Laura’s diagnosis story

25 February 2021

Laura’s diagnosis story

Following her passion for Italian cuisine…

In 2001, when I was 15, I took on a part time catering assistant position in my local Italian takeaway. From that moment I fell in love with Italian cuisine, namely pizza, and got so much enjoyment out of making dough and creating authentic Italian pizzas that I gave up on my 2/3 completed university degree in favour of making a career out of my passion for pizza! After 11 years working in the industry, and just 12 weeks after having my first child, I had the opportunity to open my own Italian restaurant and I grabbed it with both hands. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Symptoms of coeliac disease began…

Fast forward to 2014 and I began to notice that my skin was awful, I was suffering with anxiety and depression, I had a lot of sleep disturbance including insomnia and horrendous night sweats, and the skin on the inside of my mouth and nose were just peeling away. I also had this dull lingering pain in my groin that never ever went away. This was the symptom that worried me the most so I set out on a journey to find out the cause. I was referred by my GP to a gynaecologist, then a urologist, neither of whom could find any issues after multiple tests and sent me on my way. I was extremely frustrated but decided that if they couldn’t find anything it mustn’t be anything to worry about and just accepted it.

It wasn’t until 2016 while following the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge for weight loss that I discovered that the pain was gone. I lost almost 4 stone on the plan and was eating healthier than ever. I felt great, and put the pain and the majority of the other nasty symptoms behind me, or so I thought! The pain returned soon after I reintroduced my carb heavy foods back into my diet, and gradually all of the other symptoms resurfaced. Eventually, I went to my GP again as I knew it must be related to my diet somehow.

A diagnosis of coeliac disease is confirmed…leading to a difficult choice

In January 2019 I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease. I was devastated and heartbroken. I very quickly realised that this wasn’t just a diet change for me, it would change my whole life, as even after removing gluten from my diet the symptoms weren’t improving and I knew it was because I was exposed to it in my environment every single day. Flour was everywhere in our open kitchen, and no matter what section of the kitchen I worked in, I was breathing it, it was in my nose, I would go home and it was in my hair… I wasn’t able to work in my restaurant anymore. This was so hard to accept.

An inspired decision leads Laura to a new path…a gluten free restaurant

I found myself becoming more and more depressed, it was a vicious cycle. Physical symptoms were triggering mental symptoms. So I decided the only option was to create a new environment, and my new bar restaurant concept came to fruition. I have now opened a new establishment, just down the road from the other place, serving small plate food which is inspired by foods from all around the world, and I have made sure that we operate FULLY GLUTEN FREE so now I can be free again to work and eat in my new restaurant and never worry about pain again. I am lucky that I have a great team in the Italian restaurant and that, led by my amazing husband, it still thrives.

I miss my former, pre-diagnosis life every day, it was a great passion of mine to make pizza and I had based my life around it, but I am pain free and healthy, and can only hope that one day there will be a cure and I can return to it in the future.

Laura’s top tips for someone who has just been diagnosed with coeliac disease would be;

1. Use the internet/social media – support is out there!
2. Anything can be made gluten free, it just takes time/practice to figure out how!
3. Don’t focus too much on replacing everything you love/miss, it will get easier to accept the shop bought substitutes the longer you have been following the gluten free diet.

I have attached some pictures of the food and a copy of our current menu at the new bar/restaurant, The Bank Bar and Tapas. It is hopefully inspirational to see that all of these “normal” sounding foods/dishes can be successfully made gluten free. We don’t even advertise that everything on the menu is gluten free unless people ask as it’s quite often the case that people believe that gluten free food tastes horrible – and we don’t want to put our customers off!

Laura’s restaurant is located in Dumfries.

I hope that my story could help others on their journey… it’s a tough road to navigate.

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