Living with… Coeliac Disease

Our communications manager Kim McAllister has a 50% gluten free household. Her son’s allergy is more severe than her husband’s, but both have to eat a specialist diet

  • How did you discover your son had an allergy?

It took us a long time to figure out that gluten was the problem – it was the long battle with toilet training that really forced the issue.

We tried cutting out milk, apples, dairy completely (that was really hard because he loves cheese and yoghurt). It was a process of trial and error and then when we did try to eliminate gluten, that was a huge learning curve. We kept making mistakes and forgetting. Trying to educate everyone he spent time with took forever… When we finally figured it out, my husband wondered if he would also feel healthier without gluten in his diet. He couldn’t believe the difference.

  • Did you access support?

In a word – no. The doctor offered to do the coeliac test, but warned us we’d have to put him back on gluten for four weeks first to avoid a false positive. I couldn’t even conceive of going back to the old days, so I refused. This means we can’t access any of the services like GF bread on the NHS.

  • What does it mean practically for you and your family?

We are in the way of it now. We have a shelf for GF products and we tend to eat a lot of rice and potatoes. Whenever I make pasta I have two pots on the stove, as my other son and I just don’t enjoy the GF version. I’ll make lasagne with GF pasta sheets, that’s OK. We tend not to have biscuits and cakes in the house, as Finlay has a learning disability and doesn’t always understand why his brother can have something and he can’t. Birthday parties are always difficult – though we’re lucky GF versions are so common now and easy to buy.

  • What are your main concerns?

I worry about Finlay eating enough. Lunchboxes are always difficult, he just doesn’t enjoy gluten free sandwiches, and salads don’t fill him up very much. I’m always worried someone will forget and give him a biscuit or some toast – that happened at a playdate once and he was off school for two days with an upset tummy.

  • How would you describe your attitude to food?

It’s definitely taken some of the joy out of food for me. I miss baking – but maybe I just need better recipes. I worry when we’re out and about that there won’t be anything suitable for my son and husband, so I’m always carrying snacks and oatcakes. I’ve become quite stuck in the rut of cooking the same dinners and buying the same ingredients because they’re safe and tasty.

  • Will the LiberEat app help you and your family?

Absolutely! I think this app will help us in lots of different ways. It will help me do the shopping, it will encourage me to be more adventurous in my cooking and it will open up the world of eating out. It will also give me peace of mind if Finlay’s going to be spending time with someone who’s not so used to avoiding gluten – I can tell them about the app and then they can double-check the products.

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