Coeliac? 7 tips for new players

Thursday, June 26, 2014 Permalink

I’ll preface this post by saying that I’m no expert. At anything really. Other than watching-television and reading crime-fiction. Oh, and I’m pretty good with 80s and 90s movies. But anything health-related, well…

However, because I’m always happy to share my magnificent insight and prone to be blunt, I figured I’m well-placed to share some tips I’ve garnered in the (almost) nine years since my coeliac diagnosis.

Gluten free

So, hold onto your hats and prepare to be amazed. #orsomething

1. Don’t panic

It’s not the end of the world. I know your diagnosis will feel like it, but it’s not. I had previously been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and that completely freaked me out. Little did I know my underactive thyroid was fairly minor on the autoimmune disease scale – with more to come! The coeliac thing threw me for a loop. “Life will never be the same!” I wailed – after basking (victim-like) in self pity for a bit of course!

2. Arm yourself

And no, I’m not suddenly going all ‘gun’-ho American style. I’m talking information. There are people who know about this stuff. In Australia there’s Coeliac Australia. Although you have to pay to join and re-subscribe each year, you HAVE to have a doctor’s certificate with your diagnosis to be a member. Parents of coeliac children are obviously eligible.


In Oz Coeliac Australia is a wealth of info. In addition to regular magazines and newsletters as part of your membership, you can buy some products such as ingredients’ guides as well as cards in a variety of languages which explain the allergy. (Perfect if you’re travelling!)

I’m sure many other countries would have a similar official body.

3. Food WILL cost more 

It’s a sad fact that gluten-free food is generally more expensive than the stuff with gluten. $6 for a teensy loaf of bread is just the start. I recently paid an extra $3 (on top of my $17.90 eggs benedict brekkie) for one small piece of GF bread. It’s annoying but a cold hard fact that we coeliacs often have to pay a surcharge at restaurants and cafes. (It just pisses me off when it’s excessive!)

I understand in the US there’s some sort of tax rebate available to celiacs but (as yet) there’s nothing in Australia like it. (I’m not sure about other countries!)

4. Speciality stores have their place, but…

When I was first diagnosed I was excited that I lived near a fabulous health food store. And indeed it was (and still is, I’m sure) fabulous. However… I initially made the rookie mistake of stocking up on all sorts of VERY expensive stuff – flour, sauces, pasta and the like.

It wasn’t until I became more knowable that I realised local supermarkets stock HEAPS of that stuff, usually at a lower cost. And… some processed foods are naturally gluten-free. For example, you can buy expensive rice crackers (etc) which are ‘gluten-free’ but – as it happens – many of the generic brands are gluten free anyway.


Okay, the incorrect form of ‘your’ kills me and I don’t feel this strongly… but understand the sentiment!

5. Options are improving

I should note that I’m fortunate to have been diagnosed in this day and age, as the range of GF options in supermarkets and restaurants continues to grow. More and more people know what I mean when I say I’m coeliac. And… my personal favourite: brands are CHOOSING to make gluten free products when there are alternatives (Gravox, Masterfoods and Hans come to mind!).

I still think cooking for people with allergies should be part of any chef training course – or at least featured on reality TV cooking shows, but… small steps.

6. Gluten-free isn’t necessarily healthier

Coeliacs generally feel better once they’ve adopted their gluten free diet. Indeed, many with intolerances and others who give up wheat or gluten also feel better. But… there’s a trap which can catch newbies. Indeed I fell prey when first diagnosed, and later watched a friend do the same thing!

After the “Oh my god I can’t eat anything!” depression passes, you find yourself excited when you see GF products on offer. Suddenly you’re plowing through recipes for cakes and biscuits or checking out local cafes and pantries for GF treats.

“Oh wow!” you say as you choose one of everything and bake batches of ‘healthy’ GF muffins. It took me a while before I remembered I didn’t really like cakes and biscuits. I didn’t eat them before my diagnosis and I was really only eating them now because I ‘could’ and they seemed ‘healthy’. (Look mum; no gluten!)

Sadly you’ll often find that GF products may be more-fattening or have higher Glycemic Index (and therefore be less-filling). I certainly found the latter with cereals for example.


7. Don’t assume others know what they’re talking about

This probably sounds a bit strange but I’ve written before about the issue of gluten-intolerance (or those who choose to go GF) vs coeliacs (with an allergy) in my ‘How coeliac are you?’ post.

