Phil’s diagnosis story

23 February 2021

Phil’s diagnosis story

Dear fellow Coeliacs,

I am now in my seventies and I suspect that I have been coeliac for many decades. I remember in my youth (the swinging sixties) that I had a low tolerance for beer and would be more likely to fall asleep at parties than get drunk. If I managed to drink four or five pints then I would certainly be sick. I rarely had a hangover but would often feel unwell for days afterwards.

I think that it was my mid twenties when I was diagnosed with Dermatitis Herpetiformis. This caused some consternation amongst the specialist doctors as apparently I had the rash and blisters in all the wrong places! Then followed years on Dapsone tablets until by chance I saw on the tv news an article about British troops heading for somewhere tropical. For some reason it was mentioned that they would be taking Dapsone tablets to protect against malaria. The dosage was also mentioned and I became concerned that I was taking about ten times the amount prescribed for the tough British squaddies. This prompted my wife to do some digging (not easy pre-internet) into Dermatitis Herpetiformis and Dapsone. It was she who found a link with coeliac disease which when discussed with my GP led to my starting a GF diet.

There wasn’t much available when Phil was first diagnosed with coeliac disease

I really wish that I had held onto some of the gluten free products that were available on prescription at the time – they had to be seen to be believed! For example, bread came enclosed in a cylindrical tin. To gain access you had to use a tin opener at both ends and then push the “bread” through. When sliced it looked as though a circular cutter had been used on polystyrene ceiling tiles. This “bread” was only barely edible when toasted but beware – a few seconds too long in the toaster and it turned black and melted. In those days (1980’s) eating out was fraught with difficulties and travel abroad exceptionally problematic.

Gluten free foods have improved dramatically over the years!

Since those times the general awareness of coeliac disease and the range and quality of GF products has improved exponentially. Interestingly, since GF foods have become less available on prescription, the variety available in supermarkets has increased greatly and prices have become much more reasonable.

Phil’s top 3 tips for someone who has just been diagnosed:

1. Take it seriously and don’t cheat. One lapse (e.g. a piece of chocolate cake) can mean several days of feeling unwell.
2. In cafes and restaurants make it clear that you are coeliac and that your GF request is not just a dietary preference (fad!).
3. Remember that coeliacs have never had it so good.

Phil’s favourite gluten free recipe…meaty Bolognese

My favourite recipe – well I don’t really do recipes but I do cook frequently. The attached photo shows a cauldron of a meaty bolognese sauce. The ingredients are:

A pack of lean minced beef
A pack of lean minced pork
Onion, leek, carrots, mushrooms, red pepper, tinned tomatoes and/or pasta sauce
I also tend to add some beef stock, green pesto, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, pepper etc.
Red wine is also a great ingredient, I usually add about as much as I drink while I’m making the sauce!
My method is to fry the meat in a little oil in one pan whilst frying all the veg in another. Then add the tomatoes and stock etc and transfer to your largest pan to simmer for about 40 minutes.
I tend to make this in quite large quantities so that after its first outing as a spaghetti bolognese it can be frozen and with the addition of red kidney beans and chilli can later become a chilli co carne. It can also be a great base for cottage pie.

Enjoy your gluten free diet. Phil.

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