It’s Celiac Disease Awareness Week and It’s the Financial Burden of a Gluten-Free Diet to Stay Healthy

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BBC presenter Ellie Colton, 23, was relieved when doctors finally found the answer to her troubling symptom after several misdiagnoses: celiac disease, a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks their own tissues when consuming gluten. .

But not only was she warned that the damage to her gut was “really bad”, but she also had to bear the financial burden of a strict, gluten-free diet.

Originally from Sheffield, Colton rents a property in Manchester for £1,200 a month and looks after his pug Luna. He says gluten-free foods are “simply unattainable” and living alone is a concern because it “costs a lot more than the average person to eat” alone. A 2018 study in the UK showed that gluten-free foods cost an average of 159% more than their conventional counterparts.

Ellie Colton says she is concerned about the financial cost of caring for her Pug Luna

‘I don’t want to pay £80 more a month just to eat well,’ she says I, “I don’t buy cakes, chips, cookies or candies like I used to because it’s just too expensive. It’s embarrassing if there are friends on the way and we can’t do a broadcast like we used to.”

Celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, but only 30% of people are currently diagnosed clinically, according to Celiac UK. If you don’t follow a strictly gluten-free diet, complications such as small intestine cancer and unexplained infertility issues can occur.

When Colton started showing symptoms like behavioral problems, nausea, joint pain and swelling at the age of 12, doctors diagnosed him with Osgood Schlatter disease, a disease that causes swelling. below the knee joint.

What followed was a misdiagnosis of a Baker’s cyst, formed when fluid fills a pocket of padding on the back of the knee, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a form of arthritis in children. It was only when the doctors considered her illness that they sent her for tests which later confirmed that she was celiac.

It’s Celiac Disease Awareness Week and It’s the Financial Burden of a Gluten-Free Diet to Stay Healthy
Colton presents for BBC Sheffield and BBC Manchester

Gastroenterology dietitian Cristian Costas, who set up an award-winning National Celiac Service in the UK, says the gluten-free diet can be a constant burden for sufferers, and Norwegian research shows it is 433 % more expensive.

And the high price is not the only challenge. Colton remembers choosing a gluten-free chicken and mayonnaise sandwich at Hathersage when he was 18 and the waiter asked if it was okay for the mayonnaise to contain gluten. Even knowing that the sauce is naturally gluten-free, she realized that “the kitchen or the staff had no idea how serious celiac disease was.”

And it turns out the Hathersage server isn’t alone. Questions like “a crumb won’t hurt, will it?” and assumptions such as “if it’s only once, it won’t affect you” have caused food anxiety in the 23-year-old who is forced to have serious conversations with all the servers at a restaurant before you can order food when going out with friends.

Lack of knowledge about celiac disease gave Ellie Colton food anxiety

“Gluten-free has been mislabeled as a fad diet thanks to the Kardashians. It gives me the creeps and all the other people with celiac disease. It’s anything but a passing fad. It can be very isolating when people around you don’t understand.

“When I started eating gluten-free, there wasn’t even a free aisle,” says Sarah Howells, 32, who has lived with celiac disease for 20 years. Since being diagnosed as a young teenager in 2002, she has always found the cost of her diet to be higher.

The reason for the extra expense is that gluten-free foods undergo additional safety and quality checks, require different ingredients and equipment to ensure celiacs are not harmed. Just 20 mg, or a crumb, can attack the small intestine, Costas says. This, coupled with the added cost of separate toaster utensils and bags to prevent cross-contamination, forces those with no choice to constantly pay more.

“It shocks me to see people struggling to afford basic foods like bread due to rising bills,” Howells says I. Rising prices for things like gas have caused many Britons to seek out the essentials and choose between heating and food. For celiacs in need, the extra cost of their groceries is a burden – a breadless loaf can cost up to £3.50 compared to a regular loaf which can go up to 36p.

Sarah Howells has been going gluten-free for 20 years this year (Picture: Twisty Focus)

Howells, who is a full-time gluten-free food blogger, advocates buying in bulk whenever possible from free online vendors and freezing homemade foods to save money. “Shopping in different places is really helpful,” says Costas, who suggests that a naturally gluten-free diet with items like rice, vegetables, fruits and eggs is both cheaper and more nutritious.

Apps like Gluten Free Food Checker allow people to scan barcodes and find out which foods on the shelves are naturally safe. Costas says the £1.25 monthly fee for the app can save people with celiacs money in the long run because they can buy conventional, but safe, food items.

Celiac Disease Awareness Week is May 9-15

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