In August 2015, I was lucky enough to find out I have Coeliac disease. A disease where eating gluten (wheat, barley, oats and rye) destroys the villi in your small intestines which prohibits the absorption of nutrients. It can lead to greater health problems.

Fabulous

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When I was told about the disease, I literally thought that I was never going to be able to eat any decent food again. No fresh crunchy bread, no fresh pasta and no pastries. At the time that’s all I thought I couldn’t have. When I found out I couldn’t have Vegemite and Milo, I broke down! Vegemite was my staple spread at breakfast and I had an unhealthy obsession over Milo. Cutting them made me feel so unaustralian but it all had to change.

My lifestyle evolved so rapidly considering I ate the most gluten in the house! We got rid of all non gluten-free flours and after realising a gluten based thickener called 1442 – my arch nemesis – made its way into nearly every everyday household kitchen staple, we had to start from scratch. The whole gluten free diet seemed unrealistic and unachievable with the likelihood of cross contanimation and situations involving eating at other people’s houses and shared meals. The fact I had to get my own toaster was a strong sign of what would be ahead.

I think having to restrict my diet so much made becoming vegan so much easier, as ridiculous as it sounds. I was used to telling myself I couldn’t eat certain foods and it allowed me to extend the pain I feel from having gluten to animal products. Although animal products don’t actually make me sick, excluding dairy – nasty stuff – , it assisted in being turned off foods that I had once thorougly enjoyed. So many coeliacs and people with gluten intolerance are turned away from veganism because of how challenging the diet can be, but ultimately, once I made the switch with complete conviction, I never doubted my choice and I’ll never go back…

In fact, I don’t find being vegan and coeliac hard anymore. I enjoy my lifestyle and my relationship to food has drastically changed.

“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” – Heather Morgan

Nowadays, I’m definetly more focused on fighting it.

The hardest part, I think, is getting other people who are unfamilair with coeliac disease and it’s implications to understand the severity, particuarly when the ‘Gluten Free Diet’  is becoming so trendy. I have no idea why someone would trade good quality bread for a tiny peice of sponge cake that you can only toast which will cost you an arm and a leg… but that is just me… 

Too many times I have put trust into others about ensuring my food is gluten free and too many times have I become sick. Unfortunately cafes are becoming all too familair to the trend of a gluten free diet and are skimping out on the whole ‘cross contamination thing’. It sucks because you can never be sure the meal marked ‘GF’ is even truely gluten free. I guess it’s a risk I take too often. All I need is a 1/145th of a slice of bread to start making me ill and some places just don’t understand the severity. Then there is some cafes which go beyond when it comes to gluten free food and honestly, I will always go back to a place that has good options. If you know any amazing places for coeliacs, let me know!

I guess everyone has different experiences with being coeliac, some people are lucky enough to be diagnosed when they were super young and others when they are in their 40’s. Although you are born with it, I spent the first 17 years if my life chowing down on copius amounts of gluten. It doesn’t bother me anymore or define me. It only influences what I eat 

Until there is a cure or vaccinations to stop the damage, gluten will remain my enemy. So please don’t buy a fresh loaf of bread because I may make you regret it… It smells so good! 

Remember to be yourself, eat gluten if you can and eat all the plants,

Steph xx

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