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This week is #CoeliacDiseaseAwarenessWeek, a whole week dedicated to raising awareness around coeliac disease. In the UK alone, it’s thought approximately 1 in 100 people are sufferers of this disease, meaning it’s a lot more common than people think.I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease back in 2006, when the gluten-free aisle in Tesco was non-existent.I was able to get gluten-free alternatives like bread and pasta on prescription at my pharmacy, but the products were pretty much inedible – like I honestly think you would kill a man if you threw one of the vacuum packed seeded rolls at his head.To help raise awareness of this condition, I’ve put together a few facts/questions/answers/pointers to help debunk some myths, educate, and if you are coeliac, encourage you to live your best #GlutenFree life.

So what is coeliac disease?

Medical terms: Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that triggers a reaction from the immune system that damages the small intestine when gluten is consumed.Human terms: It’s a mega inconvenience for all sufferers and just a bit shit.One thing it’s absolutely not, is a lifestyle choice.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Anything with flour in it is off the table (literally) for coeliacs, so bread, pasta, cake, pastries, biscuits, pancakes, anything battered…beer, lasagne, DOUGHNUTS pizza, cereal…basically anything DELICIOUS.The lack of good bread in my life makes me sad. Do you know what I’d give to have a fresh sourdough from Noa?!?!?!?! I WOULD GIVE A LOT.

 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for coeliac differ in type and severity from person to person, and often, as with many conditions when it comes to our tummies and bowel movements, people pass off or ignore their symptoms as it’s ‘something they’ve always had’, or are used to.If you suffer or have suffered for some time from any of the below, then it’s worth asking your GP if you could be coeliac.

  • Anaemia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss/unable to gain weight
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Frequent diarrhoea
  • Skin rash (often referred to as CHICKEN SKIN)
  • Frequent mouth ulcers
  • Brain fog/lack of concentration

Coeliac disease is NOT an allergy

As mentioned, coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes irreparable damage to the bowel when it comes in contact with gluten.Even very small amounts of gluten can affect someone with coeliac disease, and there are a number of steps that must be taken to avoid cross-contamination with gluten.These include:

  • Keeping all cooking utensils separate during food preparation and cooking
  • Avoid frying food in the same oil that has previously been used to cook foods which contain gluten
  • Use a clean grill, separate toaster or toaster bags to make gluten-free toast
  • Use separate breadboards where possible and wash all surfaces thoroughly after preparing foods that contain gluten
  • Using separate condiments like jam, butter, mustard and mayonnaise

Living a #GlutenFree life

The gluten-free offering in supermarkets has increased tenfold over the years, thanks to the GF diet becoming a bit ‘trendy’.Last week, I had a gluten-free croissant. The first time pastry has touched my lips FOR 12 YEARS. GOD BLESS YOU MARKS AND SPENCER.

 It’s a common misconception that going gluten-free is actually healthier for you, which unless you have coeliac disease or an intolerance, simply isn’t true.BUT…I’m not going to complain. Thank you for demonising bread ya’ll.

Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for special treatment

I’ve had a few eye-rolls at restaurants in the past when I’ve asked for a gluten-free alternative…one server even responded with…

‘Yes it is vegetarian’

 

But luckily, that’s a rarity (AND it wasn’t on the Island!) Most places are pretty clued up on intolerances these days, so don’t fear speaking up and asking if they can serve you up something special.

 

Don’t fear travelling

I spent three weeks in Italy last summer, otherwise known as the GLUTEN CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, without being ‘glutened’, which is pretty impressive! The Italian’s are very aware of coeliac disease and nearly all restaurants were able to offer me gluten free pasta, pizza and beer. Needless to say, I was like a pig in gluten free mud!

 

Rome Gluten Free

My advice? Do your research

Look at menus before you get to restaurants. Ring ahead. Check out food outlets at festivals and events beforehand. Learn what ‘gluten free’ is in the language of the country you’re travelling, and be on your way. ENJOY ALL THE GLUTEN FREE GOODS OF THIS WORLD.

 

BUT MAYBE pack a few #glutenfree cereal bars just incase.

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