The last time we chatted (was it really that long ago? How time flies!) I was facing redundancy and had not long discovered I have ceoliac’s disease – an intolerance to gluten which imposes the necessity of checking every single ingredient in every single thing sufferers eat to ensure they don’t trigger the condition.
Which also means telling restaurant staff – complete strangers – all about it, so they can go and check with kitchen staff that a chosen menu item is gluten free.
Sometimes they do this cheerfully and tactfully, without making you feel like you’re an attention-seeking freak, sometimes they already know a little about gluten intolerance and have a ready prepared menu or a knowledge of which items you should avoid. And sometimes they look at you as if you’ve got a screw loose and are deliberately trying to wind them up.
Often, waiting staff return from the kitchen bemused and surprised, to share their amazement that the pre-grated cheese does, indeed, contain flour when who would have thought it? (It’s often given a coating to stop it sticking together in the bag). And I nod and smile and think well, me, actually, which is why I asked in the first place. I don’t make it up for the fun of it!
You’ll not guess from all this, I bet, that I’ve found having ceoliac’s disease, well, a bit hard to stomach. To the extent that to begin with I kept quiet about it as far as remotely possible and made my own mind up about a food’s suitability.
“When something says ‘may contain gluten’, I’ve worked on the principle that it probably doesn’t,” I told the dietician at my recent check-up.
“I’m afraid you should work on the principle that it probably does,” she replied. “Let’s order another blood test, shall we, to see how effective your gluten-free diet actually is?”
I haven’t had the results back yet but I’m not holding my breath. Since that moment, though, I’ve become more rigorous than before in reading food labels and asking in restaurants, and have my fingers crossed that, now, I’m doing enough to show a difference. Still not enjoying it but hey, I should be thankful.
Ceoliac’s Disease is easy enough to control and there are more and more products available in our supermarkets to help with the job. I miss my favourite bread and cakes, true, but in the grand scheme of things I only have to put up with a bit of inconvenience and a heavy sprinkling of self-inflicted mardiness.
And it would do me no harm to remember, when I’m feeling particularly down about the unfairness of it all, that life isn’t particularly fair, that people do get ill, but that there are lots of people out there who have things much, much worse than me.
You can find out more about living with coeliac disease from the excellent charity Coeliac UK.