Becky Excell shares what it's like to live with a gluten intolerance, what it's taught her as well as, her free-from discovery journey.
Hi, my name is Becky. I’m a 24 year old living in Manchester for the past 8 months. I unfortunately suffer with a gluten intolerance & have done so since early 2010.
I know that gluten intolerances affect a huge amount of people across the world, as well as other food intolerances, allergies & more serious conditions such as Coeliac and Crohns Disease. So I thought I would share my story with you about how, firstly I acquired my problem, and secondly what it was like to have to contend with this, whilst I completed my university degree and beyond.
WHERE MY INTOLERANCE STARTED?
My story actually starts right here in Manchester, where in 2009 I started a Law Degree. Moving 250 miles away from home to this vibrant, northern city was exciting and really enjoyed the social side of university.
However, the endless reading and hard work that a law degree brought was making me more and more unhappy.
Although I worked really hard at college to get onto the course, I soon felt that Law really wasn’t for me so after months of stressing out, I finally decided to quit the course and return home.
A few months prior to leaving University, I starting suffering from bloating, discomfort & pain whenever I ate certain foods. Initially I just ignored it, but it continued to become frustrating, and at times, quite embarrassing, especially one night of agony and trapped wind following a meal at a local Italian.
Eventually I visited my GP and had some blood tests, one of which was to see if I had coeliac disease. Fortunately it came back negative, but it didn’t solve the issues I was having. My doctor recommended I keep a food diary and try removing certain foods from my diet to see if it helped.
LIVING WITH A FOOD INTOLERANCE
I quickly came to realise that wheat, and soon after, all forms of gluten were the culprits of my discomfort. Whether it was bread, pasta, soy sauce or a custard cream biscuit, anything that contained gluten was making me really unwell. I decided to remove all foods containing gluten from my diet. This was a monstrous & unhappy task at first… who knew that so many foods contain gluten!
I returned to university the following year, new place & a new subject, which I enjoyed a lot more. However my digestive discomfort, upon ever mistakenly eating gluten, never went away. This made university more difficult for me. A night out with friends could no longer end with a kebab; and I was unable to partake in student associated dinners such as pizza & pot noodles! Back in 2010, ‘gluten free food’ was a lot less accessible, as was finding gluten free options in restaurants. I really struggled with this, as well as the sheer cost of gluten free living as a student.
MY FREE FROM DISCOVERY JOURNEY
However, as time has moved on more brands have started to creep out of the shadows and provide their own gluten free options; restaurants too have started jumping on the bandwagon. It is great to feel more understood by the wider food community and for the importance of allergens to be taken seriously.
Having to eat a gluten free diet made me a more adventurous cook throughout university, and that continued beyond graduation (I passed!). I started to try things that I wouldn’t have before, & began recreating dishes that I could no longer eat in their original gluten form.
WHAT MY EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT ME?
For me, following a gluten free diet has become an insightful & positive experience. I realise this definitely isn’t the case for everyone. A gluten intolerance is incredibly frustrating a lot of the time & can cause a lot of problems. But, at the end of the day, all you can do is make the best out of a bad situation, & that’s exactly what I’ve done. Finding real gems in the rough, in the shape of gluten free products & restaurants is often exciting. Creating my own gluten free recipes that everyone loves is even more exciting.
I have learnt to help myself, and also help others combat the hold that a food intolerance can have on one’s everyday life. This, alongside the steps forward the free from food industry have made in recent years, has made the whole experience so much more manageable.
And whilst I wouldn’t wish any food intolerance, disease or allergy on my worst enemy, I am glad that by having a gluten intolerance I have been able to understand and help others suffering from similar problems. Ultimately, whilst I can’t eat any old chocolate cake, I have learnt to make a pretty decent gluten free chocolate cake and best of all I am pretty happy.
If you want to check out any of my top tips for making the most of life gluten free as well as plenty of delicious recipes then please feel free to pop over to my blog
Thanks for reading,