Beat the wheat

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MAY 16-22 marks Coeliac UK Awareness Week and the charity are highlighting what it’s like to live with the condition.

Douglas Briton (50) lives at Sheriff’s Park, Linlithgow, and he was diagnosed with the disease 10 years ago.

He said: “There’s something in wheat, rye, barley that affects the lining of the stomach.

“In the short term you can get diarrhoea, in the long term you can get malnutrition as your body is not getting what you need. One of the risks is osteoporosis - brittle bone disease, and it can also lead to anaemia. It can affect your mind and you can feel miserable. You have a lack of energy and are lethargic.”

Coeliac disease is caused by intolerance to gluten, but it is not a food allergy. It affects at least 1 in 100 people in Scotland, but only around 10-15 per cent of people with the condition are clinically diagnosed. The blood test available to test for the condition is 90 per cent reliable but Douglas was one of the 10 per cent who was undetected. His condition was diagnosed only after an endoscopy.

Diet is the main way to tackle the condition and Douglas avoids wheat entirely.

The dad-of-one said: “Wheat gets everywhere - it’s used in Lindt chocolate and in prepared foods and sauces. I have become nit picky about label reading. I can eat all veg and meat and other grains, and when at home I’m in the habit of cooking from fresh.

“It can be a shock for people as you cannot eat freely - no cake or pizza can be big things. You can feel that your world’s stopping, but it’s just changing. You can still get out there and have a good time.”

And Douglas is living this out as he heads up a school expedition to the Himalayas this year as part of company World Challenge.

He said: “When you are diagnosed with coeliac disease, it can feel very limiting and it does put restrictions on your diet, but I have headed up three expeditions to the Himalayas and three to the Andes. If you recognise your limits, and make the most of things, you can be surprised at what you can do.”