I’ve been in cafes when I’ve been told that dishes have been ‘fine’ and that other ‘gluten-free people’ have eaten them. And I know some non-coeliacs who say they don’t eat gluten but don’t worry about soy sauce or stock powder (or even beer!). And then there are others who just skip the basics (bread, cakes and biscuits).


When you can (without being preachy) take the opportunity to educate others about the difference between intolerance and allergy and the fact that – it’s just not about ‘wheat’ (or even the usual ‘barley, rye, oats and wheat’ definition my mother favours). It’s the hidden gluten (in some processed foods) which can result in something that’s akin to food poisoning or worse for those with allergies.

So – there you have it. My not-so-expert opinion.

Of course if you’re wanting to know more about gluten, allergies and intolerances I’d suggest you check out legitimate sources such as health department fact sheets or coeliac societies and the like (rather than some idiot’s blog! 😉 ).

Have you / anyone you know struggled with a gluten allergy or intolerance? 

I’m flogging my blog With Some Grace today.

* Obviously all of these memes came from various online sites – most shared too often to work out where they originated!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    June 27, 2014

    I have food issues – not gluten though. Mine is amines, salycilates and MSG. Twelve years ago I would drive to work with a bucket on my lap throwing up the whole way in because of food I’d eaten the day before. I would have migraines constantly and live on painkillers. Cutting out the “bad” foods was easy because the alternative was so much worse.
    Great post.
    It will be very helpful for those going through this for the first time.
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

    • Debbish
      June 27, 2014

      Thanks Leanne. And ugh! on the bucket! Am driving somewhere tomorrow for a funeral and thought about stopping there for lunch but realised I’d have to be careful cos of the drive home!

  • Char
    June 27, 2014

    If I had to be diagnosed with gluten allergy then I’d rather be diagnosed today than 20 years ago. There are just so many more options. You really don’t have to feel like you’re doing without – too much.

    • Debbish
      June 27, 2014

      So very true. I often read accounts of people who had coeliac kids 20 years ago and the poor kiddies must have felt SO deprived!

  • @Kanga_Rue
    June 27, 2014

    I love the “a little laxative” meme… you *have* to use that sometime soon.

    I’m constantly explaining that no, Pickle isn’t “lactose intolerant” he has a “dairy protein allergy”. It’s not a trend. Most times I’m happy to cheerfully correct, but on the odd occasion it’s a seething effort.

    When my friend Sue was diagnosed years ago, I had no idea what it meant. She came to visit me in London and I served her a late post-flight dinner of pizza. She’s still talking to me, so I obviously looked crest-fallen enough when I realised what an idiot I was.

    Cheers, Rx

    • Debbish
      June 27, 2014

      I know I love the laxative meme. I note it was called ‘the Jimmy Kimmel’ so I wonder if it came from the TV show?

  • Liz
    June 27, 2014

    Awesome Deb, I don’t like the gluten free craze going on – it’s insulting to bona fide coeliacs like you!

    • Debbish
      June 27, 2014

      Oh I don’t mind it – can understand people cutting out gluten if it makes them feel bloated etc – but I think the big issue is in the labelling and education. I often feel like I’m being high-maintenance when I say I can’t eat this and that – like it’s a choice! (Which it is if it’s vegetables of course!!!) 😉

  • Bec @ The Plumbette
    June 27, 2014

    Reading posts like these make me grateful that I don’t have any food tolerances. I love my carbs and love eating non-restrictive diet. Gluten free does cost a bit. When I’ve had to provide food to accommodate for children that are on a gluten-free diet, I’ve nearly choked on the prices of a simple packet of GF biscuits!!

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    June 27, 2014

    I know that if I was diagnosed I would probably cry a thousand tears but once I did my homework, as you have obviously have done, then I could live with you! A great resource here x

    • Debbish
      June 29, 2014

      Thanks Emily. I have to admit – I do miss just being able to eat anything and everything. And smelling KFC nearly kills me! (Was my fave hangover food back in the day!)

  • Lee-Anne
    June 28, 2014

    I have friends and family who are Coeliac and some gluten intolerant and I’ve noticed how many products have sprung up in supermarkets to cater for them – really nice stuff too! Aldi has a new range of gf past, reasonably priced, that’s nice (one of the areas traditionally hard to mimic well in gf)

    Love the memes!

    • Debbish
      June 29, 2014

      Ah yes, I love a good meme!

      My mum LOVES Aldi and is often bringing me stuff she’s found. Around Coeliac Awareness week they had a HEAP of stuff!

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