By Euodia Stone

Imagine waking up one day and your digestive system decides to go haywire. You get crippling cramps that bind you to your bed. You can’t move and burst out in a sweat from the pain. This is what happened to one of my family members last year after they just moved into a new house.

Change can cause a lot of stress for some people and it affects each person’s body differently. In this case, my family member’s digestive system was severely affected by stress. After many tests and a few uncomfortable procedures, the gastroenterologist diagnosed this person with coeliac disease (also spelt as celiac).

What is coeliac disease?

According to Allergy Foundation South Africa, coeliac is defined as follows: “Coeliac disease is a condition where the immune system responds abnormally to a food protein called gluten found in food containing wheat, rye or barley. This causes damage to the gut lining of the small intestine, poor absorption of food and growth problems.”

How does coeliac affect your lifestyle?

Coeliac disease affects your life in numerous ways and requires a lot of self-discipline to live healthily. If you happen to eat a bit too much gluten it could result in you being bedridden for a day or more. You may feel tired and suffer from a lot of pain. Unfortunately, your body takes time to heal and this one tiny mistake could take weeks to heal.

Here are a few ways in which coeliac affects your daily life:

  1. Diet – you may only eat gluten-free foods. According to South African legislation, food may not contain more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in order to be classified as gluten-free. In other countries such as the USA, foods may only contain 10 ppm of gluten before it may be classified as gluten-free. Read carefully on the packaging to identify whether food is gluten-free and organic (as food sprayed with pesticides can also affect your intestines). Also, be observant to which foods containing more gluten upsets your digestive system and try your best to avoid these foods.
  2. Mentally – you won’t be able to buy processed or packaged food from any shop and you can’t eat at any restaurant. Fresh food made from scratch is the best option, which will require meal preparation and planning. You also have to make a mind-shift because you won’t be able to eat any sweets you might crave. Luckily, there are gluten-free sweets to satisfy your sweet tooth if the need arises. Make a positive change to focus on the foods you CAN eat.
  3. Financially – most gluten-free foods are expensive. Be sure to adjust your budget accordingly.
  4. Physically – be sure to change the setup of your kitchen to avoid cross-contamination between gluten-free foods and foods containing gluten. For example, when using stainless steel cookware, wash the pot you used to cook pasta containing gluten before cooking gluten-free pasta in that same pot. Don’t share things like toasters and non-stick cookware. This is because heat doesn’t destroy gluten.

It is always important to listen to your body as this will affect your health over the long term. If you need help regarding which foods to eat according to the gluten-free diet it is always best to consult a qualified dietician.

In the end, the key is to stay positive. You can still lead a happy life. It isn’t a prison sentence.

“If you do not make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.” – Joyce Sunada

Further reading:,Celiac%20disease%20can%20react%20to.

Sources used in this blog:

Allergy Foundation South Africa. Coeliac Disease. Date of access: 28 Nov 2020.

TrueEarth. Frequently Asked Questions about Gluten and Gluten Intolerance.,Celiac%20disease%20can%20react%20to. Date of access: 28 Nov 2020.


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