Being Diagnosed with Coeliac Disease Changed my Life

Originally published on: December 14th, 2021.

Having a bladder or bowel condition can be a little more challenging over Christmas and New Year,  with the temptations of rich, indulgent foods outside of your normal diet. Coeliac Disease is a little known condition where the body’s immune system attacks the tissues when gluten is consumed.

Managing Coeliac DiseaseThis can cause damage to the lining of the large intestine and cause issues with absorbing nutrients. According to Coeliac UK around 1 in 100 people have Coeliac Disease but only 30% of these people are diagnosed. The main treatment is to follow a diet free from gluten.

Stella Nichols, 65 from Stockport kindly tells us how she manages this condition over the festive period.

“After suffering since my teens with stomach cramps and bloating, I was finally diagnosed  with Coeliac Disease in 2003, when I was 47 years old.

“I visited the doctor’s many times and was advised to follow a high fibre diet, which I now know was probably the wrong thing for me to do. Coeliac Disease was eventually picked up after I took part in a nationwide health survey, which involved a blood sample. The survey picked up that I was anaemic and that I needed to visit the doctor. I was prescribed iron tablets which rectified the problem temporarily but later on it was picked up that the anaemia had returned after I’d tried to give blood – I’ve been a blood donor for years. I was lucky they picked it up! My doctor ran a few more tests, which revealed that I was suffering from Coeliac Disease.

I used to get bread, biscuits, flour and other gluten free staples from the pharmacy

“Being diagnosed just before Christmas, I was advised not to change my diet until after the festive season. In the early days, I got bread, biscuits, flour and other gluten free staples on prescription, so  that helped. Now, it’s all available in the supermarket, which is much  more convenient. I used to have to order my bread weeks in advance and collect it from the pharmacy, which was always little odd! I don’t take any medication to control Coeliac Disease,  it’s all managed through my diet. I have always cooked and baked, so I just continued using gluten free ingredients.

“Over Christmas, there are some foods that I can’t eat and I understand that some people might find this very restrictive, but with careful management it is possible to enjoy a great Christmas feast gluten free. Also in the last few years gluten free food has become more readily available in the big supermarkets.

“If I’m eating out at a cafe, pub or restaurant I have to plan carefully ahead of time. I generally call the restaurant to ensure they can cater for Coeliac dietary requirements, and check the menu online if possible – then when I arrive I have to make sure every person who serves me is aware so there aren’t any mix-ups. I can’t fully relax the way I’d like to but if it saves me from the tummy upsets I’m happy with that! 

“This Christmas, I am lucky enough to be invited to spend Christmas with my daughter, who also suffers from Coeliac Disease, so we will be enjoying a most wonderful gluten free Christmas. There are a lot of very good gluten free cookbooks on the market which, if you’re prepared to bake, mean you can enjoy a Christmas feast as good as anyone. I have made a Christmas cake and pudding and will also make mince pies to take with me for the celebrations. On the savoury side you can eat as many vegetables as you like and the sauces and gravies can be made using cornflour instead of wheat flour. I will also enjoy a glass of wine!

“To those newly diagnosed with Coeliac Disease I would say take it easy and eat what you know is gluten free. Everyone is different. Personally, if I eat gluten I really suffer the next day, so it’s just not worth it. I also understand that if someone with Coeliac Disease eats gluten it can take up to six weeks for the gut to repair.

Being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease changed my life

“Being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease changed my life. I now no longer worry that I will be suffering with a cramped stomach for holidays or special occasions.

I think stressful situations also contributed to my symptoms, that has all gone now. What a relief! Doing without a doughnut or delicious bread, although annoying, isn’t worth the agony.

When I was first diagnosed, I really missed fresh bread and used to walk round the supermarket inhaling the scent of fresh bread being baked. Our sense of smell is closely related to taste, and it didn’t quite hit the spot – but almost!!

If you think that you may be suffering from Coeliac Disease, there is an online assessment  that may be worth filling in and taking to your GP at Coeliac UK  isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk