Health: Boy’s 76-day vomiting bout shows serious side to gluten-free fashion

Kate Hardie and her son William, five, who was diagnosed as coeliac three years ago, pictured at Fulneck School. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Kate Hardie and her son William, five, who was diagnosed as coeliac three years ago, pictured at Fulneck School. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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Hollywood health gurus are never short of a new waist-tightening tip.

An online search will instantly bring up dieticians telling you that going gluten free will improve your digestion, increase your energy, speed up weight loss and even better your mood – but for many it’s no quick fix.

As much as it’s become a choice for thousands, a gluten-free diet is the essential daily antidote to coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease with no known cure. Untreated it is linked to osteoporosis and cancer of the small bowel.

It is thought one in every 100 people have the disease – not an allergy – that causes a reaction to gluten, which is a protein contained in wheat, barley and rye and therefore most breads, cakes and processed food.

Kate Hardie, from Pudsey, spent months desperately searching for answers during a 76-day period when her 14-month-old son William vomited every single day. He had severe stomach cramps, nausea and a swollen stomach.

“For such a little one we couldn’t pin point what the problem was, he couldn’t sleep at night,” the 39-year-old graphic design firm owner said. “We were forever driving around the Dales trying to pacify him in the middle of the night. This happened every single day.”

Eventually William, who is now five, had a blood test which found the gene common in coeliacs followed by a biopsy that led him to be advised to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

In the years since his diagnosis, the youngster’s family has learned to live with the condition and his quality of life has improved. They have set aside a gluten-free cupboard and separate utensils to avoid cross-contamination.

But the promotion of gluten-free as a mainstream miracle diet has had an impact of the impression of coeliac disease.

Kate said: “It has helped raise the profile of the need and availability of gluten-free products but then if we’re eating in a restaurant, it’s suddenly just a health fad and an inconvenience – for us we have got no choice.

“It’s a double-edged sword. I feel it’s taken less seriously because of it. There’s a really serious issue underneath.”

She added that among the positives to the publicity are new ventures like Leeds’s first gluten-free restaurant 2 Oxford Place, which was opened by coeliac Victoria Hall last year, and the wealth of gluten-free recipes which she has added to with her site happyigloo.com.

The Coeliac UK charity claims there are half a million people living with the disease undiagnosed in the UK.

To raise awareness of the disease and its symptoms, the charity is bringing its ‘Is it coeliac disease’ campaign roadshow to Lands Lane, in Leeds, from June 15 to 19 from 10.30am to 4.30pm.


- Coeliac disease affects at least one in 100 people. It is an autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten.

- Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and for coeliacs it causes damage to the gut lining.

- On average it takes 13 years for someone to be diagnosed with the disease after the onset of symptoms.

- Coeliac disease is linked with osteoporosis and cancer of the small bowel if a gluten-free diet is not maintained.

- For further information www.coeliac.org.uk.