Saturday, June 2, 2012

Coeliacs and other stuff

The other night I was ordering pizza, and when I requested a gluten-free base, the guy asked me if I realised the side I had ordered contained gluten. I didn't - I'd wrongly assumed it was gluten free, so I thanked him for letting me know and changed my order.
He replied: "Yeah, I make a point of telling people, because otherwise you might get a sore stomach but just think it was your women's problems."

Honestly wasn't quite sure how to answer that.

It's really awesome that this guy is looking out for people with allergies, but for the record, Coeliac Disease and menstruation - not that easy to confuse.

There are a lot of misunderstandings out there about Coeliac Disease and about gluten intolerance in general. This is the first time I've had anyone confuse it with "women's problems" but there is confusion none the less.

This is my understanding of the differences.

Firstly the names - "Coeliac Disease" "Coeliacs" and "Celiacs" are all referring to the same disease. I think Celiacs is an Americanised spelling, but don't quote me on that. I mostly use "Coeliac Disease", just because that's what's printed on my Medic-Alert bracelet, but they are generally used interchangeably. 

Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disorder. In an affected person, their immune system has identified gluten - a protein found in wheat etc. - as a disease, and therefore responds to the presence of gluten by attacking it and in the process the person's gut is also damaged.

As far as I know, a gluten intolerance is not autoimmune in nature. My understanding is that, similar to intolerances to other foods, the problems occur when the body is unable to digest the gluten resulting in stomach upsets and, in some cases, other symptoms.

For both, the treatment is the same - avoid gluten.

I think sometimes those of us with Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerances get a bit of flack for being difficult or "picky". Much of this, I think, has been down to a trend in recent years of people going gluten-free because they think it's healthier. In a lot of cases (but not all!) gluten-free substitutes are higher in fat, calories and sugar, so if you don't have an intolerance or allergy, I'm not quite sure it fits the bill of "healthier". However, that's just my opinion and not in any way intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're thinking of going gluten-free, whatever the reason, that's for you and your doctor/dietician to decide.

Eating a gluten-free diet is not a choice for me, nor is it a case of wanting to make eating out more complicated. In the past, when I've accidentally eaten gluten, I've been so ill I've lost five or six kilos in a matter of days. I found out I had Coeliac Disease ten years ago, back when all gluten-free substitutes tasted like sawdust. Believe me, if it was a choice, I wouldn't have done it!

Thanks for reading
Little Miss Autoimmune

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