Petra ter Laak

Facts

  • Age: 28
  • Home: Helsingborg
  • Gluten free living: 1 year (more or less)
  • Reason for choosing gluten freedom: recommended due to sensitive digestive tract.
  • Occupation: Marketing Manager for a retail company in Lund
  • Gluten free tip: there are so many gluten free alternatives available today – with the same properties and pretty much the same taste.

MY GLUTEN FREEDOM

There are many different reasons for people to choose a gluten free lifestyle. For Petra it was about continued stomach upsets that didn´t seem to have any obvious medical explanation. This, however, led suspicions to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Petra was recommended to try a diet avoiding gluten and since the very first day she has felt better. Eating gluten free made her feel more energetic and healthy while, importantly, the constant stomach pains disappeared.

 

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Petra, I am 28 years of age and live in Helsingborg. I work as Marketing Manager for a retail company with offices in Lund. When I’m not working I love spending time with my friends – preferably doing activities such as walking, doing sports, or simply a coffee break with snacks.

 

When did you start eating gluten free and why?

I began eating less gluten about a year ago. By “less” I mean to say that I haven´t completely carved out gluten from my diet, as I have not been diagnosed as gluten intolerant. For 3 years before that I experienced almost daily abdominal pains, but after several visits with doctors I still didn’t have a specific diagnosis. It was clear, though, that I had a severe case of IBS, which basically means that you have very sensitive intestines. Under such circumstances it is normally advised that you avoid gluten in your diet – that’s how I began.

 

How did you notice that you got better with gluten free food?

When I am more disciplined for longer periods, as I know I should be, I definitely feel much less abdominal pain. It is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have daily stomach pains how much of a relief it actually is to have just one day completely without pain. It does take some patience. It’s not as if I go one day without gluten I will instantly be in top form. It stays in your system for a while, so I really feel the difference if I am gluten free for about 2 weeks – then I feel much better. Amazing how simple it sounds now that I hear myself say it! Why would you eat things that make you feel pain? – sounds quite foolish actually!

 

What is the hardest part about eating gluten free?

The hardest part – and that´s where I´m sloppy – is when you don´t do the cooking yourself, when you want to be spontaneous, are asked out, dining at a restaurant or having snacks with friends. If I´m at home cooking myself it´s no problem at all. Then it is quite easy to completely avoid products containing gluten. Actually, there are so many gluten free alternatives available today – with the same properties and pretty much the same taste. If you suddenly feel like being spontaneous and buying a quick snack it gets tricky – better avoid quick snacks! Also, if I am invited out for dinner I don’t really like to ask for “special food”, even though I know I shouldn’t think like that. I know, of course, that I would not like to invite my friends to eat food I knew would make them feel ill, but much rather appreciate that they let me know about the issues. Afterall, it should be only more fun with a challenge in the kitchen!

I won´t ”die” if I skip the bread to go with the soup. The more inconvenient part is actually the hundreds of “oh, so sorry!” the hosts will express.

But, no doubt, the biggest problem is when you have actually made a specific request for gluten free food and it is forgotten.

I won´t ”die” if I skip the bread to go with the soup. The more inconvenient part is actually the hundreds of “oh, so sorry!” the hosts will express. That is an important point; I don´t mind if someone forgets or just didn´t think about it. There is no major problem because as long as I know before I start eating, it´s easy for me to skip the bread or other items. So don´t apologies! I never expect everybody else to keep perfect track of my issues and needs –I´ll be fine!

 

Which is your favorite gluten free tip?

There are so many great alternative products available these days, so I guess my tip will be to learn about products that are always gluten free – and replace pasta with potatoes. It can be that simple! If you feel like baking a traditional cake, all you need to do is go to the gluten free shelves in the supermarket and replace regular wheat flour with a gluten free alternative. The number of alternatives has really increased a lot lately.

Try to Google for gluten free recipes on the internet and you will instantly see thousands of recipes. But another tip would be to not focus on what you are not allowed to eat – instead look around! You really don’t need to consume gluten, as there are thousands of food products free from it. Start learning as much as you can and soon you will see that there are just as good alternatives without gluten as there are with.

 

Which gluten free product do you like best?

Knäckebröd (Crispbread) – because that is something I don´t want to live without. Thank God there is a gluten free alternative! There are also ways of making  really delicious crispbread that doesn’t even contain replacement flours, but lots of seeds and other great stuff – so many great options!

 

Do you have tips for family and friends of gluten free eaters?

I would be careful giving too many tips that involve people with really serious gluten intolerance (celiaki), as it could be outright dangerous if friends and family don´t fully understand the meaning. I have heard that, in extreme cases, just using the same bread knife to cut a normal bread roll and then a gluten free one can be enough to cause a severely gluten intolerant person real problems. That is an entirely different situation than mine. So, my tip would then be to find out whether your friend eats gluten free because of a serious intolerance or because of another conscious choice. For instance, I can of course share bread knife with those eating normal bread, so if you understand the limitations it will be easier for friends and family to handle. And again – no need to apologize for having forgotten to also buy “special bisquits”. A piece of cake you can always just skip; it’s hardly the end of the World, but if you do have someone in your party who avoids gluten it’s always a good idea just to check with that person before sitting down at the table.

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Is your entire family gluten free or is it only you?

It is only me. I started eating gluten free as an adult,  I sense that my family lack a bit of understanding sometimes. They think it’s a little “weird”, it seems. I think it’s because they have never experienced what it is to deal with abdominal pains on a daily basis. By the way, I am actually lactose intolerant, so I also avoid lactose. I understand that it can be difficult to understand that I can’t eat natural yoghurt as “it’s good for digestion”.. but the thing is that I still can’t break down the lactose – just as my system can’t break down gluten.

 

Do you label your gluten free products so others don´t use them?

No, the only place my products are mixed with others is at work. There no one else eats gluten free so they tend to frown a bit at the idea. I don’t know if they expect my gluten free foods to taste strange or what it is, but my products are left alone, haha!

 

What should everybody know about gluten free living?

That there are so many different implications of ”I don´t eat gluten”! For some people it=s associated with real danger, for others it’s just discomfort, for some it’s a health choice, and for some it’s just a passing ‘trend’. Regardless, everybody should of course respect another person’s choice of avoiding gluten – whether it’s by choice or real necessity – just as gluten free eaters will accept that everyone else can eat all the gluten they want.

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