The Reboot

I’ve had kind of a rough time recently.

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a stomach issue that was reasonably well controlled with medication until the beginning of August when everything went a bit wrong. Then it went really wrong after we got back from Rome and it’s been getting worse ever since. Unfortunately, I’ve been told such problems are common in coeliacs. I last saw my ENT in May and I can only assume that afterwards his fingers mysteriously dropped off, rendering him unable to respond to my messages pleading for help. Poor man. In desperation (and to stop my constant whinging) my parents kindly put up the funds for me to see a private gastroenterologist, who was sure to help me.

The rushed, albeit fairly kind, lady I saw didn’t really have an answer I had hoped for. While there is an op that could (I repeat ‘could’) cure me, it would first require a manometry.

A what!??

I had never heard of such a thing! She explained they would feed a tube up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach, while I was fully conscious. They would then leave it there and send me home to have a jolly old time eating and drinking everything that makes me feel poorly – tea, coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, chocolate. Once I was feeling spectacularly sick (and yes, able to feel the tube hanging down the back of my throat at the same time), I would return to the hospital to have the tube passed back up my throat and out of my nose. Such larks! If that sounds bad, let me tell you that experiences across the net are not favourable. Most patients report endless gagging, tolerating it only for a few minutes.

After I ran screaming from her office I decided to start looking at alternatives and settled on trying to fix my stomach through diet. Last week I removed everything from my diet but potatoes and my gluten free bread, the idea being that a super-plain diet for a time will be like pushing the ‘restart’ button on a computer. Once my stomach has rebooted, I’ll start introducing foods S-L-O-W-L-Y, each for a few days at a time, removing anything that could be linked to my symptoms. This plan was disrupted on day four, by which time I had become a bear in hibernation; grumpy, hungry, and too tired to function from the lack of nutrition. I brought back eggs, peas, porridge, Quorn, celeriac and soya yoghurt and felt thoroughly rotten again.

So now I’m back to eating relatively plainly again. The peas, Quorn, porridge and celeriac are sticking around but I’m dropping the yoghurt and eggs for a time to see if things calm down again.

With this going on, it’s been really hard to focus on anything and my studying and work is starting to suffer while I curl up on the sofa, playing about on my phone for hours on end. So here’s the plan: for the next week, I’m ditching my phone. Not completely, but after being called out by three different people for ‘always staring at that bloody thing’, I decided we need a slight parting of the ways. From tonight, I’ll be using my phone ONLY for calls and messages. To remove temptation, I’ll delete Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, IMDB, Gold, Amazon, email, BBC Weather and Fitbit. Rather than losing (what is probably) three hours a day at least just staring at my phone, I hope I’ll be more productive, more energetic and will be more inclined to give meditation and yoga another go. It’ll be like I’m 16 again, wielding my Nokia 3310 with its jelly keys while playing in the road with my friends. Except it’ll be a Sony Z5 and I’m probably too old to play in the road. But you get the idea.

Of course, I’ll still be able to access everything from my laptop in the evenings but this should be an interesting experiment in how much our current phone usage distracts us from more positive activities in everyday life.

I’ll report back next week but in the meantime, if you want to join in then please do, and it could be very interesting to look at the results next week! Could you give up your phone? Maybe you would find it too hard? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

The Reboot

The Honeymoon Do-Over

In case you haven’t guessed from the radio silence and the constant excitement I’ve splattered across social media, we just got back from a holiday in Rome. And I’m still buzzing.

A mini-Colosseum!?

Six years ago, after Husband and I said ‘I do’ we went to Italy for our honeymoon, and while it wasn’t quite National Lampoon’s European Vacation, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t that great. Italy, like most destinations, has a lot to offer the prepared tourist, from some of the world’s best food and drink to some of the most historic sights, all waiting to dazzle and amaze. Except we ballsed it up. Stressed to hair-tugging proportions from planning our wedding, we forgot to plan the honeymoon. This was a huge mistake for a number of reasons. First of all, we rented an apartment in the wrong part of Rome and yes, there is a wrong part. If it takes three metros or a weird metro/bus/tram combo to get to anywhere, it’s the wrong part.

More importantly, we neglected to research places that offered gluten free food for digestively-impaired little ol’ me. Oh, the miserable hours we spent, lost and cranky, in 34°C heat, mumbling a doleful ‘senza glutine?’ at the staff in every potential eating-place we passed. In our traipsing we only found two shops selling gluten free gelato. TWO! We did eventually find a restaurant with a gluten free menu…an hour’s journey away…on our last night in Rome…during a storm so heavy my flip flops almost floated down the road.

