'While this journey has not been easy, the experience has taught me so much about my body'

'I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in early 2012. However, I had symptoms for several years prior to this diagnosis.

In about 2007, there were concerns around my low body weight and I also had my first episode of severe stomach cramps. I was used to getting stomach cramps, but this time I was hospitalised. There was no explanation for this, even after several follow up doctors’ visits and many tests.

As the years went on, I continued to feel more unwell. I was exhausted, never able to put on weight (despite a big appetite), and had stomach issues no matter what I ate. It escalated until I was going home from work on a regular basis. I was also isolating myself because I was so tired, always getting sick and was self-conscious of my digestive symptoms. Finally, I was screened for coeliac disease and this was confirmed shortly after by endoscopy.

In 2012, understanding of Coeliac Disease was still emerging. I felt that there was a stigma around gluten free, and I was regularly asked if it was a ‘lifestyle choice,’ which was hard for me. I struggled with the attention around asking for gluten free options when eating with others.

I also had a big learning curve with reading food labels and changing my diet. We didn’t have the range of gluten free products that we do now, and I accidentally ate gluten several times in the beginning.

Healing was a slow process, and often felt like three steps forwards and two back. After about six months I could see an improvement. I had more energy, my digestive symptoms had improved, and my moods were lighter. My confidence also increased which helped me to exercise more, be more social and perform better at work.

Over the next few years I also worked on building my nutrient stores back up, addressing my anxiety and bringing healing to the gut. This was what really helped me to feel myself again.

While this journey has not been easy, I’m grateful for the experience because I’ve learned so much about my body, how to listen to it and how to give it what it needs.

For anyone else with coeliac disease – don’t focus on the restrictions. Instead get excited about all the new food you get to try. Use it as an opportunity to heal yourself and reconnect with your body.'

Author credit: Sarah Spann