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Living with an eating disorder or allergy is not fun. When you go shopping or out to lunch or dinner you constantly have to ask if it hasn’t got whatever it is you’re allergic to in it, what the alternatives are and then resign yourself to the fact that it could be another rather boring meal. That was certainly how I felt when I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease around 6 years ago. When someone is diagnosed with Coeliac Disease it means that their body is unable to process gluten, a protein found in wheat, oats, barley and rye. If that sounds a bit complex, let me put it this way. A coeliac is unable to eat bread, cake, pizza, certain types of noodles, burgers, pasta and so much more that I could list but don’t have the space to do so. For a student, that is a nightmare. I can’t eat in Pizzeta or Sultans. Nothing from Greggs and I am limited in my choices at many of the other eating establishments on campus and in town.
Eating establishments is actually the reason I have written this article. In the past 6 years since I was diagnosed, my condition has become much wider known, I’m having to explain it a lot less (most of the time), but many places to eat aren’t really taking my notice of people like me. Coeliac UK, the main supporter of people with this condition, think that there are around 1 in 100 people with the condition. That may not seem like a lot, but on a campus the size of Lancaster’s there should be about 150 coeliacs. Still doesn’t sound like much, but there are those who think that this number may be on the increase. When I was diagnosed the figure was 1 in 1000. It’s a big difference. But like I’ve said above, there is little that restaurants and cafés are doing about it. I love eating out, I love my food, I truly do, but trying to find somewhere to eat is a nightmare. When first dating my boyfriend and I had to explain what I could and couldn’t eat the only place we could find where there was something gluten free was Wetherspoons and even then it was ham, egg and chips. My boyfriend is a fan of Italian food, the only thing I could eat was the mushroom risotto. (Yes I could have had the salads, but I have to be careful of the dressings, plus I like my meat). And it wasn’t for want of looking. Every place I pass that has a menu I will scan it to see if I can eat there. If not, I have to move on. But things are getting better. Bella Italia now has a gluten free menu, including very nice tasting pizzas. Pizza Margarita also do gluten free pizzas, but you have to give them at least two hours notice before turning up, so if you decide on the spur of the moment that you want to go out for lunch or dinner then it’s not the best. At Bella Italia you can turn up and just tell them you are a coeliac and they have no problems. 1725 label everything that is gluten free and dairy free making it really easy to go out with friends as well. Many other places are being more coeliac aware these days, indeed, more aware of eating disorders and allergies in general. It is becoming easier to eat out. But it is still an uphill struggle. There is no cure for what I and so many other people have. I will live on a gluten free diet for the rest of my life and there is a good chance that my children will have the disease as well.
So if one of your friends becomes a coeliac, think before you say where you are going out for dinner or for drinks. If they are newly diagnosed don’t wave toast in their face. Be a friend and support them through a lifestyle change I would not place on anyone. Coeliac’s disease is not a choice, it is something that happens.
If you want more information on Coeliac’s Disease then go to the Coeliac UK website for more details (www.coeliac.org.uk).