Have been feeling a little off-colour this last week or so. And then last night and today the full-on symptoms kicked in. Good and proper.
As a midlife woman with coeliac disease ingesting gluten in any quantity at all is a big mistake. It’s about five years now since I went through the unpleasant process of getting diagnosed, which actually was a small price to pay for the chance to feel well again. I quite literally leapt off the floor and hugged the consultant when he told me I had coeliac disease. I was over the moon just to know what was making me so ill. And I learned really fast how to live with it. It’s sometimes a nuisance; for instance eating out does have its problems, but other than that life’s a doddle once you know you have to be forever on your guard.
You see, gluten is a tricky little monster. It has a variety of disguises and hides itself at every opportunity, as if its sole purpose is to trip you up and catch you out. Gluten has a habit of making you pay it the respect that it deserves. And I do. Constantly.
And that’s where I’ve fallen down this last week. A local cafe owner told me about something called spelt bread, which she uses herself. She did not, however, I now realise, during the telling of the story, explain to me if she was full-on coeliac or merely gluten intolerant. And there is a big difference.
Anyway, I dashed off to the recommended store to hunt down said amazing loaf of spelt bread. Now I didn’t just buy the loaf; I closely questioned a knowledgeable staff member about the ingredients and explained that it had to be gluten-free. She disappeared to consult with the baker and his books, and returned to tell me that the yummy looking loaf in my hand was indeed gluten free and suitable for coeliacs. Now this loaf had no food information labelling on it, as the bread is baked in-house, which was what prompted me to ask for information in the first place.
Once home with precious loaf, my daughter (who appears to be gluten-intolerant but isn’t diagnosed as such) and I couldn’t wait to slap it on the breadboard, carve off a couple of chunks and load it up with butter and strawberry jam. I’m salivating right now just thinking about it. God, it was delicious. For someone who has been searching for an adequate substitute for good old-fashioned bread for the last five years, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Because I’ve got so used to not having bread on a daily basis, the loaf lasted a while. I went for a couple of days and had none at all. At the weekend I popped into the same supermarket and picked up another uncut one. And yesterday lunchtime, I sat down to a plateful of my favourite lunchtime snack – beans on toast, with two thick chunky slices of the lovely stuff.
Amazing. The aftermath was horrific. Obviously a gluten overload. Checking on the internet it appears that spelt is an ancient form of wheat, different from modern wheat in that it hasn’t been messed about with! And it also seems that some people who are gluten intolerant can actually tolerate the gluten in spelt bread. It is not, however, suitable for coeliacs under any circumstances.
Right now I hate myself for being so bloody stupid. The internet is a fantastic source of information and one I use all the time. Why didn’t I check this out? Maybe I really, really wanted to think I’d finally found some marvellous tasty sandwich material. I now realise that if spelt bread was OK for coeliacs it would be widely advertised as such and it’s not. Although several big players in food retail have made this mistake apparently. No excuse though. Food manufacturers should know that they are playing with people’s health and lives. And mine’s been messed up big time this week. I feel like shit right now.
There’s a series of emails on their way to this particular food retailer as I’m writing, requesting that they sort out their labelling on store baked goods, and asking them to train their staff more efficiently and accurately regarding food allergies and intolerances etc.
Moral learned today: If you have a potentially serious health issue, do not take other people’s advice without first checking it out. Big Mistake.