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Strictly's Caroline Quentin bravely opens up about health struggle

How she mistook the illness for pregnancy

caroline quentin
Megan Bull
TV Writer
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Strictly's Caroline Quentin has opened up about how her struggle with coeliac disease has affected her daily life. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the Men Behaving Badly star explained that her symptoms actually began over 30 years ago when she was in her 20s.

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Caroline had no idea what was making her ill

"I had frequent nausea, mouth ulcers and skin rashes, and I often had to rush to the loo," she said. "I didn't know about coeliac disease then and just thought I had an allergy. I went to the doctor and they said it was probably stress-related."

Over time Caroline's symptoms increased and grew more severe. "I developed anaemia and lethargy and bloating, and the bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting became more frequent," she said. "I'd have a bowl of pasta or a slice of toast and soon afterwards I would be sick."

READ: What is coeliac disease and how to treat the symptoms

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According to the NHS, coeliac disease is "a condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues when you eat gluten. This damages your gut (small intestine) so you are unable to take in nutrients." 

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For a time the actress even mistook her symptoms for pregnancy. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, she appeared on several TV adverts for Philadelphia soft cheese, which often left her feeling sick.

"I thought it was because I was expecting a baby but now, knowing what I know, I realise it was probably because I had to spend two whole days eating hundreds of pieces of gluten-laden bread and cheese," she joked. 


Caroline has since cut out gluten

It wasn't until she undertook a coeliac blood test, that Caroline actually found out what was going on. 

Recalling the moment that she was first diagnosed with the disorder, the TV star said: "I was on the set of Restoration Home when he [the doctor] rang to tell me. He said 'You have coeliac antibodies', and I was advised to stop eating gluten. My immediate response was, 'Is there any gluten in vodka or wine?' I'm pleased to say there isn't – although there is in traditional beer."

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Since receiving her diagnosis, Caroline has managed to cut gluten out of her diet, and she's also managed to find a number of gluten-free alternatives:

"The good news is that once you're properly diagnosed, although there isn't a cure, you don't need medicine. All you have to do is avoid gluten and you won't have any issues. The earlier you are diagnosed the lower the risk of health problems."