'My life changed forever' - former Advertiser employee opens up on the impact of coeliac disease

Former Advertiser employee Kate Harris shares her experience of a diagnosis that changed her life

Kate Harris.

My life changed forever eleven years ago.

I am a Coeliac and keen to share information on living with a strict gluten-free diet.

Amazingly, one per cent of the population in the UK could have coeliac disease and sadly 70 percent of them could be suffering undiagnosed.

Saturday morning, March 14, 2009, an official NHS envelope plonked onto my doormat.

Bags of the weekly Tesco shop were in the kitchen ready to be put away.

I had to give away most of my goodies, favourite biscuits, cake, pasta, crisps and sweets to friends and family.

My life-changing letter held shocking news. My consultant informed me that I was a coeliac.

It was annoying that I had to wait until Monday to see a doctor.

I googled Coeliac UK for any questions, and their website and telephone helpline are at the end of this feature.

I lost eight kilograms in weight, looked pale and gaunt, suffered bloating, an upset stomach, was tired all the time and generally unwell.

What is Coeliac?

It is an auto-immune disease that you cannot catch! It is a long-term condition that does not allow the gluten to be digested.

Not even a crumb. It’s boring to read all food labels, but crucial.

My symptoms were typical of a Coeliac.

I didn’t have cancer or depression as I suspected. I had lost my mother on March 4, 2008, and within three months was made redundant from the local newspaper.

Gluten is a protein found in cereals, wheat, barley, rye and oats.

I can eat healthily – including fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, fish and use gluten-free flours for cakes and pastries.

Toasters, bread bins, chopping boards have to be separate and food surfaces kept clean and free from gluten, whether eating at home or out and about.

Gluten can cause inflammation and destruction of the lining in the small intestine.

I wanted to scream, ‘It’s not a gimmicky diet. I must have gluten-free foods, forever.’

Now my motto is ‘if in doubt leave it out’.

It was scary. I was prescribed iron tablets for anaemia, daily calcium tablets, and a weekly Alendronic tablet for developing osteoporosis.

I hope this is helpful. For further information about Coeliac or gluten-free symptoms, please visit your doctor or Coeliac UK website: www.coeliac.org.uk

The full version is published in ‘Get to the Point’, An Anthology by Rugby Cafe Writers, available from Amazon for £5.50.