After years of unexplained illness and pain, Katie Kernot was diagnosed with celiac disease. She shares 5 things you need to know about living with celiac disease…
You’ll get to know your doctor pretty well
The difficult thing about celiac disease is that it’s pretty tricky to diagnose. Growing up, Katie regularly suffered from bloating and cramps after eating certain foods, but didn’t think too much about it. As an adult, she was in and out the doctor’s rooms constantly for everything from stomach cramps to diarrhoea, but time and time again, her symptoms were put down to stress. After developing restless leg syndrome she went for blood tests that revealed she had a serious vitamin B12 deficiency. It was only after this that doctors realised she might have celiac disease.
You can live a normal life
It may be tough getting the hang of your new diet and all that comes with it, but these days there really is so much available to make your life easier. Katie turned to an online gluten-free guide in the early days for ideas and inspiration, and soon realised that it wasn’t that bad; she even found that eating out was much easier than expected.
You can’t share food…
… or even cutlery, for that matter. Cooking dinner for the family might take a bit more focus than you’re used to, as one slip up can have disastrous effects. Shortly after she was diagnosed, Katie used the same fork to stir her kids’ pasta and then her own gluten-free version. Thirty minutes later, she was doubled up in pain. “It scared me that such a silly mistake could cause hours of agony.”
You’ll need to go on a kitchen-related shopping spree
Not only will you need to stock the pantry with gluten-free ingredients and alternatives, but you’ll probably also have to buy a bunch of new utensils. Katie had to replace all of her wooden spoons and chopping boards and even bought a separate toaster that only she uses.
You may need to get your family tested
Many people don’t know that celiac disease is a genetic condition. Katie’s mom was diagnosed soon after she was, so she does keep a close eye on her children and their reactions to gluten-based foods.
So what is celiac disease?
- Celiac disease is a serious illness where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten, causing damage to the lining of the gut. It is not a food allergy (although it can be triggered by allergies), but an autoimmune disorder.
- Gluten is mainly found in wheat, rye and barley.
- Celiac prevalence varies by region, and it’s estimated that it affects around 1 in 300 people in Africa. Even though it’s relatively common, only about 24% of sufferers are clinically diagnosed.
- The average time it takes for a person to be diagnosed with celiac disease is 13 years!
- There is no cure — the only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Avoiding gluten can be tough, but it’s made much easier by all the gluten-free products available at stores like Dis-Chem.
- It tends to affect twice as many women as men and it’s usually diagnosed with blood tests, followed by a biopsy.
Do you have celiac disease? Symptoms to watch out for
- Inexplicable, constant fatigue
- Bloating or diarrhoea
- Joint or bone pain
- Sudden or unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, particularly after eating
- Persistent vitamin deficiencies or anaemia
- Tingling in the hands and feet
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.