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The hidden dangers of gluten - what you need to know

Is gluten lurking where you least expect it?


Ali Walsh after being glutened
What can you do when you've been glutened?

It certainly was when I first got diagnosed with coeliac disease. From soy sauce to salads, gluten seemed to be everywhere, and boy did I know about it when I accidentally had some.


Let me take you back to 1999 when this all started. I hadn't yet had my biopsy but I'd had a positive blood test for coeliac disease and had been told it'd be a year before they could do an endoscopy.


Since I was in crippling pain, there was no doubt in my mind that going gluten-free immediately was the best option (and I'd worry about the gluten challenge* later).


But because I'd not yet had a proper diagnosis, I hadn't had any help from a dietitian about food and had no idea what contained gluten. The challenges of a gluten-free diet seemed insurmountable. The internet wasn't the goldmine it is today so there was little help there. Gluten-free advisory books were few and far between.


I ended up looking at fresh food like rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, plain meat and fish and thinking, "Right, what can I make out of that?"


But every so often I'd be out at a restaurant and they'd get my food order wrong. Or someone would cross-contaminate, not realising using the same tongs to pick up my food as the food with gluten in would mean I'd get sick. Understanding coeliac disease clearly wasn't their priority.


And then there was the salad I bought from a pick-n-mix lunch counter. I remember wondering what the tiny little beige pieces were. When I was doubled over in pain 4 hours later, I discovered I'd eaten orzo (a type of tiny pasta with wheat in).


But let's go back present-day. It may be over 20 years later but experiences for people who need to avoid gluten are often the same. Managing your diet after coeliac disease means it's imperative you avoid gluten at all costs, so here's a checklist of foods you might not have realised contain gluten.

Gluten-free checklist with foods to avoid
Gluten-free checklist (please ignore the red squiggles!)

Did anything on the list surprise you? Is there anything you'd add? After all, when you're living with coeliac disease you may have unique favourite foods you can't have any more that should come with a warning. Do let me know!


* For those who don't know, the gluten challenge is a 6 week period where you eat gluten at least twice a day so that tests (like a biopsy) will be accurate and show flattened villi in the small intestine. A coeliac who's on a strict gluten-free diet will likely have healthy villi, which would give a false negative.

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Hi! Great to have you here...

My name's Ali and I help people on gluten-free diets have a better, easier and healthier lifestyle. 

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