Being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease proved a life-changer in more ways than one for Mandy Savage.
Sufferers have an adverse reaction to gluten – a protein found in rye, barley and wheat and contained in foods such as pasta, cakes, breakfast cereals, most types of bread, some ready meals and certain sauces.
But rather than bemoan her fate, Mandy from Bishop Auckland decided to tackle the food issue head on.
Two years ago she launched Gluten Free Food Products with partner Keith Bond. Now the pair are popular stallholders at farmers’ markets like Stockton and Saltburn and a growing number of specialist food events.
They also sell their range of more than 30 gluten-free products - including a selection of quiches, scones, muffins, Christmas cakes and savoury pies - direct to wholesalers and shops and online via www.glutenfreefoodproducts.co.uk.
Mandy says: “I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease after going through six long years of tests from doctors who couldn’t work out what was wrong with me.
“I woke up one morning and my whole face was swollen. I looked like I had been in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson - the swelling would subside and then a few weeks later I would swell up again.
“This went on and on and I saw different doctors, and not one of them could tell me what was wrong. Finally one said that he would send me to an immunologist.
“I was 38 when diagnosed and had been eating a normal diet until this time. I was told to go gluten free and did some shopping around, but found it very hard to change and very difficult to find nice food that I could actually enjoy.
“So that turned out to be real inspiration, and I had a dream that one day I would have my own online shop that sells gluten-free food that everyone could enjoy.
“When I met my partner Keith, he helped me make the dream come true as he has the internet skills and online experience to make it all a reality.
“And here we are just two years later, selling our food all over the country and enjoying being part of the farmers’ markets at Saltburn and Stockton.”