Just when you thought your week couldn’t get any better, we go and turn up out of the blue with another edition of the Coeliac Spotlight. “Who will the light shine on this week?!” we hear you yell in overwhelming anticipation. Well…let’s give a warm welcome to Tegan AKA the Gluten Free Veggie!
So Tegan, let’s start with the usual. How old were you when you were first diagnosed with Coeliac disease?
I was 19 (22 now) when I first showed symptoms. I was bedridden for two months and lost a stone in that time as my stomach hurt too much to eat anything. About a year later I was diagnosed with IBS as well.
Have you noticed any changes in the Coeliac world in that relatively short space of time?
Whilst I haven’t been diagnosed as long as some people (those who have been diagnosed for decades have told me about the lack of availability they had to endure) I have seen some changes. The biggest is probably the rise in 100% gluten free establishments – the month that I found out was also the month that 100% gluten free cafe Nibsy’s opened in my home town! I remember my mum and I hearing it on the local radio and not being able to believe our luck as I’d only found out a week or two beforehand! Since then I’ve also been to Leggero, Beyond Bread, Artisan Gluten Free in Islington and Oscar and Bentley’s – all of which are 100% gluten free.
Ooh thanks for the tips…we’re going to have to give a few of those a go! Are there any good GF alternatives that you’re yet to find?
I think the only thing I haven’t found an alternative for is probably mozzarella sticks. I believe Tesco makes a gluten free version of them but they have onion and garlic in which, as someone with IBS, I can’t eat! The range of gluten free food is pretty good now, it’s definitely my IBS that restricts what’s available to me rather than being gluten free as companies just aren’t interested in making low FODMAP or allium free foods.
With that in mind, are there any restaurants you’d recommend to anyone suffering from both Coeliac disease and IBS?
This is a really tough one to answer as I have a soft spot for lots of places but it has to be Oscar and Bentley’s in Canterbury. The head chef there (Mark Kennett) has always been really accommodating of my IBS dietary restrictions and has adapted meals for me so that I can eat them. The staff are lovely and you always feel well taken care of and the food is incredible. They also offer a range of cuisines. I also love eating out at Leggero in London but I have to place them as my second favourite (sorry Leggero!) simply because there is more range at O and Bs. They also have always looked after me with regards to my IBS and the staff and owners are always kind and chatty. I also eat at Nibsy’s at lot but as they are a cafe I can’t have dinner there!
We’ve got to say we’re big fans of your blog here in the office. What made you take up blogging in the first place?
Weirdly, I started my blog with the intention of no one else reading it. At 19/20 I still wasn’t a very confident cook as I had only really started to learn properly when I was diagnosed! I made recipes and then forgot the amounts or the method and so I decided to write them down. To my mind, using an online platform seemed best as I could include pictures and links and if anything happened to my computer or a physical copy they would still be there. It wasn’t until a few months of writing up recipes that people started to respond and told me they enjoyed my posts that I started using it as a blog and created my social media accounts. I was amazed that people were interested in reading something I’d created for myself and so at the beginning of this year I made the commitment of posting twice a week and starting a Youtube channel.
We’re going to finish off with a question we ask all our Spotlight stars. Have you any last words of wisdom for people recently taking on a gluten free diet?
Don’t expect to feel better straight away. It will take time before your body heals. Give yourself a strong support network who understand what you are going through – you can do this by making sure you give your friends and family all of the information. I am extremely grateful that my friends, boyfriend and parents are so understanding but it is partly because I spent a long time showing them the dangers, explaining to them the ins and outs of the gluten free diet and encouraging them to see the world through a Coeliac’s eyes.
Check out Tegan’s blog here: https://glutenfreeveggieblog.wordpress.com/
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