About 2 years ago, I recognised that not all was great. After several investigations, I discovered that I was gluten intolerant. Not a faddy thing that people seem to jump on, but something that meant that if I had gluten, my stomach is crampy for a couple of days after and my head is foggy. Starting on a gluten-free diet was tough, and not always achievable.I love to go out with friends where the normal tipple is beer (which contains barley and hence for me is not friendly), and eating at restaurants either in the UK or abroad was tough. Occasionally I slipped and if one of my favourite beers was on, then I would succumb but with that came the two days of recovery.

After running a gluten-free diet for about 5 months, a friend of mine suggested going to the doctors to get checked. Probably like most 50 something men, I don’t like visiting the doctors and only do when I need to. The doctor advised me to be checked for Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition where your autoimmune system decides to target gluten but not just gluten. It is not good. The only test known is to test for gluten antibodies and this meant going back onto gluten diet (a small number a day only thankfully) for 6 weeks. I did this, and the test came back negative although it would not really affect my diet now.

On investigation, it appears that many other people have this dietary issue too, which I take solace with. If you want to read more about the symptoms then have a check across at Healthline. If you read this, you can understand why this is such a big deal for us and why this really is not a fad. You may understand that this is a major lifestyle change.

As an example – Recently, I went out with a group of really good friends. We went to a pub and a brewery in Birmingham. One was a traditional pub – internal decor hadn’t really shifted from the 50s and there was a good selection of beer and luckily cider. This challenge with cider is that some are nice but others could strip the wallpaper from 10 paces. We then moved onto the brewery. Many breweries have adjusted to gluten intolerant people like me – they have a GF (gluten-free) beer that they have brewed. Some breweries are even entirely GF although there is some scientific conjecture as to how the gluten can be taken out. Despite the great company, there was no gluten-free beer and I had to revisit cider. When we go out, we really do want to grab a beer with you – or a pizza. But the side effects are too great. We lose too much time recovering (and it’s not a hangover), and we spend too much time cussing ourselves for doing it. I could have drunk wine, but I have found that cutting out beer means I am drinking a lot more wine – and that is usually stronger so not good on the weekly intake front.

I am sharing this, because I want to share a bit of awareness about gluten intolerance, about the challenges that people like me have. It is easy to pigeon hole gluten intolerance into a popular dietary fad but for some of us, this is an enforced lifestyle change. Something that, I hope, the supplying trades start to recognise by making more product more accessible and cost-effective to us.