The Coeliac, Dairy intolerant and IBS athlete (because one food issue is never enough!)
I was told I had a dairy intolerance about twenty years ago after a bout of glandular fever, I was diagnosed as a coeliac about two years ago and the IBS the most recent addition to my issues team.
For those that don’t know, Coeliac’s is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks any gluten you eat and the ensuing battle damages the gut as a by-product. It means that even trace amounts can cause a big reaction that can last many days so avoidance at all times is pretty crucial. At home you adjust your cooking, contain the prep of any gluten containing products to one specific area of the kitchen, be diligent about cleanliness and careful about contamination when cooking GF and non GF products at the same time.
It does make eating out pretty tough though. Even if somewhere says they have GF options it doesn’t always mean its coeliac safe. I have learnt there are a few key questions to ask over the phone before booking a table/going to the restaurant to determine how safe it is and sometimes I just choose not to go as it’s not worth the risk. We certainly eat out a lot less than we used to and take-aways are gone completely for me and my son (diagnosed not long after me).
The dairy intolerance, however, is different. I can eat small amounts every now and again without too much of a reaction. I can stomach a bit of butter every day, however, yoghurt, cream, milk in any amount and cheese (even the lactose free products) are out. IBS is a weird one, no hard and fast rule that I’ve found yet, just some things bother me at some times, annoyingly wine being a definite issue!
So how do I cope with diet whilst training? Well it’s not much different to how I cope all the time as the right food for training is the right food full stop for me. Eating fresh, cooking from scratch and eating a good variety of ingredients and types of cuisine does make up for the lack of choice. Also trying to use the minimal amount from the dedicated GF products available (they are usually full of sugar, including the bread, and expensive).
Following are my staple foods and how I use them:
- Soya yoghurts – honestly my favourite food and what I eat if I feel like eating and don’t know what to have. I probably eat at least 2 a day sometimes 3. Good for calcium which is important for anyone but particularly for someone who cannot eat dairy and is a coeliac (one of the complications of being a coeliac is osteoporosis).
- Soya milk – for tea usually and great for pancake batter whether you’re dairy intolerant or not. I get the variety that is unsweetened with added calcium. The standard variety tend to have a vanilla flavour to them that is just repugnant in tea!
- Coconut milk – deliciously creamy in porridge and smoothies (two of my main breakfast options).
- GF Flours: buckwheat, almond, GF plain & self-raising flour – a mixture of all three make great pancakes, almond flour makes great muffins or cakes and the standard plain flour for thickening sauces like gravy. My short stack almond pancakes sweetened with maple syrup are a favourite with the whole family.
- Xanthum gum – to be used with a very light hand in any baking to give more elasticity to the mixture (which is what the gluten gives usually). If you use too much the resulting mixture is impossible to cook with.
- Eggs – a great source of protein for any athlete, I eat many a week in various forms.
- GF Oats (although a naturally GF cereal they are usually contaminated in the manufacturing process) – I have porridge at least 4 days a week, and always before a race, varying the flavours added (e.g. frozen berries/fresh fruit/or just plain with honey) but I always add a sprinkle of chai seeds for added nutrients. I also add them to my smoothies for extra bulk and energy.
- Avocados – a source of good fats, vitamins and nutrients. Great mashed with a little salt as an alternative to butter. Another of my favourite breakfasts is avocado butter on toasted GF English muffins with a slice of ham and a poached egg. This is also particularly good as brunch after morning training.
- Spinach – I use this a lot as a source of iron as I seem to have a problem keeping my levels up which can make me lethargic. I have it in all my salads, wraps and pasta sauces. Another brunch recipe I have quite often is pan fried strips of bacon, sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and spinach topped with a poached egg, or substitute smoked sausage for the bacon. If it’s after training I add some pre-cooked quinoa for extra bulk.
- Pre-cooked Quinoa – I could soak and cook it myself but I prefer the pre-cooked stuff as it means I don’t have to plan ahead so much. I use sprinkled in salads, or mixed in a stir fry (as above).
- Rice – I eat a lot of rice. I love it as it is so versatile but it’s also a great choice for any coeliac. I like brown rice sprinkled in salads for its nutty flavour or stir fried with coconut oil, cooked chicken and soy beans with some GF soy sauce. Stir fried basmati rice (with onion, bacon, peas, prawns, egg, Chinese 5-spice and GF soy sauce) is a particular favourite of the family for dinner, especially when served with my mums recipe for BBQ spare ribs (GF hoisin and GF soy sauce needed to make it coeliac friendly).
- GF Pasta – There are many varieties and brands but they are all quite expensive so I only really use it once a week. It is good to have the night before a race though. A good alternative for lunch is courgette spaghetti, cooked with some mushrooms and free from pesto (normal pesto is GF but not dairy free), it’s really delicious and adds another flavour dimension to a standard pasta recipe.
- Variety of oat based snack bars/biscuits â€“ these can be standard snack bars that happen to be GF or specialist free from ones. I like nature valley maple syrup bars as an energy boost before a long race and the Nairns GF oat biscuits as a snack when I want something sweet or for breakfast with a yoghurt and some fresh fruit.
- Lentils/pulses – A great filler food and can add variety to lunchtimes. Red split pea lentils make a great soup with roasted butternut squash, topped with spicy GF croutons; tinned cooked green lentils also make great soup with some bacon and potatoes; a tin of chickpeas make a pasta sauce more filling and mixed beans make a great salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onion and loads of fresh basil.
- Fresh herbs, meat and vegetables – pots of growing mint, coriander and basil permanently grace our kitchen windowsill to add a flavour boost to any dish. Carrots, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, salad leaves, etc. are in our fridge throughout the year, ready for a quick snack or for a variety of different salads. Potatoes, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, peas, sweet corn and frozen cooked soy beans are also always present in the house to add to any dinner. And of course I’ve already mentioned avocados and spinach. The main meat staples are chicken thighs (cheaper and more juicy than breast) and bacon, as you probably noticed already. Not the healthiest I know but I don’t eat much that is bad for me really so I allow myself the indulgence!
Honestly I could list out my entire fridge and larder but I think you get the idea. It’s about knowing what ingredients to use for the energy needed to train and ensuring the free from products you use are good choices. I don’t deny myself anything my body can eat but always eat everything in moderation… well, apart from yoghurts of course!