My life without gluten - as part of coeliac awareness week

09:55 14 May 2014

gluten-free - coeliac feature (north devon) week 20

gluten-free - coeliac feature (north devon) week 20

Archant

As part of national Coeliac Awareness Week from May 12-18, North Devon Gazette reporter Sarah Howells reflects on life without gluten…

As part of national Coeliac Awareness Week from May 12-18, North Devon Gazette reporter Sarah Howells reflects on life without glutenAs part of national Coeliac Awareness Week from May 12-18, North Devon Gazette reporter Sarah Howells reflects on life without gluten

Imagine a life without bread. Or cake, biscuits, pasta, pizza, vinegar on your chips and a whole host of other foods containing gluten.

This is the life around one in 100 people suffering with coeliac disease face across the UK.

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) when I was 11 years old but instead of seeing it as restricting my diet, I feel it’s opened up a range of choices.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition, which means every time I eat gluten, my body essentially attacks itself, wearing down the lining of my small intestine.

The symptoms can vary among sufferers, from stomach pains, diarrhoea, dramatic weight loss and vomiting to headaches, weight gain, recurrent miscarriages, hair loss and bloating.

There is no known cure – once you are diagnosed it is forever– and the only treatment is a lifelong gluten free diet.

Gluten itself is found in a variety of grains and cereals, which means staple foods such as bread, flour, cereals, cakes and biscuits are out of the window.

But it can also be found in a lot of processed foods such as cooking sauces, soups, ready meals, battered foods, sausages, burgers and also in beer.

My symptoms began when I was at school. I was one of the smallest in the class, looked worryingly thin and had constant stomach pains.

After many failed trips to the doctor, I saw a different GP on one occasion and he suggested that I might be intolerant to gluten.

I had to have a blood test and then an endoscopy which involved putting a tube down my throat (under anaesthetic) to provide a diagnosis.

The small intestine is lined with villi –small folds to increase the surface area to absorb food – but in coeliac disease sufferers these are destroyed when gluten triggers a response causing the body attack itself and wear these down.

As soon as the results confirmed I had coeliac disease, I immediately had to cut out gluten, and from there my symptoms improved drastically.

I was lucky my coeliac disease was caught early on in my life – if left untreated it can lead to serious malnutrition, infertility, and osteoporosis.

Many people who have coeliac disease have been misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in the past – the average length of time for someone to be diagnosed from the onset of symptoms, according to Coeliac UK, is 13 years.

Life as a coeliac disease sufferer has improved over recent years – there are so many options available and great places to eat out safely across North Devon.

In giving up gluten I’ve spent many hours experimenting in the kitchen, trying foods I never would have looked at before and my diet is the healthiest it’s ever been. I also write a blog about my gluten free life at www.theglutenfreeblogger.com.

If you think you may have coeliac disease, you should always consult your GP before eliminating any food groups from your diet. For more advice contact Coeliac UK on www.coeliac.org.uk.

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 17:07
Tesco is set to close 43 stores nationwide

Tesco has confirmed which 43 stores it will close in the UK - with North Devon’s seven stores unaffected.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:47
Cabinet Minister Francis Maude MP flanked by Peter Heaton-Jones and trust director Ian Cowling.

The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway has been visited by cabinet Minister Francis Maude MP, who praised its plans and vision.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:09
The seals are released at Combe Martin Beach. Picture: Dawn Gilbert.

Wildlife Park and RSPCA return more orphaned seal pups to the wild.

Read more
Yesterday, 10:47
North Devon could be facing snow blizzards this weekend. Picture: Guy Harrop.

Met Office warns of possible disruption and difficult driving conditions with potential of heavy snow on Sunday.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 6°C

min temp: 0°C

Most Read News

Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Subscribe to the paper
Competitions
North Devon Football League
Order Photos
Family notices
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus Page
Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

Image
Read the North Devon Gazette e-edition today E-edition

North Devon's trusted business finder