A DROMORE man has spoken out in an attempt to
raise awareness of a medical condition that brought him to the
brink of depression.
Cecil Tate (34), of Barban Heights, was
diagnosed 18 months ago with Coeliac (pronounced seeli-ak)
It is an hereditary disorder, caused by
sensitivity to gluten, that makes the digestive system unable to
deal with fat.
And despite the fact that one in every 100
people may unknowingly suffer from the condition, Cecil says
there is little understanding of the disease among food
retailers and the local catering industry, nor much by way of
group support for sufferers in Northern Ireland.
"It's important to make people aware of it,"
said Cecil. "I went to a restaurant and asked for a gluten-free
meal and I got turkey, ham and potatoes, but what was inside?
Stuffing made with breadcrumbs."
According to Cecil, Coeliac Disease
immediately rules out flour, wheat, rye and barley for
sufferers, and as well as avoiding most breads, they must be
constantly alert to the possible presence of wheat
flour and modified maize starch in their foods.
Many breakfast cereals, biscuits and even
soups (cream of tomato, for instance, contains wheat flour) are
also off the menu.
While the symptoms of Coeliac Disease can
include everything from bloating and stomach cramps to diarrhoea
and anaemia - in Cecil's case the only readily identifiable
symptom was a very painful rash - the condition can carry a high
risk of both kidney failure and bowel cancer.
Said Cecil, "I originally went to see about
really bad joint pains I had been experiencing for about three
years and one of the doctors noticed a rash on my elbows and
picked it up from there.
"It turns out the joint pains may be related
because of calcium deficiency linked to the disease."
Also, though the condition is not
particularly linked to diabetes, as a diabetic Cecil's chances
of developing the disease were heightened, he said. Coeliac
Disease is treated not with medication but entirely by dietary
means, something Cecil has found difficult to adjust to.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It actually
led me to depression. You have to check the ingredients on
everything. The main thing is, if in doubt leave it out."
Cecil has been forced to adopt a very basic
diet, consisting mostly of fresh fruit and vegetables, and he
has all but stopped eating take-away or dining in restaurants
Even in chip shops where the chips have been
fried in a gluten free oil, there remains a hazard if the same
oil was used to fry battered foods, such as fish, and in the
home, Cecil must take care when using the butter in case it has
been used on bread and contaminated with crumbs.
For sufferers who enjoy a drink, beer and
liqueurs are out of the question, though they can have spirits
Said Cecil, "There's most definitely a need
for more education on the subject - people don't understand it;
more awareness for shopkeepers and caterers and more so that
other people know what signs to look out for."