My Coeliac Test Story

Here lies my coeliac test story, of beige food, a blood test and temperamental bowels. Of thinking more about the food we buy, where we buy it and why we buy it.

I have food intolerances and this means that I probably won't be intolerant to certain foods forever. Some intolerances linger for years, some go in a few months, sometimes it feels as though I'm intolerant to water.

In September, after I got back from holiday and things had settled down a bit in my new job, I decided to go for a coliac disease test. The GP had finally agreed to test me back in April but it wasn't the right time.

I wanted to rule it out once and for all. I argued that if I had a medical condition then I should know about it. If it was positive, I would stop doing damage to myself by being lazy about crumbs in the marge and the odd pot of KFC gravy.

Before you can have the initial test for coliac disease (a blood test), you must eat a 'normal' diet (with gluten) for 6 weeks. The equivalent of 4 slices of bread a day. I tried keeping a diary.

After 13 years on the wagon, there were quite a few things I was excited to eat again and many new things that I hadn't tried. Put it this way, I didn't do it the healthy way. Greggs, Dominoes, Krispy Kreme, Lidl bakery, naan breads with a curry, mixed starters from the Chinese, battered sausages, bacon and cheese slices, proper noodles, chicken kievs, cherry pie. I discovered that a few of my old favourites were no longer as great and I discovered many new favourites.

Week 1 observations - Sat: Buy multipack of Scampi Fries in B&M. Husband says "you may want to consider a gym membership". We shop for dinner. The husband seems more excited about shopping options than I do. I'm still waiting for the world of pain. Brunch is fried breakfast with soda bread. It's not as exciting as my usual colourful veggie concoctions. Sun: Up early but no need to pre-prepare breakfast or lunch. Breakfast is a sausage sandwich which is awesomely dull. Later on I buy a chicken slice and all I can taste is salt. I check the packet, not good. No wonder people are getting so ill. 5 minutes later I feel drained. Is it the salt or wheat making me feel like I just woke up in a hedge? It feels like I haven't eaten a vegetable in days.

Week 2 observations - Thu: Almost completely out of love with gluten after a very disappointing lunch. Weirdly I miss GF food. Perhaps they use better quality ingredients? I'm certainly more excited about a new GF product than eating something with gluten in it.

Week 4 observations - Normal foods feel so below par. Like no effort has been made to make it nice. Nothing is memorable. I'm struggling to think of any product I'd buy again. All the food discounted in the supermarkets is convenient with minimal nutrition. It's so easy to be very lazy.

But there were bigger discoveries during this time. There were whole aisles in the supermarket I'd never walked down in years, except to get to the tills. I had to take the supermarkets a section at a time. Week 1 breads, week 2 cereals etc. It was too much to do in one go. The choice was overwhelming and seemingly more ridiculous than 13 years ago. Why was there a whole aisle of breakfast oat bars? Why sell individual giant bourbon biscuits?

My plates became beiger. I missed colour and everything tasted way too salty. I put on weight quickly and my metabolism slowed to nothing.

Also during week 4, I wrote 'Realising how much we're ripped off. The supermarkets didn't just replace the flour in normal items. They created new and very expensive ranges of 'free from' food.'

I realised that I'd become completely reliant on these ranges. As much as I shopped at Lidl and Aldi for fruit, veg, rice etc, I needed bread and pasta. I had no choice but to slope back to the bigger chains for some essentials. I hated them for this. If they removed flour from normal foods, there would be more choice overall.

My general wellbeing was suffering but gluten wasn't giving me any bowel trouble. I kept waiting for it, but nothing happened. By the end of the 6 weeks, something started to feel not right. I started to feel like I had years ago. It felt so odd to feel a discomfort and a worry after so many years. I was getting a soreness in my lower abdomen, I couldn't go to the toilet properly (too hard, too soft or too infrequent), I was permanently bloated, I felt depressed, my immunity was down and my mouth was full of ulcers. I thought maybe the results might be positive.

2 weeks after the blood test I rang the GP. The test was negative.

I was confused, relieved, annoyed, frustrated, upset. I booked to see the GP for a chat. He told me to go on the FODMAP diet. Me and the husband went completely dairy, onion and garlic free straight away and the husband's IBS has improved considerably. Mine, not so much. I'll do the full diet after Christmas, I promised myself. Instead I'm taking part in Veganuary. The animals come first.

I'm in a weird place diet wise. I dread being asked to someones house for food. I'm clearly not as intolerant to gluten as I used to be. I can tolerate a bit. Which is great. I can eat my mum's gravy, the odd battered sausage. I just need to be careful. I suffer slightly and it can last for weeks. Or not.

It has been an odd learning experience. I have learned that I was too obsessed with being gluten free. I see people doing it now and it frustrates me. Like any illness, you shouldn't let it take over your life. I imagine I've annoyed/bored a lot of people over the years.

However, I also learned that the gluten free life isn't such a bad one after all. I didn't appreciate what I had, and that was a wonderfully varied, healthy diet. I know what's in my food and I can control the amount of fat, sugar and salt I eat very easily.

I've also learnt that you should never stop listening to your body. Things change and it's worth having the occasional overhaul of your diet to see if the same things cause you problems.

I'm going to keep experimenting and keep changing things up. For now, I'm enjoying not harming living creatures so I can fill my belly. It feels good.


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