Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

They say marriage changes you; well, that couldn’t be truer for Tamworth resident Bon Brennan.

One day you’re eating your wedding cake and jetting off on your honeymoon, and the next, your life is changed forever.

“I got food poisoning on my honeymoon in Vanuatu, and that changed something in my gut flora, in my system, and the gene that had sat there dormant came alive,” said Mrs Brennan.

Meet a common scenario for coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease that reacts to gluten, causing inflammation of the small intestine.

Returning home, life was very different for the Brennans.

“I was sick all the time, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Eventually, I was tested for coeliac, and a positive result came back,” said Mrs Brennan.

“Once I knew what was making me sick, it was a learning curve cutting it out.”

“I spent the first week eating Vegemite on rice cakes feeling really proud of myself for not eating toast, not realising Vegemite has gluten. But they now have gluten-free Vegemite, and it’s pretty good.”

Mrs Brennan has been a diagnosed coeliac for ten years and says it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.

“People who have made gluten-free more of a lifestyle choice rather than a medical one have made it easier for those who need to do it because there is a lot more demand for products.”

“The suppliers are getting better at making food, and there is a lot more variety.”

Many people remain undiagnosed, which is why Coeliac Awareness Week is vital to shedding light on this often-missed disease.

March 13 to 20 is Coeliac Awareness Week across Australia, encouraging people to get tested if they have concerns. Symptoms of coeliac include:

  • bowel and digestive issues like diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and cramping
  • headaches and fatigue
  • weight loss
  • a deficiency of folic acid, iron, or vitamin B12
  • skin rash
  • osteoporosis, or pain in the bones and joints.

Gluten can be found in many of our basic food items, including pasta, bread, beer, and baked goods.

This is why companies like Australian-made Well & Good are changing the game when it comes to gluten-free food. Founding member Shelia Barak praises her family’s legacy for lifting the indulgence.

“Our food isn’t always about health but about indulgence – making products that are just as good as ones with gluten,” said Ms Barak.

“From cakes to cookies, to flours and breads, we are a powerhouse in the gluten-free space and available in your local supermarkets.”

Anyone can get the disease at any time, but there is no cure for coeliac, only dietary management.

While society and restaurants are providing more options, challenges remain for many to find suitable food. Sushi and boa buns aren’t on the coeliac menu, and the cost of gluten-free items is on the rise.

“Inflation is everywhere, and yes, gluten-free ingredients are more costly.”

“That’s why, during Coeliac Awareness Week, we try to make our products really affordable, so people who are newly diagnosed, or they think they’ve got an intolerance, they can give them a try at a reasonable price.”

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