Teenage years and early twenties have their challenges at the best of times, but even more so when you’ve just been diagnosed with coeliac (celiac) disease. Your first thought might be, ‘oh no! I’m never going to go to a party again!’ but you most certainly will, you just need to adjust your diet and lifestyle to accommodate your new diagnosis and to ultimately help you feel so much better.
It will take a bit of time to figure it all out and you will need to take a bit of time to educate people around you, but remember your family and friends are there to support you and in time will understand your need to call ahead before eating at restaurants, take a bit more care when planning outings and ensure your home, especially if you live with flatmates is geared up to accomodate for a gluten free life.
You’ll no doubt love eating out, trying out different restaurants and enjoying spending time with your friends, however when you’ve been diagnosed with coeliac (celiac) disease, or you’re gluten intolerant, then it’s not such an exciting experience. It gets a bit boring constantly having to explain your dietary needs either to the waiter, or the people that you’re with, and get them to understand that it’s super important that you stick to a strictly gluten free diet. For a bit more help with how to tackle these scenarios, take a look at our article; hints and tips for eating out. It was originally written for younger kids, but the principles are all still the same.
MOVING TO UNIVERSITY
Moving to University is an extremely exciting time for any 18 year old as well as a bit of a nerve-racking experience. Living on your own, meeting tonnes of new people and exploring a new City (oh yeah and don’t forget the learning bit in there!) are just a few of the wonderful things you’ll be experiencing, but it’s really important to get yourself set up properly.
Make sure you register at a Doctors surgery in your first week, and have a good chat about with the doctor about your needs. It will be reassuring to have someone that little bit closer than perhaps your parents might if you are studying away from home, and advise on best remedy if a dreaded case of glutening occurs which you find hard to get over.
As you will have done at home with your family, the kitchen needs to be safeguarded to avoid you getting poorly. It would be a good idea to sit down with your new friends and explain what coeliac (celiac) disease is, as they may not have heard of it before. Or, just as likely, as we’ve found, don’t be surprised if there ends up being someone else in your friendship group in the same situation. It’s amazing how many people you find in your immediate circle who is either coeliac or gluten intolerant once you start talking about it.
In a house or flat-share, most students have their own cupboard, so that won’t feel weird having your things separate, but you need to think about using separate cooking or preparation utensils. Oh and make it really clear to your mates that if they come back late one night after the pub and fancy a bit of beans on toast, not to use your butter, otherwise you’ll soon know about it, the next time you use it!
Our article about safeguarding your kitchen is really useful. Take a look here
FESTIVALS AND PARTIES
Summer in the UK is packed full of a variety of brilliant festivals from Leeds and Reading Festival to Glastonbury and Creamfields. The food at festivals has vastly improved in the last few years, with smaller independent stalls popping up to offer great vegetarian and vegan meals, as opposed to the regular burgers, pizzas and fish and chip stalls, but we’re yet to discover a totally gluten free provider, unfortunately. This can be a really challenging environment for someone who is gluten free or gluten intolerant, so it’s generally a good idea to take your own food along such as fruit or gluten free snacks. You will most likely need a hot meal when you’re camping in an inevitably muddy field during the festival, so try and pick a queue wisely before you stand in it and get told that there are no gluten free options!
As you would with a waiter or chef in a restaurant, make sure you explain fully that you have coeliac (Celiac) disease, and the implications of that. If you feel comfortable that they’re able to accommodate you, then go for it; but you might have to try out a few stalls until you get what you’re after.
Parties and get togethers will also be a regular occurrence (naturally!) and if food is being served, you could ask the host what they are planning on serving, so that you can bring a gluten free version along for yourself. Alternatively, you could eat before you go so that there’s no chance of a mistake being made.
It’s probably more likely that you’ll encounter alcohol rather than food at parties, of course if you’re over the age of 18 and yes, a lot of alcohol contains gluten! You should always take your own so that you know it’s gluten free, but cider, wine, spirits, port, sherry and liqueurs are all suitable. You can also keep your eyes peeled for gluten free beers and lagers.
Don’t let your diagnosis hold you back! Have fun and enjoy...after all these should be the most carefree days of your life. Just always be mindful, and take care of your health.