Martin was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2019. Read about his journey and tips for...
Louise has always been a foodie. She learnt to adjust to a gluten-free diet and still enjoy the food she loves. Read about her story here...
When did you get diagnosed with Coeliac Disease?
I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease back in 2019 when I was 18, and I am now turning 21. I had previously suffered for a number of years with a variety of symptoms and stomach trouble. Some of which now make sense following my diagnosis. At first, I was thought to just have increasingly bad IBS, but as a matter of fact my blood tests showed up with Coeliac Disease.
How did you feel about the diagnosis?
At first, I was shocked and felt overwhelmed by all of the information given to me. I had heard very little about Coeliac Disease, and now I suddenly had to be an expert on the gluten-free diet and cross-contamination. I had to read up on information, hints and tips and my family had to do the same. All I could do was go through all of my favourite foods and think to myself, 'I can't eat that ever again.' I remember getting home from the doctor's, and my mum and I went to the supermarket and started to stock up on all of the free-from products that I would need to start eating. Needless to say there were a few tears cried over not enjoying what I now had to eat!! However, this was before I knew that actually... you don't have to eat everything from the free from aisle (yay!).
What was your relationship with food like before you were diagnosed with Coeliac Disease?
I have always been a great foodie from a young age. I just love eating. Food makes me happy!! Growing up, I never really had any obvious symptoms after eating until about the age of 16. I then started to get bothered with bloating after meals, indigestion, abdominal uncomfortableness, and I was losing a lot of weight, so much so that I dropped a dress size. After that, I felt conflicted with food because I loved to eat all of my favourites like pasta, vanilla pastries, Chinese takeaway, and a good old floury roll. However, I did not appreciate the symptoms that occurred afterwards. I began to be a little more cautious of what I was eating, but I tried not to let that stop me, despite being anxious about what symptoms would occur. But a gluten-free diet has helped that!!
Have you ever felt like you have missed out because of Coeliac Disease?
Yes, this is a biggie for me. Being so young, it can be even more difficult as socialising, travelling, and lifestyle are big factors in your younger years. From what I've heard, the gluten-free world has expanded significantly over the years, with more choices on the shelves and most places offering gluten-free alternatives - which is amazing! However, there are little things that affect me and make me wish I could eat whatever I want.
Spontaneity is very difficult being coeliac. Being a student, I feel I cannot go out for food or enjoy a takeaway with friends at any given moment. It has to be from a place with gluten-free options and somewhere I personally trust.
While my symptoms are not as severe as others, I still know that avoiding cross-contamination is important to maintaining a healthy gut (shout out to Nandos - my fave place). This can be difficult when others don't understand the disease, and you can feel like a burden or like the awkward one, but sometimes you have to brush it off and know that it's for your own good. It's good to check online, phone up ahead or ask others for their experience of eating gluten-free somewhere. The same goes for travelling.
I get asked the most: "How can you watch other people eat that when you can't?". It doesn't bother me. When you can't have something often, you stop looking for it. It gets easier with time. (My family are pretty good at describing things to me so I feel like I've had a bite - ha-ha).
Did you notice a difference in mood and health after sticking to your gluten-free diet?
To be honest, not particularly. It's not an instant fix. It takes time for your gut to heal and to mentally get used to the fact that this is your diet from now on. In terms of health, I still experience some of the symptoms, but I work closely with my dietician and GP to manage them. I still suffer from IBS, and I have recently cut lactose from my diet (as this is closely related to Coeliac Disease). It has helped me, and I feel more on the road to feeling better and happy with my gut.
I think the more significant difference was my mood. Although I felt quite down and overwhelmed at first, I grew more confident finding gluten-free products accidentally on the shelves and my family and I got more clued up on the disease. I felt much better and felt I was finally getting answers and could begin to feel better.
What does eating "well" mean to you?
Without stating the obvious, it's really important to keep a balanced diet to aid your gut healing, but eating well is so much more!!
Eating well is enjoying what you're eating, feeling like you have options and seeing the faces of others enjoying your creations and saying, "you would never know this is gluten-free"- it's such a mood booster!
By eating the right things, I had much more energy to enjoy the things I love doing the most. I began to cook from scratch (something I never thought I would be doing so often) with the help of Becky Excell's recipe books and got right back into my baking which I share over on my Instagram page (@bakes.by.lou).
What's your favourite Juvela product and what do you make with it?
I am very lucky here in Scotland to receive the Juvela products on prescription. My favourite has to be the Juvela Part-Baked White Rolls. These are delicious and taste like the real thing. I love keeping it simple and adding some lactose-free cream cheese and smoked ham for a lunchtime treat. Although I do sometimes pop on some garlic butter and have them as garlic bread! However, if you get into home baking like me, the Juvela White Mix can be used for almost anything - from cakes to bread!
And finally, what's your top tip for staying positive?
Be patient. The gluten-free diet is complicated at first, and gluten can pop up in the most random places. Embrace trying all the different brands and variety of foods available but explore recipes and cooking! Get yourself some basic spices and good recipes, and trust me, you can recreate some of your ultimate favourites (but 100x better). Do your research, and you can discover some of the amazing, safe places to eat out too! Don't be afraid to educate others as that is how we spread the word on Coeliac Disease :)