, but they still go out of their way to try and adapt something for me. I have only had a couple of experiences where it has been difficult and I do think that this comes down to a lack of understanding what Gluten actually is. If I am unsure, my safety net is steak and chips or fish (not battered) and potatoes – they don’t contain Gluten and it would be difficult to add it in!
My top three local(ish) restaurants for catering to Gluten-free include:
Spice Villa – Camposol B
Leonardo’s Italian Restaurant – Puerto de Mazarrón
Area Sunset – La Manga, was totally worth the visit. They even had Gluten-free bread for the pre-starter!
I have purposely not discussed in much detail the symptoms I suffer should I eat something containing Gluten for two reasons; one being that tummy troubles aren’t a nice topic of conversation; secondly, it is of high importance that you do not self-diagnose Gluten intolerance.
A Gluten-free diet is not a recommended, healthy diet unless you require it. Many cereals and grains that contain Gluten also contain many nutritional attributes such as fibre and various vitamins.