Frustrations Of A Coeliac Student

Frustrations Of A Coeliac Student

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease last summer, and there are some very particular frustrations, struggles, and thoughts that come to me whenever I think about it or have to explain to people exactly why I can’t eat whatever they’ve put in front of me. I decided to write a few of them up, and then found myself with 1,000 words about it and thought maybe I feel more strongly about this than I’d realised.

When I get annoyed at you for leaving pasta in the sink, it’s 30% because it’s gross and blocks the plug, and 70% because it means I might poison myself the next time I do the washing up.

You complain that our kitchen-between-14-people is dirty. I complain that it keeps poisoning me.

I realise I don’t come to this/that/th’other society/social event/meeting so often anymore. Honestly, I was there for the free food, and now that I can’t eat it, I figure I may as well stay at home with Netflix.

That said, if you tell me there will be gluten-free options, I might come just because you made the effort.

I appreciate the chocolate you give me. I just wish you’d check the ingredients first. But don’t worry, everything containing gluten goes to a good home, mostly to my parents.

I’m not just a fussy eater.

I am a fussy eater, but this wouldn’t be such a problem if I could actually eat the few things I like. Unfortunately, those happen to be bread, and pasta, and biscuits.

It is my personal hell to be asked to go out for a meal at a restaurant I’ve not been to before. Actually, let’s just stay away from food-based socialising altogether. I’m not big on restaurants and never have been; if we do need to have a meal together, can we decide on somewhere together, so that I know the menus in advance?

I’m sorry to hear that eating an entire loaf of bread causes you to experience mild bloating, or that you feel happier when you don’t eat gluten. Given that a tiny smidge of contamination can make me violently ill for a day or more, though, I wish you’d stop comparing the two experiences.

I know it’s inconvenient of me not to be able to eat fruit as well. No, apples don’t have gluten in. I’m just allergic to them.

Yes, and nuts.

Seriously, please just let me choose my own food, it would make this easier for both of us.

When I said I couldn’t be bothered to make food so hadn’t eaten properly in three days, I meant it. Believe it or not, there aren’t a whole host of ready-meals and takeaways you can get when you’re gluten free, and dietary needs combined with depression create a horrible vicious cycle of not having enough energy to make food that’s vaguely nutritious.

Yes, I’m a poor student. No, I didn’t spend that money on alcohol. I spent it on bread that costs £3 per loaf. I assure you I wouldn’t if I had a choice.

I’m on first-name terms with my doctor, since I’m in and out of her office so often.

Sometimes I have to go to hospital to talk about my stomach. They give me cake. It sort of but not quite makes up for the bus journey there.

I really wish I could have ‘just a little bit’. Honestly, I do. It would make things easier for you and tastier for me. I wish I didn’t have to insist on you cleaning the surfaces, and I wish I could nick a chip or two from your plate, but I can’t because it could be cross-contaminated with the gluten in the battered fish. I wish I didn’t have to make a fuss.

Honestly, I’m very embarrassed about all of this.

I wasn’t bunking off that lecture when I said I’d been ‘glutened’. I ate a sausage and my body protested. I can assure you it was a lot more unpleasant for me than my absence was inconvenient for you.

That contains gluten. As does that. No, this does too. Please learn to read labels. Yes, that contains gluten. That doesn’t, but you’ve put it on the same plate as things that do, so I’m afraid that’s off the menu as well. I’ll just bring a sandwich.

I’m sure homemade gluten-free bread is nicer than stuff bought from the shop. I’m also sure that entirely made-from-scratch food is nicer in general. May I refer you to the part where I share a kitchen with thirteen other people, only one of whom is coeliac, and thus have limited facilities and unreliable cleanliness to deal with?

I’m not trying to be healthy. If I was, I wouldn’t eat so many Haribo. I’m just trying not to feel ill every time I eat.

I’m vaguely terrified of ever getting flour thrown at me (for whatever reason) — I’m pretty sure breathing that in and swallowing it would be just as bad. Please look after your fellow coeliacs. We are everywhere.

I’m not saying gluten has affected my mental health adversely or positively, but depression is worse when you can’t eat 90% of chocolate because it ‘may contain wheat’. Knowing that it probably doesn’t and yet you still can’t take the risk is just … the worst. See: Dairy Milk, Terry’s chocolate orange, etc.

Honestly at this point I’ll settle for a baked potato.

I have no idea how you managed to gluten me with a baked potato but I’m now incredibly suspicious of your kitchen and cooking facilities and will be making all my own food from now on. You know, on the days that I have the strength.

