“Sometimes we just can’t imagine how good life could be or how great we can feel because we’ve never known better. I didn’t expect going gluten-free to change my world but it did.
As the skinny grandchild of a Coeliac, I grew up aware the innocent-seeming staple food at the centre of most Australian diets could make some people sick, and was flagged as potentially having it myself… but not tested because 20 years ago it was thought that without a Coeliac mother, it wasn’t an issue a kid could have. But I definitely had issues a’plenty. I was the difficult child. I associated food with pain and alternated between throwing lunches in the bin and binge-eating brownies out of sheer starvation. I struggled to sleep, couldn’t concentrate, had frequent migraines and even in between the fluctuating appetite and stomach cramps that I soon saw as normal and stopped noticing, I always just felt ‘wrong’.
I was told it was psychological and I was just anxious. Which made sense because I was. I quit my childhood instruments because I didn’t want to perform in from of the school and have my stomach make loud noises near the microphone. I was terrified to go to camp and be heard in the bathroom.
I began to feel so anxious about feeling sick in public that panic attacks that had begun from malnutrition, grew into proper agoraphobia by 2nd year uni, leaving me struggling to get to the doctor around the corner, let alone to classes I couldn’t focus in anyway. I was generously allowed to sit my exams outside the exam hall because I couldn’t bear to be trapped inside in the silence, and felt completely out of control and like I wasn’t living the life I was meant to.
But like the stomach issues, panic and frayed concentration soon became normal and I learned to deal with it, downgraded my studies and structured my life around it. I accepted I wasn’t who I thought I was. I tried diets like veganism and various medications to feel better in my body but nothing worked. I tried going gluten-free but without the support and knowledge available today, and without giving my body time to heal before giving up, I didn’t do it effectively and felt slightly but not entirely better. I was blood-tested and it came back negative, so motivation crashed further and I went back to a steady diet of ‘plain, stomach-friendly foods’ like bread and pasta.
Plus, I knew from watching my grandmother that it was awful being gluten-free! It was isolating, expensive, the food was cardboardy and hard to find or you lived (as she did) off rice, meat and vegetables.
Which is why I cried intermittently for weeks after my partner, who believed my life could be easier and was right, finally motivated me to get properly tested for Coeliac disease and this time I got ‘positive’ results.
Different too is the world I am gluten-free in, compared to that of my grandmother. Most people know what ‘gluten’ is now and millions avoid it for various reasons. Affordable and tasty products have sprung up everywhere. Unfortunately, I now know not every offer of gluten-free food is safe and how important cross-contamination-free baking environments are, so I am glad places like GlutenFree4U guarantee this whilst providing food that tastes the way I remember it. I love food now because it loves me back, keeps me alive and is also delicious!
After several months properly gluten-free everything changed. I never had another panic attack and barely get migraines, I sleep, I work, I read for hours and even though I’m still afraid eating out sometimes and still the awkward person bringing my own food to some dinner parties, I’m excited to be there. I have two degrees, an associate degree and am almost finished a Masters, plus am now pregnant with my first child and still with the partner who supported the tricky transition from surviving one way, to thriving another way (and he prefers the gluten-free products I eat to his own, these days).
There’s a lot to learn about everything from alternative flours to savvy travel as someone gluten-free, but that and life are much easier on a full stomach.
My grandmother turned 90 last week and after years of homemade pavlova as her dessert option, GlutenFree4U provided the safe and super mudcake she ate two pieces of. So many reasons to celebrate.”