Yes, it was a disaster, after which I vowed never to return to Rome.

Inside the Pantheon

Then last year, something changed. During that holiday, I fell in love with the language and after receiving an at-home Italian language course for Christmas, I was eager to try my new skills out. Husband and I talked it over and realised the problem had not been Rome, it had been us and our lack of preparation. We decided to return, calling ‘do-over’ on our honeymoon of 2010.

This time we studied, researched, and prepped so hard we could have earned our PhD in ‘Rome’. We booked an apartment in the heart of Trastevere (the cool, hip part of Rome with the good restaurants and night life), walking distance from the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, and more. I spent hours scouring food blogs and Tripadvisor for places to eat and drew up a list, diligently marking them on a map. We bought travel guides and chose which sights we wanted to see. And you know what?


The Piazza Navona (duh!)

I could bore you to tears with my rhaposidising about the food, but instead, I’ve posted links at the bottom of this post to the reviews I’ve written about them on Tripadvisor (pictures included where possible). Suffice to say no amount of walking could offset the Horn of Plenty Rome can offer a hungry coeliac.

Gluten free pistachio tiramisu

The sights were breath-taking, even more so for understanding exactly what we were looking at. Without our research, we might never have felt the joy of haggling like a pro at the Sunday Porta Portense flea market (over a mile long!). I might never have really appreciated the ruins of the Temple of Saturn – Saturn being the mythical God-king of Rome. Saturnalia was the festival that celebrated his glory, and later became what we now know as Christmas. I did thank Saturn silently for the magic that is Christmas while we were there.

We spent a day cycling around Rome

I have never been a natural traveller, but I am profoundly grateful to Rome and its people for an experience that has changed me. I felt confident and brave and serene in Rome. Someday I want to live there, if only for six months. I want to learn to speak Italian fluently. I want more of the hot air, the juxtaposed chaos and beauty, modernity and history, more of the food that no other country cooks so well, and definitely more of siestas! Despite my natural instincts as a home body, I owe it to myself to make these dreams come true, somehow. For now though, maybe I’ll keep the siesta thing…

My first Italian capuccino (SO much better than in the UK, I’m afraid!)

The gluten free eateries:

The Honeymoon Do-Over

‘Lifestyle Coeliac’?

Today the Daily Mail ran a story that made a lot of people very angry. Nothing new about that, it is the Daily Mail after all, but it’s one of the rare occasions I got genuinely rather shouty with anger at a newspaper story. Why?

As a diagnosed coeliac, I have to take the condition very seriously. Repeated ingestion of gluten – a protein present in wheat, barley and rye – can significantly increase the risk of developing cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. This is not something to be taken lightly. So when the media publishes an article that encourages non-coeliacs to categorise themselves, through self-diagnosis, into varying levels of coeliac, it’s not only insulting, it’s dangerous.

Daily Fail

Coeliac disease is the name for the condition in which gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Referring to those who choose to avoid gluten as part of a lifestyle choice as ‘lifestyle coeliacs’ makes as much sense as calling someone like Davina McCall, who avoids sugar, a ‘lifestyle diabetic’. Nobody does. Nobody would dare to go there.

For many, this won’t seem like a big problem, so it’s important to put it into perspective. Recently I heard a story that disturbed me. A local restaurant, who I won’t name here, has been selling a food item as gluten free, with stuffing inside that most definitely was not gluten free. A woman narrowly escaped being made very poorly as a result and when she challenged the manager about it, the lady was told they understood coeliac disease to be a ‘lifestyle choice’. In other words, despite the EU regulations about allergen labelling, their belief that gluten free meant ‘I’m on a health kick’ completely overrode the importance of accurate allergen labelling.

This is the inherent danger in labelling every person who avoids gluten a coeliac. Those in whom we are forced to place our trust every time we eat outside our homes stop taking the condition seriously. They begin thinking it’s okay to use the same butter, knife, chopping board, toaster, for genuine coeliacs and those who are simply choosing to avoid it, and we’re the ones who pay the price. If we don’t fight back against erroneous reports and those that encourage sloppy food care, we tell everyone that it’s okay to stop taking the precautions that might one day save our lives.

‘Lifestyle Coeliac’?