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  • Writer's pictureAli

Why Xmas for Coeliacs is the stuff of nightmares

“Twas the night before Xmas

When all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse.”

Frantic and annoyed

Yeah, right. For Coeliacs who’ve accidentally eaten gluten, there’s a lot stirring, and it’s usually in the bowels. Xmas is a time of year filled with terror: the terror of being glutened. Yep, it happened to me this very Xmas Eve, and my family had done everything they could to cook gluten-free.

We’d rented out a large house in the middle of the Peak District and everyone was taking turns to cook. All ingredients were checked and double-checked. All meals were gluten-free.

And yet at midnight (the very moment Santa should have been landing the reindeer on the roof) I was experiencing a different kind of landing. The one where you’re glad to have a loo all to yourself. The one where you start thinking back to all the meals you’ve had and wondering where the gluten could possibly have come from.

On this occasion, I had two theories. Firstly, that the plates/cutlery at the rental hadn’t been washed properly and there’d been traces of gluten on them. Secondly, that the bowl of soup I’d had at a local establishment hadn’t actually been gluten-free after all. The staff hadn’t been sure whether the ingredients were safe (despite having a book listing the allergens). I’d responded by going through everything very carefully, reminding them not to serve the soup with bread, and then found they’d put croutons on top when the food came out. Grrrr…. They said they’d get a fresh bowl. I warned them they shouldn’t just take the croutons off. They promised it would be a different bowl. Then they brought out my coffee with a biscuit on the side. Grrr again.

So what can you do?

Option 1: live like a hermit in a gluten-free house and never go out. Option 2: take a calculated risk. I’d rather it was the latter. I’m extremely careful and well-informed, but for those who are new to the Coeliac game it can be quite daunting, especially if people like me can still suffer.

My advice is this: don’t be afraid to quiz people over and over again to check they know where gluten may lurk, especially if they’re dipping a knife into a pot that you know was opened and used before (On what? Was it spread on bread & the knife put back in?). Secondly, always carry a small snack so that you’ve got something to keep you going if there’s no gluten-free food on offer. Finally, never lose hope that you’ll be able to enjoy yourself. There is immense pleasure to be had when someone says, “We’ve got a special gluten-free Xmas pudding for you”. Now that’s definitely something to celebrate.

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