I’ve always known that something wasn’t right with my digestive system, since as long as I can remember I’ve had issues with diarrhea (sorry TMI) and excessive bloating after eating but I could never quite pinpoint what it was that was causing it. For ages I cut out raw spinach because I read it can trigger IBS…. Turns out it wasn’t that!
My niece was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease at just over a year old. She was so ill, it was sad to see but my sister had to put her on a gluten free diet to see if it made her better then put her back on a normal diet including gluten to make her ill again in order to do a biopsy of her intestine to diagnose her properly. After she went through all that and it was diagnosed she was put on a strict gluten free diet and has been healthy ever since. She has the odd turn but that’s usually someone else’s fault when they’ve given her the wrong plate etc. It has never affected her growth and she’s a perfectly healthy 8 year old who’s already taller than most kids her age. I remember going shopping for the first time after her diagnosis and we spent nearly 2 hours going round Tesco looking at the ingredients on everything! She has never known any different with her diet because she was so young, she only knows gluten free and she knows what she’s looking for on ingredients. Of course she does miss out on some foods and when we first found out about her diagnosis the range of products available was really minimal! Gluten free has come a long way in 8 years but it is still ridiculously overpriced!
I realised it was gluten affecting me after I accidentally done a couple of days straight on a gluten free diet. It was only after eating a big bowl of pasta that it hit me. I decided to try going gluten free just to see if it made a difference and low and behold, it’s made a massive difference!!
I clearly didn’t realise how bad my diet was making me feel. I don’t know if it was because my body was so used to having it in my system on a daily basis that only a gluten overload, like a big bowl of pasta, would trigger the worst reactions. But looking back, I was always bloated but in my previous, dieting set mind, I thought I could only get rid of that belly by losing weight when in fact all I needed to do was change my diet!
It’s not been as easy as I thought. Because of my niece I already roughly know what I can and can’t eat and I know what I’m looking out for on packaging but you don’t realise how many things contain gluten! I popped into the supermarket after work the other day looking for a quick snack as I knew dinner wouldn’t be till late and I genuinely struggled to find anything that I could just grab and eat. I picked up a pack of roasted chicken bites thinking “they’re chicken, that’ll do” and it was only as I walked off that I decided to check the ingredients…. There is was, “wheat”, so back on the shelf they went. It’s so hard when you’re used to a “normal” diet and all of a sudden you can’t eat things you always have done. Even a can of own brand cherry Coke, I couldn’t work out what I’d eaten that was wrong but I knew I’d had something due to the headache and bloating. After 2 days of taking these cans to work I’d put it down with the ingredients facing me and there in bold was “Barley”. I’d just presumed it would be ok as it was coke!
My reactions to gluten seems 100x worse now, I’ve done pretty well with sticking to it but to begin with I’d had the odd little item such breaded cheese bites and an onion ring, dear god did I know about it! I had a stinking headache, bellyache and I felt so lethargic.
I know a lot more places are offering gluten free options these days which is great but when you live in a small town there actually aren’t many options. I’m not sure how my sister and niece have coped for so many years of going out for dinner! We have ordered gluten free pizza a couple of times from Pizza Hut, they’re a proper medium size and I don’t taste a difference from the normal bases. I’ve tried eating out a few times now and that has proved slightly harder. The first time we went out was to our local Mexican restaurant which was great! They are a traditional Mexican so everything is made from corn flour, the only thing out of the question was desert unfortunately and that seems to be my main issue. We’ve tried a Hungry Horse and though there wasn’t a great choice of mains, I found something I knew I’d like. It was when the kids wanted dessert and I realised I actually couldn’t have anything on the menu. I ended up eating the toddler’s ice cream. The third time was to Frankie & Benny’s who do have a seperate gluten free menu. It was nice having a burger but it came with a jacket potato as they can’t guarantee their chips will be ok. I’ve also been to McDonald’s where I decided to just take my own bun and order a burger without one.
It’s definitely taking some getting used to and I know I’m not going to completely crack it overnight given I’ve spent the last 30 years eating whatever I wanted but it’s been a couple of months now and I’m feeling so much better for it. I’ve changed my diet before so there’s no reason I can’t do it again.
I had a flare up a few days ago though and could not for the life of me work out what I’d eaten. I was really worried though as my niece had eaten the same as me at lunch but she was fine. After washing my hair last night I decided to read the back of my new shampoo and conditioner….. It contains gluten! I’ve now had 2 flare ups caused by haircare products, something you don’t even think to check! This has now prompted me to go to the doctor’s and get checked properly as if I am ceoliac, a simple thing like that can actually cause damage to my organs.
My sister and I are taking the girls to the Allergy and Free From Show in London this weekend which I’m quite excited about! I’m actually more looking forward to it to see my niece eating things that she possibly hasn’t tried before! I’m sure I’ll write up a blog post about it and tell you all about our new food finds and I’ll write up about my adventures with the doctor’s and food testing too.
For now though, I just need to be more aware of ingredients and what I’m buying when out shopping. It’s a new experience and I’m getting to try different foods again, I’m actually enjoying finding new things but I wish they weren’t so darn expensive!