When you’re an anxious person anyway, getting diagnosed with something that adds a whole different level of anxiety can be tough to deal with. I’ve had panic attacks for 17 years and when I start to deal better with one aspect of my anxiety, it seems to spread to a different area in my life, I felt like I was always trying to play catch-up.
Sometimes, no, wait, most of the time, my anxiety would get the better of me. I’d give in and sign up for a new batch of therapy sessions. I’ve visited a variety of therapists including psychotherapists several times, I’ve attended hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It all seems to help for a few weeks – but then my mind slowly reverts back to how it was before. It’s frustrating.
When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2015 it was a shock. I was told my symptoms were probably down to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but the results came back and I was coeliac. I didn’t even know what being coeliac meant, and naively I thought I’d just cut out bread and cake and that would be it. Little did I know wheat, barley or rye seems to be in everything!
So like any newly-diagnosed coeliac, it was a steep learning curve. Buying new chopping boards, separating my food from my boyfriend’s in our house. I found work to be the toughest change to get used to, not just because colleagues bring in cakes I can’t eat, that part I can deal with pretty easily – it’s the sharing the same kitchen space that worries me. Preparing your own food with a kitchen surface scattered with crumbs isn’t ideal.
I was fine for the first 6 months or so, but then I experienced cross-contamination with a jacket potato I bought from a local cafe. The pain was unbelievable and made me feel almost instantly nauseous, I couldn’t stand up straight and I struggled driving myself home – unable to properly lift my foot off the pedals because of the pain.
That was the moment my problems with my food started. I was terrified that whatever I swallowed would make me feel like that, or worse, again. If that was only cross-contamination, what would happen if I ate something that wasn’t gluten free by accident?
Then it escalated to swallowing food I’d even made myself, so I knew it was safe! I felt my throat tighten as the food reached the back of my mouth. I constantly thought I was going to choke, it was awful. I suffered silently for a while before it became obvious with my family that I wasn’t eating meals in front of them. I’d go home starving. It’s not that I didn’t want to eat, it’s that I felt I physically couldn’t. I’d eat loads of food once I was home in a ‘safe’ and relaxing place.
I got angry at myself, I had struggled with panic attacks for so many years and now this was going to be the thing that pushed me the furthest?
At the end of 2016 into the beginning of 2017, a life-changing gluten free detector came onto the market, it’s called Nima. And by taking a pea-sized amount of your food, you can use this portable device to check whether your food is truly gluten free.
This device has helped me build my confidence when eating out. The device has found gluten in meals at restaurants where they swear their processes to avoid cross-contamination are tight. I’ve had around about a 25% success rate finding 100% gluten free foods, which is pretty shocking really.
Taking a backup noodle pot or a snack that is substantial is crucial when dining out with Nima. I’m so thankful for the countless times it has saved me from getting seriously ill. This type of device also alerts restaurants to a missing link in their ‘gluten free’ food processes – so everyone’s a winner.
I’m lucky, I have a very supportive network including my family and friends. My parents de-glutened their entire house, just so I felt I could eat with confidence – now, if that’s not support, then what is?
I think it’s important when you’re first diagnosed to take small steps. Trying to take everything in straight away can be overwhelming. There’s so much to learn but once you’re feeling better on your gluten free diet, things will start to slot into place and you’ll feel more positive about your new lifestyle.
It can take a few months for the diet to make you feel better. But when you start to see your symptoms disappear or lessen, it’s really great.
As soon as you’re diagnosed, start cooking from scratch immediately – this way you know what is in your food and it helps keep the sometimes extortionate gluten free prices at bay.
In time you will find substitute foods and locate the best flour, biscuit and pasta brands and you’ll become a pro. Checking the ingredients on packets like a hawk is something that probably won’t go away though – but that’s no bad thing!
I started a food blog to mainly make myself experiment more with my recipes and my food in general. I’ve loved cooking for many years before diagnosis but being diagnosed with coeliac disease helped me embrace cooking even more.
Even if I inspire just one coeliac or gluten-intolerant person out there to make a recipe or think more positively about their situation, I’ll count my blog as a success.
My blog has enabled me to work alongside some really great brands including Warburtons and McCains, so if you have any products you’d like me to honestly review, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Got any questions? Fire them over to me at nell[@]glutenousminimus.co.uk
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