Peter Finch's Gluten Page

DH and associated coeliac scares - how it's been


Things that are okay so far:

Cardboard, spices, all the unpalatable alcohols, nothing at Boots' sandwich counter, special bread at 7.50 a loaf, lettuce, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion, lettuce, lettuce, radish, lettuce, stamps that stick themselves, lettuce and fish.


Update six months on:

Still fish. The man at the Boots Gluten Free day demonstration trying to sell sponge cake made from restructured rice and wood shavings ignores me in favour of a woman who had a friend who she thought just might be suffering from DH or maybe it was milk intolerance she wasn't sure. He sells her a bottle of NoGloot Brown Sauce and takes her telephone number. I go to Sainsburys where they do corn pasta at half the price it comes in at on the NHS. Next step is to convince Brains Brewery to make an ale I can cope with. Dim Glwten SA, the perfect product. Cider is okay but it's not the same.


For those who want serious information here are the things to avoid:

bread, cakes, biscuits, anything made with wheat flour, barley, oats or rye. This means flavoured crisps, sausages, sauces, pasta, batter, many ready-meals, beer, breakfast cereal (except corn flakes), toast, chips fried in chip-shop vats (where they get infected with the batter from the fish), noodles (other than rice noodles), soy sauce (although there is a specialist variety which is okay), honey-roast peanuts, and loads of other things I can't quite remember right now (such as Yorkshire Pudding and Spotted Dick).

Things which are okay:

cardboard, rice, corn, wine, cider, fish, veg and fruit, whiskey, most spirits, soap, salt, nuts, pure chocolate, meat, milk products, plain crisps, wool, sugar, grass, wood shavings, saw-dust, reconstituted potato, wallpaper paste, toothpowder, water, cat-litter and coffee. The Coeliac Society do a food list which contains such wonders as McDougalls Thickening Granules, Burger King Whoppers (without bun or mayonnaise), Whole Earth chilled Organic Smoky Bacon Flavour Tempeh Rashers and St Ivel's Miracle Milk Powder. Should be able to go the distance on that.


Update at almost two years

Many months of cat litter sandwiches, cardboard biscuits and long, difficult discussions with waiters, chefs and owners at restaurant tables take their toll. Tolerance is down. The lack of gluten sings on the skin like a cassette tape played with the Dolby off. Nothing seems to work.

Then the hospital re-tests. Their new biopsies, consultations and discussions with the great oracle in the sky come to an amazing conclusion: this is not DH after all. They are not sure what it is but it is not coeliac, or gluten intolerance, that's for sure. "You can hold the drugs and stop the diet." The voice of the specialist doesn't even waver.

There is a sort of long silence, like the ones at the end of the local tv news before the network picks up again. My is face frozen for an endless moment, like those of the newsreaders often are. I am given a future appointment for patch tests ("No washing for four days and no sport, absolutely, can you cope with that?"). I return home via the supermarket and for tea have eight slices of toast, two scones, a hunk of bread pudding, five Welsh cakes and then for good luck four more slices of toast and a substantial hit from the HP brown sauce. At the pub I leave the cider the barman has poured for me and have four pints of Murphy's instead. Apart from the barman no one notices. Will the world ever be the same again?

Update at three years

Years of gluten free shenanigans have left their toll. I find myself wavering at the bar and ordering cider, a thing I hardly ever did in my earlier life. It has a kick beer lacks and, while the flavour is hardly subtle, it usually hits the spot. The bread overkill has resolved itself. No longer do I wake to a breakfast for 8 toast slices followed by French bread lunches with extra croutons on everything. I do, however, have to admit to the odd lingering liking for rice cakes. But the rest? I tried a gluten free crispbread "like the real thing" the other day (5.42 for a packet of 10) just to remind myself. It still tasted like floor panelling. Prowling the aisles of Tesco I spot their wheatless Gluten Free Biscuits aimed at health freaks and sold for 60p. Buy these from the specialists and they'll cost at least six pounds. Someone, somewhere is making money here.

The tests continue. Every six months or so I go in and we talk about what it could be. Allergy to printers ink. Fear of shoe polish. Skin aversion to black trousers. Chemicals in my wallpaper. Wrong sort of dust in the bedroom. Who knows.

Update four years out

Discharged. Our specialist in the department retires to the Canaries. If you've any more trouble, he tells me, talk to your GP. My legs are covered with legacy DH. I have a permanent taste for cider and an odd, unexpected liking for utterly wheat-free polenta. I wear shorts whenever I can. That's what happens when you get older. You start liking country and western music, take an interest in local history and, unaccountably return to the short pants of your youth.



2005 Still Around

At the hospital I ask after the specialist. Long gone now. Virtually no one can remember him. My DH is reduced to being simply dermatitis. The spot test said ink. I tell them. Do you encounter that in your job? the anaesthetist asks me as the trolley bowls towards the theatre. Now and then. They've give me a pink identity armband. Just in case.


No Wheat Pete Prayer
(a poem by Ifor Thomas)

Not even rolls which are unleaven
Gluten free be the game
Thy rice cakes come
No more toast will be done
Nor pasta even if it tastes like heaven
Give us this day our daily quorn
And forgive us wanting Yorkshire Pudding
As we forgive them their lumpy gravy
And lead us not to the pub to drink beer
For wine will be less gory
Not ever IPA nor SA Again


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