This week is the official Coeliac Awareness Week, meaning brands, bloggers and coeliac folk will be raising their voices to spread awareness of the autoimmune disease. I was diagnosed 3 & a half years ago, and I can tell you coeliac disease is manageable and you can still eat exciting, tasty and yummy food!
I started my blog to inspire others on a gluten free diet and prove that you can still eat delicious tasting food which is healthy and good for you. Oat So Delicious is also a platform in which I want to raise awareness of the disease, and try to debunk so called misconceptions of what it means to have coeliac disease. Have a read of these ‘myths’ below and let me know if you thought any of these were true!
It’s a food allergy/intolerance
This is my absolute number one pet peeve I have with this disease – SO many people think it’s the same as having a gluten intolerance. The difference is simple – being gluten intolerant means you have external symptoms until the gluten is out of your system (bloating, gas, cramps etc), whereas coeliac disease causes both external and internal issues (still bloating, gas etc. but also damage to the small intestine, not absorbing nutrients & brain fog to name a few) and ultimately can cause permanent damage.
Gluten Intolerance is simply the body’s inability to handle gluten. Coeliac disease is much more serious, and left undiagnosed can cause long term damage.
We all have the same symptoms
As with any disease, symptoms can vary massively. Some coeliacs will be hyper sensitive to gluten, and get ill from the tiniest trace. However, there’s also ‘silent coeliacs’ who don’t have any external symptoms and wouldn’t ever know if they had eaten gluten! Unfortunately they still have the internal damage, and must therefore be extremely careful in what they eat.
To spin a positive light on the disease, at least I’ve had the symptoms pre-diagnosis, and there’s absolutely no way I would want to eat gluten ever again! Imagine never having the symptoms, but still having to avoid it all together? Much more willpower is needed!
Gluten and dairy are the same thing
I’ve lost count of the amount of times restaurants have told me I can’t have cheese with my meal, as it has gluten in it. However, apparently I’m allowed the bread?! Firstly, didn’t you learn about the different food groups in school? Secondly – gluten and dairy aren’t the same thing! Yes, quite a number of coeliacs may also be dairy/lactose intolerant, but that isn’t related to a gluten free diet. Rant over.
A small amount of gluten won’t harm you…
Whether I have ‘just a small amount’ or take a whole bite out of a normal, gluten-y fajita wrap before the waiter tells me he made a mistake and forgot to give me the gluten free version (this has happened to me), I can still get ill. Not just a little bloated and an upset tummy – but also the internal effects that many people don’t realise. This is basically my body stopping me from absorbing food and taking up to 6 months to heal my small intestine. So that little bit of gluten can have quite a dramatic effect, no matter what size!
This also counts for cross contamination – so wiping gluten-y hands on a tea towel and forgetting to put it in the wash will make that tea towel contaminated. Not wiping chopping boards/utensils with soap and water will mean it hasn’t been cleaned properly and therefore may still leave traces of gluten. And the most annoying – not being able to immediately kiss anyone who’s eaten something with gluten in!
You can ‘grow out’ of coeliac disease
Unfortunately no amount of time will cure coeliac disease, only a strict gluten free diet and lots of patience. It took me a year after my diagnosis to finally feel 100% normal, and even now I still have my moments! Coeliac disease is mostly common in children and over 60s, but it can be diagnosed at any age (I was 21). It may be a daunting thought that you can’t ever eat normal bread/cakes again, but all you have to do it learn how to make delicious gluten free alternatives and you’ll wonder what you ever worried about!
I don’t wallow in the fact I can’t eat gluten, I just make sure what I eat is tastier than anything I used to have.
For more information on coeliac disease, including symptoms and getting tested, visit Coeliac UK.