What coeliac and IBS gave to me

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"…Besides a knowledge of all the public toilets in London?” I hear you asking. Okay, I’m asking that. You’re probably wondering where on earth I’m going with this.

But hear me out: IBS and Coeliac disease are worse than a drag, this I know. Dinner can feel like Russian Roulette, and, no, I never wanted a reason to memorise the Bristol Stool Scale before now.

But, for better or worse, this is my gut and I have learned to manage it. And, when I thought about it a little deeper, I actually learned a little more than that along the way…

It’s helped me understand my limits

Limits! There’s a thing I never thought I had. Scheduling five things for the same two hours? My speciality. Burning all the candles at all the ends? Totes normal! Except, my body eventually told me, in the strongest possible terms, that it’s not normal to keep up a pace like that, and in fact, it’s okay not to. Scheduling intentionally blank evenings into your week? Perfectly good. Going to bed before 10, even if it’s a Friday and everyone else is out-out and having a great time? Also good. I’m not a machine, and finally I’m okay with that.

It made me get comfortable with meditation

Pre-diagnosis, if you’d suggested I meditate, I would have thought you were a bit mad. Or maybe you didn’t know me at all. Because I was forever running here and there, and isn’t meditation just not thinking and who wants to do that?

Uh, yeah, past me was a bit of a tit.

But in sync with realising I needed to slow down a little, I also realised that meditation is pretty damn awesome. Without it I’d never have understood that that ‘grippy’ sensation I had described to several non-plussed GPs before, was actually my stomach muscles clenching very, very tightly in an attempt to not vom everywhere. Even after removing gluten and caffeine from my diet the sensation persisted, and it wasn’t until I downloaded Headspace on a whim and followed the guided meditation for a week or so, that I began to feel them ever so s-l-o-w-l-y unclench. And that was just the first benefit. I go through phases, but it not only managed to ease my food anxiety, but it makes me a calmer, more focused person.

It’s making me a better advocate for myself

I say ‘making’ because it's definitely a process. I'm not perfect at this yet…but I’m definitely on my way. My American husband has always been faintly bemused at my inability to assert myself in restaurants. Hands up all you other Brits out there who insist the meal is ‘lovely’ even if it’s a bit cold/not right/not even what you ordered? Yeah…been there. But now I can’t afford to do that, because if I do, I’m spending some quality time with the bathroom later on. And frankly, I’d rather now be ‘that person’ asking the waitress a million questions than end up in that scenario. Let’s be honest, sometimes you ask a million questions and end up there anyway, but at least now I’m advocating for myself. And the strength to do it in small places like restaurants, builds and builds and spills over into other areas of life too. Win!

It brought me a new community

Instagram’s gluten free/autoimmune/chronic illness/IBS/IBD community is the best. It’s full of supportive, thoughtful, brave people, who are shutting down stigmas and being loud and proud. They’re also cooking some INCREDIBLY tasty food, so if you’re on the AIP or FODMAP diet, get yourself on Instagram and get ready to be inspired! Every week I try to give a #followfriday shoutout to accounts I’ve been particularly enjoying – so if you’re following us, be sure to give them some double-tap love each Friday!

It made me get more creative in the kitchen

I was so intimidated by gluten free flours that, after a couple of rock-like cakes that went straight in the bin, I put away my measuring cups and didn’t bake for a solid year. Maybe even longer. But I missed baking. A lot. And I missed cake! Even though GF options had steadily been increasing, and I was way luckier for that stuff in my year of diagnosis than a friend of mine who’d been coeliac for well over a decade, it was still fairly difficult at that time to find good cakes when out and about.

So I rolled up my sleeves, got knee deep in Pinterest, and started trying again. Eventually I tried recipes from places like Gluten Free on A Shoestring, Minimalist Baker and Ambitious Kitchen that have become my go-to delicious staples.

Have you got IBS/IBD, coeliac, or another autoimmune disease that brought you more than you bargained for? Leave us a comment below! <3