I am a sufferer of Coeliac Disease and can I tell you one thing? I would give anything not to be!
I was diagnosed when I was eight years old, and apart from the horrible boys at school shouting things at me in the playground for having a week off school, I didn’t really notice a difference back then. Coeliac disease is normal in my family, I grew up with my Mum and Grandpa both being on gluten free diets so I was used to it, I understood it, this did not mean I was willing to have it affect me personally. I remember my mum telling me I was going to be tested for Coeliac Disease, I kept a diary then and the page from that day read something like:
“Mum thinks I have the same thing as her and grandpa. I don’t want it.”
I think I still feel like this, I do not want it. As I said though it took me a while to realise just how much the disease actually sucks. I can tell you exactly when I did realise, it was when I started Uni. I had always found it annoying that I couldn’t buy lunch in the canteen at school. It even caused me health problems in secondary school with fainting being one of the worst side effects of only eating crisps at lunch time.
The reason I really started to notice the problem with having an allergy (to almost everything considered as food) was because I had to start looking after myself. I had moved out of my home, into a flat where I had to buy my own food and make my own meals. At home Mum knew what was good for me, how to make the bland gluten free prescription food interesting and edible. In Student Halls I was faced with flatmates ordering Chinese food and being able to pop into the chip shop on the way back from a night out for cheese fatty chippy goodness that I could only look at, or maybe steal a couple of and regret horribley in the next couple of hours. I have no answer to their amazing smelling food. I can only look on longingly while I try to work up the energy to cook my hungover self a satisfying meal of pasta and cheese (which is still good, but it is not a Chinese).
I think the worst thing about the whole gluten situation has to be that it can creep up on you without you even noticing. It almost ruined my study trip to Paris last year. The first day we were there and I was “Glutened”! I felt horrible; I was faint, and I thought I was going to be sick, it gave me the shakes and I was breaking out in cold sweats at random moments all day. I felt like I had the worst hangover of my life, but all I had done was eaten the wrong thing at the wrong time and I didn’t even know what had given me this reaction. I am always so careful and I had printed out a special card with what Coeliac Disease was, written in French, so I could show restaurants. I have traced back what I ate in those two days over and over again and I can never think of anything with gluten in it. I was yet another victim of cross contamination.
Eating out terrifies me, especially if it is a new place. What if they don’t understand what I mean by gluten (a lot of people still have no idea what it is) or worse what if they do know what it I mean but they think I am just on some silly “healthy eating diet” that makes you eliminate gluten. This is a problem now, people do not believe the Coeliac Disease even exists anymore because for some reason cutting out gluten has become a fad diet. Let me tell you something, being unable to eat gluten is not a weight loss technique I will happily trade places with you. Come and take this disease away from me, you have it. I will go back to eating Malteaser (god I miss those things), I will go back to not having to explain why I can’t have a bun on my burger to the guy behind the counter at McDonalds five times!, I will go back to not starving at lunch time because the canteen has run out of baked potatoes on the day I didn’t have time to make a sandwich in the morning.
I have had people say, when talking about how I miss the taste of something or how what they are eating smells so good,”why don’t you just eat it?” Trust me, you do not want to be around for the aftermath of me eating gluten. I have seen me throw up an entire days worth of food just because a burger I ate from the Hard Rock Cafe in Edinburgh had been cross contaminated, that is only a tiny bit of gluten! Think about what it would be like if I ate a bite of your sandwich. I have also had people say to me “I would just power through, I mean it only makes you a little sick doesn’t it? Nah if I was allergic to gluten I would just eat it anyway.” No, no you would not. Firstly how long do you think it would take before you became malnourished from throwing up everything you ate? and how long do you think it would take for you to become dehydrated from all that throwing up?
Being allergic to gluten sucks! But at the end of the day there are worse things to be allergic to. I am glad that my allergy does not put me at risk of death on contact like, say, a peanut allergy does. I am glad that I am able to manage my allergy and that these bad experiences are very rare. It will always make me feel a little left out and sad when my friends are enjoying something that smells gloriously tastey but at the same time I have friends now that share my pain. I have people in my life that have demanded to be fed a chicken nugget whilst drunk and immediately come to regret the decision. Having people around me that can share their experiences helps and so does having a boyfriend who is actually a pretty good cook, even if he does sigh every time he realises an ingredient he wants to use has gluten in it.
Thank you for reading my rant I hope you enjoyed it,
ta ta for now!