Living with disease is a recipe for life
For many the most challenging part of a restaurant menu is deciding on a meal.
For someone with coeliac disease it’s finding something they can eat.
Coeliac disease is a permanent intestinal intolerance to gluten which is found in wheat, barley, rye and in some cases oats.
It causes upset stomachs, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, allergic reactions, mouth ulcers and chronic diarrhoea.
Coeliac Awareness Week from May 24 to 30 aims to educate people about the condition.
An estimated 1 percent of the population have coeliac disease, but four out of five aren’t aware of it.
The theme of this year’s appeal is Are you one in 100?
Coeliacs must keep to a strict gluten-free diet for life.
If the disease is untreated there is an increased risk of bowel cancer and other health problems.
Maxine Belcher was diagnosed 18 years ago and says at first it seemed as if everything was banned from her diet.
That was until she learned about alternative ingredients.
She didn’t know any other people with the condition so “was on the phone like a shot” when she saw a support group advertised.
Missing out on foods she liked was frustrating until she learned to bake. When going to other people’s houses for dinner she needs to take her own food.
Some restaurants and cafes now have gluten-free options but previously Maxine would only be able to have coffee when out.
People should understand that it’s not a fad but a diet that is essential to follow, she says.
Eight-year-old Nicola Perry was diagnosed with coeliac disease at age three.
She says she has a valid excuse not to eat some of the foods she doesn’t like, although she doesn’t get out of eating vegetables.
Her mother belongs to the Coeliac Society where she learns how to prepare meals for her, such as her favourite – cheese fingers.
The hardest part for Nicola is going to a restaurant and not being able to eat anything.
She says living with the condition is not much different from people who have food allergies.
Annual meetings are held in May where guest speakers highlight trends and new research on the disease.
The society works through its support group leaders around the country.
They provide help to newly-diagnosed sufferers as well as ongoing support.
For more details call Maxine on 576-7943 or go to www.coeliac.co.nz.
World of alternatives: Maxine Belcher, left, and Nicola Perry enjoy gluten-free scones.