I know you think my ‘diet’ is a load of rubbish. I’m sniffy about non-coeliacs who eat gluten free as well — they may be expanding the range for people like me, but they also ensure others don’t take me seriously and instead think it funny to substitute my GF food for gluten-containing stuff. Believe me, it’s not funny for me or for anyone who shares my bathroom.

Let’s not talk about how much food costs, because I might cry.

Ben & Jerry’s is not gluten free. Please stop telling me it is. It makes the disappointment a thousand times worse every time I check the ingredients.

Very occasionally I get free food, though. So that sort of makes up for it. Not quite. But nearly.

10 thoughts on “Frustrations Of A Coeliac Student

  1. Urrrffff. Food allergies are the worst, and widespread ones are hell on a stick with crispy deep fried inconvenience batter.

    Even worse when you get tangled up in a “healthy” fad that means people don’t take you seriously. And even then people still have very little idea what gluten actually is and isn’t in. You don’t look for “gluten” on the back of the blasted packet, people.

    Big hugs, and sympathy from lower down the spectrum.

  2. I’m allergic/sensitive to (not sure the difference when I am curled up in the fetal position running a slight fever) poultry. You want to see people look at you like you’re batsh*t crazy try that one. I also can’t digest dairy, excessive carbohydrates (e.i. no bagels and sometimes bread). And I should stay away from most meats because they hurt my stomach, but I just get hungry and want to eat something convenient and of all the things that bother me they bother me the least.
    But at least I can control my kitchen somewhat and chocolate gives me zits, but won’t kill me so there is that.
    I am truly sorry, gluten is such a wily ingredient (it’s everywhere) and stupid too — stupid gluten.?
    Hope you get good food that doesn’t hurt your stomach.

    1. Wow, that does sound nasty. I’ve never heard of a poultry allergy (part of me questions whether it would be different in different countries because of how differently animals are raised and how the meat is treated, part of me imagines it probably wouldn’t make any difference), but I can imagine that sucks. I suppose you can opt for vegetarian/vegan options, to avoid the meat and dairy, but that must still be a massive pain. Especially as most people don’t even think of meat as a potential allergen, only something people choose not to eat.

  3. I UNDERSTAND. I’ve probably mentioned this, but I don’t eat gluten…or any grains actually, not even rice. 0_0 Or nuts or much fruit or sugar…so basically…air tastes nice?? Heh. But I spent my entire childhood not eating when I was out because I just couldn’t. All my friends used to tease me about being a “health freak” when, um, no??? I’m allergic and don’t want to have my face puffed up for the next week or skin so itchy I want to tear it off??? It really is horrendously awful when people are just like “oh just eat a little bit”. People don’t get it. They just don’t.

    Although I will admit…that a lot of people actually shouldn’t eat gluten? Like obviously you’re completely allergic, but it does give a lot of people problems that they don’t even realise. So when they choose not to eat gluten, it’s not necessarily faking just because their symptoms aren’t as big?

    Also I kinda just want to kidnap you for a while and introduce you to my mum who cooks AMAZING ALLERGY FREE FOOD ALL THE TIME and then let you eat it all because I think you need some really good food that won’t make you sick. Seriously. *sends you hugs* And if you ever want me to gabble to you about some food ideas, lemme know. <3

    1. I’m intrigued by what you actually eat with so many allergies! Potatoes?

      (I’m always looking for meals that take ~10 mins and minimal pots and pans and no red meat or any of my allergens…)

      What bugs me is when people compare a mild gluten intolerance (often brought on by over indulgence) to coeliac disease, which isn’t even an allergy, it’s an autoimmune response that can literally increase the risk of cancer. And these people are the reason others don’t understand how serious it is to need to avoid cross contamination. Ah well.

  4. Ahh, that majorly sucks. When you mentioned that people sometimes think that it’s a healthy diety thing that you’re choosing to do is really odd and kinda insensitive though. I mean, it seems like you’d like to eat a lot of more “normal” foods if you got the chance, so that’s really odd that people think that.
    I’m lactose intolerant…so that’s pretty simple because there are pills! and lactose free ice cream! that actually tastes good! But sorry for crappy food stuffs.

    1. It’s because you get a lot of celebs on gluten-free diets because they’ve read that it’s better for you (which, for the most part, it isn’t). Actually, a lot of gluten-free food is LESS healthy than normal food, because it has to contain more additives to make it stay together and taste good. So I feel like they’re getting the wrong end of the stick, especially if that means they then view it as a choice or something I’m doing to lose weight.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: