18 Mar Coeliac Awareness Week | March 13-20
Gluten free living is a piece of cake
Living with Coeliac Disease is no big deal for Marlene Van Nieuwkerk – especially in this day and age when groceries are labelled and restaurants offer gluten free menus.
Marlene never had severe symptoms, just unexplained belly aches at times. She was diagnosed by haematologist Dr John Hounsell in 2013 and hasn’t eaten gluten since.
“I have been unwell over the past 10 years and to be honest of all the things I’ve had go wrong Coeliac Disease is the easiest to cope with for me,” she said.
“Blood tests are something I have all the time and I wasn’t really even aware of the Coeliac until Dr Hounsell diagnosed it.
“I remember asking if it mattered if I still had gluten because it wasn’t really affecting me and said ‘well it is affecting you, it’s affecting your bowel’ and that eating gluten could potentially increase my chance of developing bowel cancer.
“So that was it, I stopped immediately and I’m that sort of person who finds it easier to just make it black and white. There’s no grey area, I haven’t had gluten for seven years.”
Marlene, 70, has survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and while many think her hair loss is cancer related it is caused by her lupus.
“Lupus is far worse than Coeliac Disease for me. I suffer from Raynaud’s and scleroderma in my fingers. They go white in the winters, I get clumsy, can’t feel properly and there’s some numbness,” she said.
“So with the Coeliac is doesn’t really bother me – other than really missing a fresh bread sandwich. Gluten free bread isn’t the same – it’s not as soft and much denser.
“I’m sure it’s easier now than it used to be for sufferers though. My cousin has had Coeliac much longer and used to have to make her own bread.
“Now everything is labelled – even Timboon Fine Ice Cream is gluten free. I went out for a meal in Port Fairy recently and their entire menu was gluten free.”
Marlene is an avid attendee of exercise classes at TDHS, including Tai Chi which she loves.
“Tracey Heeps is great. My balance is shot because I have a problem with my hip and all my tendons and muscles aren’t connected to the bone anymore,” she said.
“The classes help me work on my strength and balance and keep my mind and body as healthy as I can. I’ve also attended some food classes with the dietitians there which helps with my meal planning to add variety to my gluten free diet.”