An especially hot-headed coeliac explores the misconceptions of ‘gluten-free’ diets.
Being ‘gluten-free’ is to food what the flare is to fashion right now: Super. Trendy. Fitness blogs are filled with gluten-free alternatives and it’s the norm to order GF bread with your poached eggs and avocado, thanks. However, for some people, like myself, eating gluten-free isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity for survival.
Coeliac disease occurs when the immune system reacts badly to gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. The small finger-like villi (or tissue, for those playing at home) that line the bowel become inflamed and flattened, and unable to absorb vital nutrients from food. This can lead to more serious conditions such as malabsorption and bowel cancer.
I was ‘trendy’ enough to inherit this condition from my mother when I was 12, 10 years ago. I like to think of my diagnosis positively. I mean, who doesn’t love to be on the cutting edge?!
Although as a 12-year-old being told you can’t have your cake (or any) really sucked. As I’ve grown older, I have missed so many delights my friends have enjoyed – from N2 ice creams to camera-friendly burgers to the simple pleasure in life, like Tim Tams. And hey, it’s all fun and games until someone brings out a Kit-Kat, which usually ends in heartbreak and tears (mostly mine).
Before GF became the MO, Mum and I made our own bread and flour from rice and corn based products; because there was no market for food without wheat, rye, oats or barley.
Nowadays, as society becomes more health conscious and every hipster and his French bulldog are ‘gluten intolerant’, the food (and variety of options) has certainly become better, but, conversely, the treatment worse.
Before, I was considered rare, and everyone would do their very best to not let their gluten encrusted knife touch my salad. Now, people hand me soft-white-gluteny-bread with my lunch, only to realise that I am actually coeliac. In this way, the ‘gluten-free’ rage has been a curse.
Here are the five things that coeliacs wish you knew:
#1 If you run out of gluten-free bread it is not okay to serve my avo on sourdough instead
The amount of times I have received a suspiciously good looking piece of white bread is astounding. I generally ask about it if it looks too good to be true. The waitress replies: ‘Sorry hun, we ran out of GF an hour ago, I hope that’s okay’. No, it is definitely not. If I had eaten it I would have spent the next eight hours vomiting.
#2 If you accidentally bring something out with croutons/tabouleh/non-GF bread you can’t just pick it off
Okay, so this is an extension of my former point. When the food has been spoiled by gluten, it has been spoiled. That cheeky little crouton could have ruined my day (and night).
#3 Gluten-free is not necessarily healthier
I understand that wheat is hard to digest, but if you are not coeliac or gluten intolerant, a gluten-free diet is not necessarily healthier. Sure if you cut out breads, pasta and cakes – your diet could improve. However, coeliac alternatives are usually full of sugar and salt to stop it tasting like sawdust; (note: it usually still does).
#4 It’s sincerely annoying to see people who call themselves gluten-free skip on their diet
If you’re going to go gluten-free, do it like the coeliacs do. We go cold turkey into the abyss of rice flour and corn alternatives because otherwise we could end up in ER. Seeing you dig into your cheeseburger after a particularly wild Saturday night is painful for me to watch. Mainly, because I wish I could dig into that cheeseburger, too.
#5 I don’t mean to be a picky eater, I have to be
I hear a lot of people complaining about gluten-free dieters, in the same way they complain about vegetarians and vegans. I hate being picky, so for me this is the worst bit. I apologise to everyone that has had to follow me from restaurant to restaurant looking for something I can eat.
Being a coeliac is not the end of the world. For those new to the diet, it becomes second nature soon enough. However, to those people who are going gluten-free for health, consult a professional, research the decision and make sure it truly is right for you.
For a proper diagnosis, book an appointment with your GP.
August 4, 20162:52pm