So i’m guessing you’re reading this wondering what an earth this so-called Coeliac Disease thing is…well I was thinking the exact same thing whilst I was sat in the doctor’s office 5 years ago awaiting the results on the recent tests that had been undertaken in hospital, and being told that Coeliac Disease was what I had. After a few blank looks between the doctor and my mum, the doctor realised I had no idea what he was talking about and proceeded to explain…
Coeliac Disease is defined as a life long auto-immune disease in which one’s body reacts to gluten which is found in wheat, barley and rye. In simple terms this means my body reacts very badly to eating gluten and causes serious damage to my insides. To put the seriousness of this disease into perspective I was told that if I did not follow the advised diet (which I will later explain), that the disease will eventually wear through and attack my vital organs- just that single sentence was enough to scare me into strictly following the diet straight away.
As mentioned above, Coeliac Disease comes paired with a strict diet in which you must follow if you do not want to be very poorly…this involves completely cutting gluten out of your diet, and any traces of gluten as well. Yes it is very hard (especially when you’re already a vegetarian) but it is manageable. Even the tiniest trace of gluten can make me ill for hours so I am extremely careful.
How has Coeliac Disease changed my life?
Coeliac Disease makes eating away from home so much harder: everytime I go out to eat, I have to ask if they have a gluten free menu. If they do not have one they often hand me a huge book full of all the allergens in every meal and I then have to spend ages looking through to see which I can eat, sometimes to find that none at all meet my dietary requirements and have to leave and look for somewhere else to eat.
Another thing I have found is that when going to restaurants, those who work there can’t stand you asking questions about the ingredients, many really couldn’t care less and most certainly don’t understand the consequences of you eating gluten.
Sometimes it does go wrong and you just have to deal with the consequences of how your body reacts to eating gluten. For me, this can mean constantly being sick for up to 24 hours, depending on how much I have eaten. However, these of course are only the effects that are visible to us from the outside, some rather invasive and uncomfortable tests have shown the effect that gluten has on the inside of my body such as the wearing away of my stomach lining to the point that I no longer had a stomach lining anymore.
Something I have learnt, more so in recent years, is that the effects of Coeliac Disease on my body are not only confined to those as a direct effect of eating gluten. Coeliac Disease has had a knock-on effect on some of my body’s other systems, such as my thyroid, which is under-active and I am now medicated for. It has also caused me to have anaemia and have various issues with my heart, as well as being a potential cause of some of the scariest and most painful moments of my life- but we’ll get onto that one later.
“Can’t you just have a little bit?”
This is a question I get asked a lot and the answer is most definitely no…unless you want me to be sick in half an hour’s time. Even the smallest amount of gluten is dangerous to my body and causes me to be very ill.
As a result of having this tricky auto-immune disease, I have learnt lots of lessons, such as being disciplined and effectively managing and changing to a completely new lifestyle. As well as this, it’s important to look after myself properly in order to maintain my health. Weirdly enough, although yes of course, I would give anything to be ‘normal’ again, I think without Coeliac Disease, as cliched as it sounds…I don’t think I would be the person I am today.
Although Coeliac Disease is a pain in the ass, it has taught me some very valuable life lessons in the past five years and I’m sure that there will be many more to come.
Thank you for reading my blog!