Hoping to be of help to all those living gluten free in the United Arab Emirates – نأمل أن نكون عوناً لكل من يعيش حياته خالية من الجلوتين في دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة
In June 2008 I was diagnosed coeliac. It was the biggest surprise of my life. I had come across only one coeliac in my whole life up to that day. And that was a man who drove a bull dozer and ate a whole packet of GF biscuits every day for ‘smoko’ and was embarrassed to be drinking wine with his mates in the pub. That day, when I hung up the phone, it was me and him against the gluten eating world. If he could do it, so could I.
At first, I thought those people who had separate toasters and spreads were a little extreme in their avoidance of gluten but now, three years down the track I have stopped using the toaster and I have my own butter in the fridge. I have been gluten bombed too many times to risk cross-contamination at home. I’m still prepared to risk it when I’m out. It’s a calculated risk but you have to trust other people. It is a lovely feeling when you open a menu and the gluten free options are marked or there’s gluten free toast to go under your eggs. I have taken my own gluten free toast to a cafe wrapped up in a serviette in my handbag before. Poached eggs sliding around the bottom of the plate are just no good.
What happens when I eat gluten?
Within a few hours I get bloated with a pain in my stomach and I get grumpy and tired and that lasts for about 3 days. But its not the short-term effects I worry about, its the long term effects of repeated assault on my immune system that worries me and keeps me vigilant.
Most shocking place to find gluten?
In the early days I was constantly shocked. Now, you could tell me there’s gluten in just about anything and I’d believe you. I’m still learning. But during the big discovery curve I think I was most shocked by soy sauce and liquorice. And most disappointed by the number of places you find malt.
What do I miss?
I can’t deny it, I miss really good fresh, crusty, bread. I dream about bread. But most of all I miss freedom with food. I miss experimenting with my taste buds, I miss being able to try new foods when I travel. I miss being able to choose whatever I like on a menu. Some days I think I miss sinking my teeth into a Big Mac and then I realise I’m just being melodramatic and remember that I didn’t eat Big Macs before so get over it.
What is the hardest part about being Coeliac?
The hardest part for me is finding a balance between being strict and having a normalish social life. Some days I’m prepared to take a risk, some days I’m happier with a very safe dressing-free salad. Some days I still feel hard done by. And then some days I
feel completely energised by the challenge. Cooking gluten free is so easy. There is so much good food on offer in the world without the need for gluten. But sometimes all I want is a sandwich without having to wait three hours to bake a loaf of bread. And sometimes I just want a good take-way pizza for dinner on a Thursday night. Or a shwarma when I’m starving. And that’s when being
coeliac is hardest. When I’m travelling and when I’m starving.
Over the past 6 months, while still adhering to a strict GF diet I have had persistent intestinal symptoms so I have been investigating my diet and my health through a nutritionist. The first step on this journey was an IgG food intolerance blood test through a GP. I have since heard (from two separate specialists) that these tests aren’t as accurate or diagnostic as they claim. After trying to cut 54 food items out of my diet I was actually glad to hear that news and put the money spent down to starting me on this journey to
better health. My biggest fear is that I will lose a love for food. I am glad that I love to cook and I try to see each chapter as just an interesting challenge. And in the end I try to remind myself that there are many people suffering much worse and I am Emma first, coeliac second.