What it’s like having Coeliac disease at university

Most people don’t even know what it is

I developed issues with gluten when I was 14. Before this – it was unlikely I would be seen without a sausage roll or KFC in my hand. This is now but a distant memory.

Since I started university, my experience has been one of separate toasters, shouting at people using my butter and constantly turning down digestives.

Most people don’t even know what it is

Coeliac is an auto immune disease which causes the body to respond in an adverse way to gluten.

Whilst some people suffer from an intolerance to gluten or ‘non-coeliac gluten sensitivity’, Coeliac disease can cause more serious problems if left untreated as it leads to an auto immune response within the body. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include bloating, nausea, diahorrea, fatigue or unexpected weight loss or gain.

One in 100 people suffer from Coeliac disease but only 24% get diagnosed. Therefore, it’s important to raise awareness of an issue which few people know about, but more than expected may be suffering with.

This is only the start

However, once you are past the first hurdle of a diagnosis of either coeliac disease or the discovery of a gluten intolerance – the journey certainly doesn’t stop there.

Since coming to university it seems people often don’t know what gluten is and nor did I until it became an issue. Turns out gluten is a major part of most Western diets. Having come from living with my family who understand the situation, to university where someone would casually use my butter without understanding that this could leave me wincing in pain for the next 48 hours, there were naturally going to be teething problems.

However, my wonderful friends have spent many a day keeping me company in the bathroom as the entire contents of my life leave my body after I accidentally eat non gluten free chips. In these moments I thank them more than ever, without them I would likely not take this in such good humour.

I just miss KFC to be honest

Having gone from being carefree with my diet, now even a stock cube with wheat flour in it can have me sleeping on the bathroom floor for a few nights. The only saving grace is that doner meat is gluten free, pasta on the other hand is an absolute no go. I lost a stone and a half in less than a fortnight after developing what we now think is Coeliac. But its all good now, I am now fatter than ever after developing a love for cheese which filled the pastry shaped gap in my life.

Being a coeliac is expensive

Whereas a loaf of normal bread would likely cost you under a pound, gluten free bread generally costs about three pounds for a small batch. The substandard flavour is nothing short of appalling, and will inevitably leave any self-respecting person saving the money for pints, oh wait, you can’t drink beer.

I basically just eat rice, meat and vegetables. Some say this leaves you healthier, to be honest I don’t care, I just want a doughnut now.

It’s a bloody inconvenience 

Above all, the general day to day inconvenience of constantly being aware of what you eat is my biggest issue. It doesn’t help that allergen menu’s inevitably come in the form of a lever arch file. No, I’m not doing a PHD, I just want to know if I can eat your chips.

Given the only effective treatment for coeliac is to lead a completely gluten free life style, its not a case of a cheeky biscuit every now and again. Not to be too crude, but if I did that – I would likely shit myself. Checking packages for gluten is now a perpetual habit. Anyone with allergies will know that by default your trivia on allergens is embarrassingly good.

Raise awareness, talk about your poo more

Many students suffer from digestive problems, life in halls can make this apparent. Speaking from experience sometimes it is easier to neglect the issue rather than consider that there may be an underlying problem.

Maybe have a chat with your flat mate if they bomb out the toilet more than once an hour. Whilst 99% of the time its likely you just live with an animal, it is possible that there is a problem. So take your friendship to the next level and talk to your flat mates about their poo.

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