Last weekend I decided to start a gluten free diet. I’ve had problems with digestion and tummy ache for years, but recently, for about a week I had stomach pains and felt sick after everything I ate. I kept a food diary and couldn’t seem to spot any specific triggers, as it hurt after every single thing I ate – meal or snack.
I was starting to get scared of eating anything, so I eventually thought ‘enough is enough’ and after speaking to some friends decided I needed to try an elimination diet. Suspecting that the most common food allergies or intolerances are to dairy or gluten, I decided to start with the gluten free diet.
And I immediately started to panic.
I spent hours on Saturday looking around websites and reading up on what I could and couldn’t eat. It turns out, as a pescetarian (who eats very little fish and heavily relies on Quorn products) there is very little I can actually eat. Or so it seems.
After a bit of a cry (it’s a bit sad isn’t it, but I felt so overwhelmed), I found a brilliant checklist on the Coeliac UK site which gave me a table of yes foods and no foods. This was exactly the kind of simple thing I needed, so that a quick glance I can immediately see – and learn – what I can and won’t be able to eat.
I nipped out and bought a little Gluten-free recipe book and some basics from Holland & Barrett – bread, quinoa, muesli and pasta. It turns out some of these gluten free substitutes are rather expensive!
I can happily say that since cutting gluten from my diet I have noticed a massive – and immediate difference. After my first meal there was no tummy pain or sickness. Yes, I’m still struggling and think I will feel a bit overwhelmed for a while until I learn and remember good foods and bad foods. But hopefully it’ll also make me a bit more inventive and may even introduce me to some new foods.
I’m not sure yet if I’ll make it as a pescetarian/vegetarian… especially for situations like eating out at a restaurant. I’m sure Brighton will be very good, as it well caters for vegetarians anyway, but after having a quick glance at menus of restaurants and cafes elsewhere, (such as Northampton, where I grew up and often visit friends and family), the vast majority of gluten free foods on their menu are meat-based. I may be wrong and there may be people out there who cope very well as a gluten intolerant vegetarian or pescetarian, but that’s my initial feeling.
Although I know now from the immediate successful results that I am indeed intolerant of gluten containing foods, I want to know if I have an allergy (I suspect I’d be much more ill if I did, but I want to at least be able to rule it out). So after a visit to the doctor, they’ve booked me in for a blood test to check for an allergy in two weeks time. The only downside to that is that from now until the blood test, I need to reintroduce gluten into my diet and eat normally, or else the test will come up negative whether I have an allergy or not. So I’m not looking forward to the side effects of that (I’ve just eaten a packet of crisps and already feel sick and my stomach is not happy with me) but hopefully I can cope. Straight after the blood test I’ll just return to the gluten free diet.
I’ve found some great gluten free websites and online communities already so I know there will be lots of support and advice out there. I’m planning to also compare the ‘free from’ ranges at various supermarkets and visit health food shops like Infinity Foods in Brighton to stock up on some of the basics so I don’t run out of food (which has been my problem so far). I’d also be really interested to hear of anyone else’s experiences and tips.
And now to find some gluten free vegetarian sausages…