Thursday, 27 May 2010

Letters Page 2

Another reader has been in touch. She asks some very good questions and is generally a little overwhelmed by the prospect of living gluten free. She is a student too so it's not as easy for her to cut gluten out on a small student loan budget.

Alice, I forgot to mention, contact Coeliac Yorkshire for details of Coeliac support groups in your area. I personally have never been to one but have thought about setting one up. It's tricky as I am not coeliac but wheat intolerant. If there are any coeliacs out there who are interested in setting something up, give me a shout.


I just read your article on the Guardian website about eating out in Leeds as part of the Coeliac awareness week and wondered if i might ask you for some advice. I had a look at your blog and found it really helpful to read such positive and uplifting thoughts about living gluten free.

I am a student at York University and have good reason to believe I am being made unwell by eating gluten. I have been really ill for the past couple of months, and cut out gluten when the doctor decided to take some blood to test for coeliacs. I'm still awaiting the results but since cutting out gluten i've felt loads better. i did an experiment by eating an oatcake containing gluten a couple of days ago and after a couple of hours felt terrible.

Sorry for the long winded explanation, but I was just wondering if you could share how you felt when you first thought you might have it. I'm finding it really difficult to deal with at the moment. Its not easy finding people who understand whats going on! Any advice you could give would be really great. If you dont mind telling me I was wondering how you got diagnosed and what the process actually is. Do you by any chance know of any support groups in the York area?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and for your wonderful blog!

Best wishes

Alice Longhurst

My reply...

Hi Alice

Thank you for your email. I am really happy to help you where I can, although I am not an expert, I merely share my experiences.

I personally am wheat intolerant, not coeliac, but a lot of the lifestyle implications for me are the same for coeliacs.

I suffered with symptoms for a few years before I figured out what was wrong. The symptoms were very mild to start with such as bloating after a meal. Gradually as things got worse, I suffered stomach cramps, trouble going to the bathroom, sore back, headaches, moodiness/mild depression, fatigue, and my usually clear skin became very spotty. It sucked basically!

After having tests for poorly kidneys and eventually blood tests for coeliacs disease we still didn't know what was wrong. It got to the point where I was afraid to eat and I went from a size 12 to a size 6. I looked dreadful.

My doctor then asked me to try a process of elimination. The first thing I did was cut wheat out of my diet for 1 month. It did the trick.

Ever since (this was last November) I have been figuring out wheat-free living and decided to write a blog to take the edge off a pretty crappy situation. Helping people like you has made a positive out of a negative.

What I would do if I was you would be to cut gluten out until you get your results. If they say you haven't got it, get a second opinion. You can buy tests online to find out what it is that doesn't agree with you. They are expensive sometimes, and I cannot vouch for their reliability, but it's worth a shot.

Here are a few tips on what you can do whilst you are trying a gluten-free diet:

* DS (Dietary Specials) have a range of products available at Morrison's. They are the best value for money I have come across (I know what it's like to be a skint student!). I regularly eat their pasta which isn't too expensive at around £1.60 a packet. That will last you about a week for dinners I reckon.

* No Morrison's near by? Sainsbury's, ASDA and Coop all stock gluten-free goods but are not always as nice/reasonably priced as Morrison's which I think accomodate our diet much better than anywhere else. Failing that, try your local health food store.

* Invest in a big bag of rice as it's a great staple for coeliacs. I have it with everything, even with pasta sauce.

* Keep checking ingredients on product labels. Things you think would be gluten-free might not be such as pasta sauce or sausages.

* Avoid M&S - they sprinkle flour on EVERYTHING and do not accomodate our diet as yet.

* Call restaurants and friends who invite you for tea before you go to make sure you can either bring your own stuff or they understand what you need to avoid in your diet. Don't trust anyone's cooking unless they are well educated about it or it's something safe you know you can eat.

* Making your own soup is really really cheap and if you use pulses and beans you will get lots of protein to help fill you up. It's a pain but you could just put aside one evening a week to make a week's worth for lunch. There are loads of nice, cheap soup recipes online

* Jacket potatoes are really cheap and you can just have them with cheese or beans or whatever you like really! Lots of options just be careful to check the ingredients of your toppings. Everything that isn't a whole food should be checked until you get to know what's contains gluten.

If you turn out to be a coeliac, you should get food on prescription. You will get prescriptions for free if you are a student up to a certain age. I believe a Yorkshire gluten-free food producer called Livwell provide prescription food. They are sending me samples so I will write a post about their stuff soon.

Keep your chin up and I promise it will get easier. It's taken 6 months for me to get into a routine but now I manage pretty well and even my boyfriend eats wheat-free most of the time quite happily.

You have inspired me to write a post about gluten-free on the cheap for students or those suffering in the recession. Look out for it in the next few weeks.

Keep in touch.

Please get in touch if you need to talk to someone in the same boat. The whole reason I do this blog is to make a bad situation better by helping other people out a little bit. Email me here.


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