Life as a coeliac student

Being a student can be a daunting enough challenge, so we’ve compiled lots of useful advice for you to ensure that having coeliac disease needn’t be an issue in your day-to-day activities!

Registering with a GP

When you start university or move away from home, it’s essential to get registered with a doctor as soon as possible. This is not only important for managing your coeliac condition, it’s also important to do so in case any other health issues arise during your time at university.

The chances are the university you’ve chosen to attend will make it as easy as possible to register with an NHS General Practitioner, and this will be covered in your overall registration process during Freshers’ Fortnight. In fact, some universities even have a GP Surgery on-site! However, the NHS also have a useful GP Finder on their website so you can see what’s available to you in that specific area, should you need to.

Once you’ve registered with a doctor, you should speak to them about whether or not you may be entitled to help with prescription costs. They will most likely give you a HC1 Form to complete and send off to check your eligibility. You can also find out more through this NHS page.

Eating gluten-free when out and about

There’s nothing worse than those hunger pangs when you’re out and about! Being coeliac, in order to ensure access to safe foods, there does have to be a little pre-planning involved! But don’t think that “being organised equals being boring,” – once you get into the habit it’s actually great, because it means you never have to go hungry, whenever you’re out and about!

Be organised on the move - always keep your bag/rucksack stocked with a couple of snacks –such as a combination of fruit, nuts*, crisps*, and a gluten-free cookie, cake or flapjack. If it’s homemade, then even better! The Juvela Gluten Free Flour Mixes are really versatile and can be used to make just about everything!

Eating out - research your local cafes, snack bars and restaurants-make a note of the ones that are able to cater for a gluten-free diet. Many restaurant chains offer gluten-free alternatives and some have a separate gluten-free menu.

Festivals - some of you may be lucky enough to be attending one of the many festivals around the UK, from Glastonbury to V Festival and Camp Bestival, there are so many fun events on with new ones popping up every year!

Camping can make cooking your gluten-free food more difficult, but with a little preparation before you go, you’ll find it so much easier when you’re there! We thought it might be useful to share some tips and advice to help you!

Top tips for keeping safe:

  • There will often be food outlets at the event, which can cater for a gluten-free diet, but always remember to check that the food has been prepared in a gluten-free environment, not all vendors are aware of cross-contamination risks and sometimes a sign or menu saying ‘gluten-free’ might make you think its ok, but it’s always worth just asking a few questions for peace of mind!
  • Make sure you have a ‘back up’ meal or snack in your bag at all times, you may find yourself in an area where there aren’t any suitable food suppliers and if all your friends are eating there you won’t want to just sit and watch!
  • If you’re planning to barbecue when you’re there, there are lots of gluten-free sausages and burgers available – just make sure everything else that’s on the barbecue is gluten-free, or keep your food separate to be safe!
  • Remember - If in doubt, don’t have it!

Parties - Partying is an inevitable part of student life and there is no reason why you should miss out. However, it is important to only choose suitable drinks (both soft and alcoholic (over 18yrs)), and avoid bowls of snacks that may not be gluten-free. If you’re going to a house party, why not take along your own snacks? Many crisps and nuts are naturally gluten-free, but always remember to check the label beforehand.

Alcohol (over 18yrs) - Beer, lager and stout all contain gluten and should be avoided. Cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port and liqueurs are all suitable for people with coeliac disease and there are some great gluten-free beers available now.

Read related article: Eating Out

Your gluten-free uni checklist

Follow these steps for a simple transition to college/uni:

  1. Register with a local GP
  2. Set up your gluten-free prescription* to help with staple foods and choose a local pharmacy
  3. Get some of your own kitchen utensils
  4. Be mindful of cross-contamination (in shared accommodation, parties etc.)
  5. Keep your cupboards/freezer well stocked in case you get skint!
  6. Clearly label your food as gluten-free and keep separate
  7. Carry a gluten-free snack in your bag/rucksack – you never know when you’ll need it.

*if you are in an area that offers gluten-free prescribing.

More importantly: stay safe and have fun!