About Disappointing Dumplings

dumplings - 1I’m not a full coeliac, but appear to have developed, in my 50s, a condition called Dermatitis herpetiformis, which is an eczema-like itchy rash caused by an intolerance to gluten.

The rash first appeared when I was prescribed an antidepressant by my doctor, when I went to her about insomnia. About a month into taking the anti-depressant, I realised that an itch that had started around my ankles had spread to other areas, and that even hydrocortisone cream wasn’t helping. So, back to the doctor I went, and we started trying to treat the rash with creams, moisturisers, bath oils, and anything else I could think of. I stopped taking the antidepressants (which weren’t helping the insomnia), stopped using bio washing powder, stopped using my usual shower gel etc.

Still the rash persisted. Eventually, I was referred for a biopsy (the result, they said, was eczema; huh). And that might have been that, but for the doctor who performed the biopsy, who asked me if I’d tried given up gluten. As a matter of fact, I had: for two days. Not enough time, she said. You need to give it up for at least six weeks. (Further reading later revealed that it could take up to six months for symptoms to improve on a gluten-free diet.

Well, I’d tried everything else. Work stress wasn’t going away soon, so I needed to take the desperate measure of giving up gluten – possibly permanently. Like most people, I guess, gluten was fairly central in my diet. Unlike most people, I’d spent a good portion of my life baking my own bread, making my own pizza, and experimenting with a wide variety of flours and grains in search of perfection. I started baking bread when I was about ten years old, and I began my quest for the perfect pizza when I was in my early 20s. So this was going to be hard.

But: six weeks later, by the time I was back at the hospital for the follow-up to the biopsy, my “eczema” had started to clear up. Itching that was 10/10 was down to 1/10 and sometimes zero. I still have remnants of the rash, and my ankles still itch sometimes, but the severe itching that persisted for the best part of a year was gone.

So begins a new quest: for gluten-free (GF) products worth the money, and for home baking that doesn’t taste like ashes and slime. This blog documents that quest.