Living a life Gluten free, or with Coeliacs disease has become increasingly common over the last 10 years. With Coeliac awareness week coming up next week from the 14th to 21st June, what better time to have a discussion and actually find out the ins and outs of what Coeliacs disease is and talk to a friend about what it’s like living with Coeliacs disease.
I personally have found this interview INCREDIBLY eye opening. I feel like I discovered so much just through this one short conversation and apart from the education around Coeliacs disease, I’ve also felt a greater awareness of how important it is to take the time to ask people about the things that effect them. I know you your gonna love this read. Enjoy.
Firstly thank you so much for agreeing to do this, for all the amazing people out there reading this, tell us a bit about yourself.:
I’m Caitlin, I’m 19 and a mother to a 6 month old daughter. I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease in October 2018.
So as your aware, Ceoliac awareness week is approaching and we thought it would be cool to interview you to get a bit of a perspective of what it looks like to live with Ceoliac disease on a day to day basis, when did you realize you had Ceoliac disease and how did you find out?
So each person with Coeliac has different symptoms and I am what is known as a ‘silent Coeliac’. I had no major effects and could eat gluten symptom free. It wasn’t until I was applying to join the New Zealand Air Force where they requested I get tested for Coeliac disease due to my low iron levels. The test came back positive and my results were off the charts, indicating I had been undiagnosed for a while, following this was a biopsy to confirm. Unfortunately this resulted in not being able to join the air force as they don’t accept people with Coeliac disease. Not only was I having to change my lifestyle as I’d been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, I now had to change my career path too.
How did you find the transition into a Ceoliac aware lifestyle? Was it hard? Easy? Or a bit of both? Tell us how it went for you
Transitioning to a completely gluten free diet was the easiest part of having Coeliac disease. I had always been interested in nutrition, had a great understanding of what is in our food so using that knowledge to change my diet was a breeze. The main challenge comes with eating a 100% gluten free diet when you are in public or visiting people’s houses. I soon felt like a problem or found people thought I was just on the “gluten free fad diet”. It was hard to feel comfortable eating out in unknown restaurants, not knowing if they had taken the precautions to ensure it was 100% gluten free or fearing your friends didn’t understand what is and isn’t gluten free.
So what happens for you and to your body when you have gluten?
Fortunately because I am a silent Coeliac, nothing happens when I digest gluten. Unfortunately the effects internally are still the same as those who react to gluten but physically I won’t notice a change.
In what ways has Ceoliac disease impacted your life?
Coeliac has significantly impacted my social life and ease of eating out with friends or at restaurants. You soon feel like a burden and a hassle when you constantly ask, “is this gluten free”, “could I please see your ingredients list”, “sorry I can’t eat here as it doesn’t have any safe food options for me”, “is your food safe for someone with Coeliac”. Having to be “that person” who questions everything in a restaurant or when at a friends house can very quickly become embarrassing and I felt the need to try and avoid these situations.
What kind of steps and precautions do you take now, both in your day to day life, and when you go out, to make sure you don’t end up suffering at the end of the day?
Some of the things I do to make living with Coeliac disease easier is always having a gluten free snack in my handbag in case there are no safe options for me. It is very common to not feel comfortable eating out in public so ensuring I have an option with me is a must. I often am the person who suggests the restaurant/cafe to meet at to ensure I am comfortable with their procedures of preparing gluten free food. If I don’t have a choice of location, I will ring a head of time to find out their gluten free options and decide whether it is safe for me to eat there.
Obviously this is a dumb thing to go through, but have you had any “silver lining ” moments where something positive has come from this?
For me, a huge positive is educating people who are unaware of what Coeliac disease is and the impact it has on people’s health and day to day lives. I notice that Coeliac disease isn’t commonly understood within my family/friends and the wider community so when I have the chance, I take the opportunity to educate others.
How have you found the learning process of it all, and have you found knowledge helpful in how you manage it?
The learning process has been interesting. Understanding how to read labels, not only in New Zealand but across the world. The rules differ between most countries, so I would have to say that understanding how people with coeliac disease live throughout the world is a big interest of mine. Being a part of a Coeliac New Zealand Facebook page has been a huge help in further developing my knowledge but also helping others. Having thorough knowledge of how to read food labels is the most important tool in ensuring the food you consume is 100% gluten free.
Are there any kinda, common ground people with Coeliacs disease, no matter how it manifests, could relate to? Any annoying, funny, interesting experiences that seem to be shared.
Many Coeliacs would agree that we often get comments or questions that make us either giggle or frustrated inside. Such as…
A: Is milk really gluten free?
B: Me: “Does the (whatever) contain gluten”, Waiter: “no sorry, it has eggs?…”
C:Wow you can eat rice?!
D: Oh, you can’t eat potatoes, aye?!
E: Do you have any gluten free options, yes our vegetarian selection is over here
F:Yes our chips are gluten free because we cook off the gluten at high temperatures
G: I don’t know how you do it, gluten free food is disgusting
H: Oh my gosh, is this really gluten free, it can’t be, it actually tastes good
I: A little bit won’t hurt you
J: Just risk it, have some cake
Any practical tips for a non Coeliac in terms of how we can support our Coeliac friends and family
Anybody who is friends or a relative of a person with Coeliac disease should always try and make them feel comfortable in social situations where food is involved. Ensuring there is a safe option for them is a great step by asking them ahead of time if what you are offering is safe. Another great tip would be to ask where they want to eat as most Coeliacs have a personal list of restaurants they can eat at.
And finally just to close off, any words of encouragement or handy tips / tricks you can share for anyone living with Coeliacs disease.
I would say my number one tip is learn how to read food labels and understand New Zealand’s labelling laws in relation to gluten free ingredients. Call restaurants ahead of time to understand their procedure to ensure your meal is 100% gluten free.
Once again thank you so much for your time, we have so appreciated your time in this and I’m sure you’ve been an encouragement to everyone reading this
There you have it folks. I hope you loved reading about Caitlin’s journey as much as I did and I hope that this has been both an education and an encouragement to everyone who reads it.
Remember to eat good and do good guys.
The Yum-Box Team