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A Personal Note From Me (Coeliac Symptoms, Miscarriage & General Ranting!)

Today I have been reflecting and planning, whilst sitting in the sun in my tiny garden. I am finally managing to get some down time after months of being on the go all the time.

It feels like things are against me a bit at the moment because, for a while now (and by 'a while' I mean years), I have been suffering with a long list of symptoms that have been unexplained and undiagnosed. There's only so many times you can keep going back to the doctors until you start to think you might be going mad. Is it all in my head? But I persevered because...there must be something, right? It's not normal to feel this way.

The persevering paid off and I have eventually received a diagnosis of coeliac disease, an illness where your immune system attacks its own tissues when you eat gluten. This results in damage to the lining of the gut and the body can't absorb nutrients properly. The symptoms of coeliac disease can be vast, but can include digestive issues, problems with speech, extreme tiredness and bloating - all of which I had experienced for a significant amount of time. It makes for an uncomfortable life, particularly when I was trying to teach classes and couldn't get my words out because of the speech problems!

Unfortunately, if coeliac disease is left untreated it can lead to a number of other illness, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and neurological conditions such as migraines and epilepsy. Overall...the message here is to stay away from the gluten. Now in theory that shouldn't be too difficult, right? Don't eat bread or pasta etc etc, or only eat gluten free alternatives. Yes my friends, in theory it should be super easy but in fact, it can be a bit of a minefield. Gluten can be found in barley, wheat and rye which you can find in the most unsuspecting items - vinegar, soy sauce, some types of chocolate, some tinned soups and Branston pickle (I was extremely sad about that one!). So, the safest option now is to check every single label, just in case, even if it seems entirely obvious that the food wouldn't contain gluten. You never bloody know! And then we get into how we navigate gluten free in the kitchen - do we keep everything separate to avoid any potential cross contamination? Do we need to move things around in the cupboards? Is it serious enough that we should be taking that level of precaution? I still don't think we really know the answer to that.

Whilst the physical symptoms have been less than ideal and have been progressing over time, and particularly in the last 6 months or so, there are other elements to this that are much more emotional. Many of you may be aware that I suffered a miscarriage in February of this year - we discovered at our 12 week scan that the baby had no heartbeat and honestly, it was a hideous 2.5 weeks. For those of you that have been through something similar, firstly I am so sorry you have had to go through something so truly horrific, but you find that you start to question why this has happened to you. Was it my fault? Why has my body failed me when this is often considered the thing that we, as females, are here to do (whether you believe that is our sole purpose or not, the general view of society and what we are taught in school is that if you get pregnant, you will have a baby. No issues, no complications, it's as simple as that).

These are the questions that I have also been asking myself over the last 3-4 months. We are normally told that in early pregnancy loss, there isn't necessarily an explanation and it's 'just one of those things.' But then I received the diagnosis of coeliac disease and during my obsessive research, I discovered that untreated coeliac disease can cause miscarriage. Now we will never really know if that was the cause for me, but it does make me wonder and perhaps provides a bit of an explanation.

So with my new found knowledge, I want to help others to navigate through this emotional time and provide support in whatever way I can. The lack of information around miscarriage and coeliac is real (and I know lack of information is not limited to these two things and is a problem for many conditions) and if I can help just one person, then that would make my day!

If you have suffered a miscarriage (whether it was 5 weeks ago or 5 years ago) and feel like you would be happy to provide some anonymous feedback on your experiences, I would be really grateful if you could complete this questionnaire. It will really help me to establish what is needed in this community and how I can best serve you all.

I will also have a very special retreat coming in October, which will reach out to those of you affected by pregnancy loss, so keep an eye out for details.

Speak soon.

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