Prevention is better than cure

One of the most common questions amongst us coeliacs and those with severe gluten intolerance is ‘what do I do if i’ve been glutened (for those non coeliac/gluten intolerant peeps ‘being glutened’ means you ingested gluten accidentally … well you would hope accidentally as if you did it knowingly you won’t get much sympathy here and I include myself in that !).

I must start by saying I’m not a medical professional, nor am I a dietician or a nutritionist I’m simply a coeliac who has been known to gluten herself on a number of occasions and quite recently I managed it all by myself with no one else to blame. I’ve done a lot of research through online forums, blogs, articles, I’ve asked fellow coeliacs and I’ve tried various methods to remedy the situation and the answer is there is no one answer it depends on; the person, the amount of gluten ingested and the symptoms. For me it’s never been the same twice, sometimes mouth ulcers quickly develop along with pins and needles and that’s about it, next time stomach pain with chronic fatigue and/or joint pain so I’ve had to just go with what feels right based on the symptoms and in the main it’s been fasting, fluids and time until it passes.

I recently had the good fortune to find myself in the company of a dietician and a medical expert who specialises in this area….the dietician was not really sure what to recommend however the medical expert said ‘don’t let it happen again’ !…….’yeah right’ I thought as I rolled my eyes and walked away however I’ve thought about it a lot since and of course it makes total sense…..prevention has to be better than cure right ?! They went on to add ‘you’re not paying close enough attention and taking enough precautions’ and here I was thinking I’m like a military machine with everything I cook and eat and I’m pretty sure I’ve reached a point where most cafes & restaurants in Dublin have a wanted poster of me in their kitchens. When I really thought about it I realised I’m not always consistent and I do take risks especially if I’m in company as no matter how long you’ve been a coeliac you just hate feeling you’re holding everyone up at the dinner table with your questions, you feel others cringing in their boots as you dissect the menu, send wait staff back to the kitchen 20 times to check things and sometimes you think feck it how bad can it be let’s just take a chance here. When I look back at each time I’ve done that and not done my due diligence I have suffered in some way .

Just last week I went to meet my sister at her place of work for lunch and there was really nothing for me to eat (in a hospital no less !!) so I got myself 1) into a bit of a strop 2) into a bit of a panic and instead of saying jeez I’ll just skip it, have a coffee or grab a piece of fruit (boy wouldn’t that have been the sensible thing yo do) I bought what I thought was a gluten free cake and stuffed it down ….I wouldn’t mind I didn’t even want the cake I wanted lunch. As I was about to chomp into the very last morsel I decided to look at the ingredients only to discover it was not gluten free at all, in fact it contained 48% wheat AGHHH. I could have complained to the staff, written to the hospital in outrage and whilst that did cross my mind I was too mad with myself, my own stupidity and negligence. As it turns out the aftermath was not too catastrophic apart from a coughing fit that lasted a few hours followed by the desire to just sleep for days (the cough was a new thing I’d not experience before)….so there you go I proved my medical friend right.

In the end we can really only take responsibility for ourselves isn’t that true ?….people say oh it’s so much easier for coeliacs now as there’s so much available on the market and that’s so true, the are spoiled for choice with the range of dedicated gluten free brands and products out there so when you shop and make food in your own home you can control that 100% and take total responsibility. Once you go out to dine it’s a whole other ball game, you want prevention to win the war over cure and there’s many things you can do to live by that principle; 1) pick a restaurant you know caters for coeliacs/severe gluten intolerance (I’ll come back to that point later) 2) if the restaurant is of someone else’s choosing check menus online so you can see what your options are, if it’s not clear call them, let them know you’re going to be dining there and not only need options but need them to take extra care in the kitchen with what they prepare for you. This could also save you time when you get to the restaurant on deciding what you could or want to eat 3) when you get to the restaurant remind them again (the person serving you will probably not be the person you talked to on the phone), don’t just ask about gluten free options let them know you’re a coeliac or have severe gluten intolerance and ask them to let the chef know 4) if in doubt SHOUT….if something comes to the table you’re not sure about it ask 5) watch out for the food dippers….yes those people who love sharing and like tasting other people’s food because they think it looks better than theirs or just so they can say they tried it…..simply say in the nicest possible way ‘let me put some on your plate’ or ‘I know you’d really like to dip your bread in what I’m eating but that can’t happen sunshine, keep your dirty fork and your glutinous bread to yourself’ 6) ask for your own butter dish for your bread and keep it all to yourself.

Back to the point about finding restaurants that cater for coeliacs or those with severe gluten intolerance….there’s lots of blogs out there to help so do your research however we seem to be entering a new phase ! When gluten free started to become dare I say it ‘a fad’ restaurants were falling over themselves to provide options, some or a lot of these weren’t always suitable for coeliacs or people with severe gluten intolerance. Regulations around what constitutes gluten free, suitable for coeliacs and those with severe gluten intolerance has become much much stricter which is a good thing !! however what’s happening now is what I’d call the ‘no Coeliacs allowed fad’ 🙂 I had a recent experience in a cafe where a member of staff told me very loudly ‘no coeliacs can eat here now please step to one side madam’…needless to say I won’t be going back there but this is a brand I know promotes itself as healthy and gluten free so many coeliacs would assume it would suit their diet yet it seems not. So despite all the developments in this space there’s still a ways to go to support those with coeliac disease and severe gluten intolerance until such time as a miraculous cure is developed then prevention is for sure better than cure my friends.

Stay safe out there !!