All my life I have been a picky eater. I never liked how pasta made me feel so I hardly ate it, when people told me that weetbix gave them energy, it made me sleepy and I never understood how others could eat so much and feel full, yet I was always hungry. This was me for 34 years, never heard of coeliac disease in my life and managed to hide it without realising it, before I was 34 I wouldn’t even think of reading the ingredients to find out what was in the food I was eating!
When I was 33 my iron levels just wouldn’t climb back up, I had a diet of heavy gluten as I was at a course that included living on a campsite for a week 3 times a year that had of course a lot of pasta-based dishes, I was bloated all the time and exhausted not realising what was happening. At the end of the year, my doctor was sorting out another round of blood tests and put the coeliac one just to check “but I don’t think you have it” famous... last...words.
In February after my 34th birthday, I was at a friend's house when my doctor texted me, I was glad I wasn’t alone because the words “coeliac disease, gluten free diet” was a shock. I essentially woke up that morning with a cupboard full of gluten and went to bed with gluten stuff ready to give to friends. The crazy thing is when I saw the effects, I saw me. Sore muscles? Check. Constipation? Check. Exhaustion? Check and more. What I thought was period pain was my guts screaming at me all my life.
Due to all this happening just before the first lockdown it took a year for my biopsy which showed it nice and clear, and on 14th April 2021 I officially became a coeliac. We went through my family history and it turns out that I wasn’t the only one and I have a young extended family member with it as well. A friend of mine without me even knowing has it, she told me after I told her I was struggling with it. It took a while for me to adjust but now I can’t go back, my life is now more active, less painful and I eat a lot less! My body doesn’t need as much as it used to, It’s worth just taking the blood test, you never know what your body is telling you!
These days I have friends who are happy to support me, learn from, and discuss what this diet means, recently I brought an apple crumble to a potluck, and turns out I made it too small! Everyone preferred it to a gluten version with oats ( See the Chelsea website for the gluten-free apple crumble recipe). Learning to read the labels took me a while but over time it became quick, just turn the package over and check for BROWG (barley, rye, oats, wheat & gluten) there is so much food out there that is gluten free without the labeling and doesn’t have the above foods! Of course, I have been told that 10/20 years ago it's not the case but the more of us that are around the more that will come out. My local pak n save just started selling GF pies and pastry.
It's not a lonely condition, there are Facebook groups, people who have it but don’t advertise it, and then of course during lockdown, I found many when we were trying to find GF flour! (oh hi, I’m just trying to find flour… I can’t have the regular….oh me too!) I became a member of CNZ last year and enjoy the magazines and love the calendar. I have been told it’s a limiting condition, but I think it’s the opposite, your removing ingredients from your diet so your body can function better. Two years ago I was tired, took a lot to focus, and was on antibiotics a lot (when I have gluten I get bronchitis) and now I’m much healthier and am doing much more. If you are struggling get connected with a Facebook group and ask for someone to come shopping with you.
I will say it again, it's not a lonely condition 😊 so get connected to a Facebook group, find local people with whom you can hang out, and take it one step at a time. I am not 100% pain-free, but I am way better than I was two years ago.
The article was written by Bryar Ellis to support Coeliac Awareness Week
Photo not supplied with the article.