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I'm coeliac and this is my reaction to the controversial This Morning comments

This Morning made headlines this week following its discussion of Coeliac Disease…

A photo of Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle on This Morning
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I think I speak for all those diagnosed with Coeliac Disease when I say that it was difficult watching the events unfold on This Morning this week. 

As a coeliac, we spend the majority of our time (or so it feels) not only explaining in scrupulous detail what we can and can't have to those around us but also justifying our condition to sceptics who either believe that it's a fad diet or that 'gluten allergies never used to exist.'

Vanessa Feltz reacts to gluten-free Christmas dilemma

On Monday, Vanessa Feltz was met with backlash following comments she made after a caller rang her hotline on This Morning and said she was "being forced to have a gluten-free Christmas” by her mother-in-law. 

To which Vanessa responded: "She’s treating coeliac disease as if it’s a kind of fatal, potentially fatal peanut allergy and that they can’t have anything with gluten in the house, which is completely unreasonable."

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Even just a crumb of gluten, to be exact, no more than 20 parts per million, is enough to cause serious harm. I was previously diagnosed with Osteopenia as a result of my coeliac disease, which meant I had to be on daily medication to ensure I didn't develop Osteoporosis. 

Other people suffer from anaemia, infertility and in rare cases small bowel lymphoma, so while unlike a peanut allergy, we will not go into anaphylaxis and risk dying on the spot, the symptoms and long-term health issues are incredibly severe. 

Vanessa subsequently apologised on her TalkTV show after the comments were made. She said: "I found myself at the centre of a social media storm this week, I’ll be addressing that next," before playing a clip of Monday’s This Morning phone-in.

"I said what I said there, but then I added that you should go in the spirit of Christmas and enjoy a gluten-free meal anyway.

Becky Excell cooking on This Morning© Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Gluten-free food expert Becky Excell demonstrated beautifully how gluten-free food can be incorporated at Christmas

"I did not suggest that they put the coeliac in harm’s way nor did I intend to show in any shape or form any disrespect to anyone with coeliac disease. I am astounded by the reaction and horrified that anyone is upset. I don’t think that I said anything wrong, but if anyone is upset, I am very sorry.

"All I ever want is clarity and compassion and I am certainly not trying to play down Coeliac Disease. The last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone and I hope that I have made amends."

In a good-willed attempt to rectify the situation, Dr Zoe their resident GP went on This Morning the following day. 

While Dr Zoe for the most part did a great job of explaining what coeliac disease is and how serious it can be, unfortunately, there was a big misunderstanding (as there tends to be) about cross contamination as she said that only "some coeliacs" need to worry about cross contamination which simply isn't the case.

Some coeliacs experience no symptoms of the disease but the damage to their health is still being done which is why it's fundamental all coeliacs avoid cross-contamination. HELLO! has contacted Dr Zoe's rep for comment.

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The Christmas period is a daunting one for a coeliac, with the amount of festive get-togethers, it can be hard putting your trust in those preparing your food if you're not preparing it yourself, that everything is entirely gluten-free and even more so we feel like a problem or rude by asking so many questions. 

As a community, we rely so heavily on trusting people, our friends, our families and food establishments to take our allergies seriously so that we can live a full social life.

On Thursday, Becky Excell an ambassador for Coeliac UK was invited onto This Morning to prove just how easy it is for everyone to enjoy a gluten-free Christmas dinner without scrimping on the Yorkshire puddings and bread sauce. 

Much like Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle on the show, half the time my family and friends don't know the difference between what is gluten-free and what isn't, and dare I say even sometimes prefer it. Even my mother, who I must mention is unmatched when it comes to baking a gluten-free cake and has exceptionally high standards!

If someone in your life has been newly diagnosed or you just want to have some more information on how to be inclusive with your food, I have included some helpful information from Coeliac UK below.

What is Coeliac Disease?

"Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body's immune system attacks its own tissues when gluten is consumed.

"For someone with coeliac disease ongoing consumption of gluten will prevent the gut from healing and over time can lead to serious complications such as osteoporosis, anaemia, infertility and in rare cases small bowel lymphoma."

How to prevent cross-contamination 

Regardless of symptoms, (some coeliacs don't experience symptoms), even minute traces of gluten can cause damage therefore to prevent cross-contamination, here are some things that can be done. 

Use a separate toaster for gluten-free bread, a separate fryer with clean oil for gluten-free foods, separate utensils and chopping boards. Ensuring the preparation area has been wiped down with detergent and hot soapy water, as well as all pots and pans.

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