9 things coeliacs wish other people knew
Being coeliac can be hard at times, particularly when other people are ignorant. Sometimes comments can get really irritating. See how many you can tick off from the 9 I've listed below.
1. Why cross contamination matters
It takes one fiftieth of a slice of bread to set off symptoms in a coeliac. That means preparing food on a bread board that's got (normal) breadcrumbs on it isn't okay. We also need separate toasters, fryers and grills.
2. It's not an allergy
Worried we might fall down dead? It's not that drastic, thankfully. Coeliac disease does not cause a reaction in the way it does to someone who's allergic to peanuts or sesame. But the symptoms are horrid. It's an autoimmune disease that, in layman's terms, means our body attacks itself when it's fed gluten. Carrying an EpiPen won't help.
3. We can't just have a little bit
See that crumb? That one on the end? It's enough to set off symptoms in coeliacs. Anything from diarrhoea to vomiting. Tempted? Me, neither.
4. It's not a choice
Some people give up gluten because they say it makes them feel better but they don't have a medical reason to do so. That's their prerogative. But for coeliacs there's no choice in the matter: it's imperative we avoid gluten so we don't get long-term complications (osteoporosis, anyone?).
5. It can be exhausting
Sometimes having to eat gluten-free feels like the last thing you need in your life, especially if you've got a young family or a demanding job where you're expected to travel a lot. If you see a coeliac getting upset because they're hungry, give them a break. This happens to us a lot, and the cumulative effect can take its toll.
6. It impacts the whole family
Going out for a meal can be a nightmare, even if you prepare in advance to go to a restaurant you can trust. And if you've got hungry little coeliacs in the family it's not fun to be told they can't eat. Eating at home isn't always easy, either. Unless everyone goes gluten-free, which can be expensive, you've got to make sure all the food is kept completely separate from anything containing gluten. Those toaster crumbs spread far and wide and it's really annoying.
7. It's expensive
The cost of a gluten-free loaf is roughly three quid. That's more than double most normal loaves. Biscuits and pasta is no different. If you want to eat cheaply as a coeliac, it means giving up a lot of food types and doing more food preparation as a result. Try making breakfast without cereal, porridge or toast. It's not exactly quick.
8. It takes a lot of planning
Scanning ingredients every time you have a meal can take f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Double-checking with waiters whether a dish is gluten-free can mean a lot of to-ing and fro-ing from the kitchen. Booking a holiday can mean having to pack half your suitcase with bread and crackers just in case there's nothing carb-based you can eat when you get to your destination. Sometimes, you just wish you could grab a sandwich from a shop.
9. It's not a fad
Sadly, coeliac disease is here to stay. Other diets come and go. And the main thing about other diets is they're usually chosen because someone wants to lose weight. Many coeliacs are trying to do the opposite, especially if they were diagnosed after becoming skin and bone from being so malnourished.
Do you routinely get asked an annoying question as a coeliac by someone who doesn't know better? Do share your woes!