So at the weekend the gluten gods decided to give me a gentle reminder (as if I needed one) that Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition.
Yep, I experienced the dreaded ‘glutening’ thanks to a cross-contamination issue at a restaurant.
Symptoms of Coeliac disease can vary but with me it’s always fairly obvious if I’ve been properly glutened as my symptoms involve vomming my guts up.
Imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had but with added stabbing stomach pains while you vomit and you’re pretty much there. I had a horrendous day on Sunday with the aforementioned symptoms followed by a couple of days sparked out on the sofa with stomach cramps and fatigue.
Now that I’m finally starting to feel more human again I thought I’d settle down with a peppermint tea and hot water bottle (my two new baes) and share some thoughts.
Having had Coeliac disease since I was a baby I’ve seen some massive improvements in awareness and product availability over the years. It still amazes me that I can wander in to a supermarket and find a massive range of free from products, or go to restaurants and have a whole menu of gluten free options to choose from.
One area however where I think there still needs to be a lot of improvement is awareness around cross-contamination.
While many restaurants are fully clued up on catering for coeliacs, notably those with Coeliac UK accreditation, there’s still sadly a lack of awareness in lots of other establishments.
This weekend was the second time within the last 12 months that I’ve been glutened by a restaurant. I always get quite anxious when eating out. Usually I’ll stick to Coeliac UK accredited places as I know they’re clued up and have procedures in place to minimise any risk of contamination.
However sometimes it’s not possible and you have to place your trust in places to cater for you. Despite always explaining that I need gluten free due to Coeliac disease, I’ve found that often I’m met with a lack of awareness and even ignorance.
I’ve been assured things are gluten free only to find upon further questioning that they are not. Chips are a great example of this. If I had a pound for every time I’ve been told chips are gluten free, only to discover when I’ve asked more that they use the same fryers for non-gluten free products, meaning the chips aren’t gluten free at all… I’d have many pounds.
I think a lot of restaurants also don’t understand that gluten free food needs to be prepared away from gluten containing products such as bread, and on clean surfaces. I think this is where the issue at the weekend arose.
All you can really do as a Coeliac is explain your requirements and ask questions, but there comes a point where you just have to decide whether you trust them or not.
This shouldn’t really be the case. Nut allergy sufferers are quite rightly treated with a high level of seriousness when eating out. It should be the same level for coeliacs as even a crumb of gluten can make us seriously ill.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this post but just wanted to share my frustration. While I understand that mistakes can happen in catering for people with allergies, it just seems to happen far too often for it just to be one off mistakes and I think something needs to be done.
Maybe once I’ve regained some energy I’ll start a campaign to raise awareness around cross-contamination. Possibly called the Crumb Police. Who’s with me?!