Gluten Free Guerrillas

Coeliac pre 1990

With so many gluten free/free from foods entering the supermarkets as the big players all clamber for a slice of the Coeliac £ we were thinking how it must have been for people diagnosed in previous decades. Whilst post war there was a tendency to cook fresh foods and eat from scratch the convenience market soon grew at a pace.

We've seen some mention of bread being available in tins which makes our ability to pick up a loaf off the shelf a luxury, albeit at a premium price.

Do you remember a parent, grandparent dealing with their CD?

What sort of medical advice was given following diagnosis? How long did it take you to get diagnosed? Were you left out on a limb and told to get on with it? Did you receive follow up medical checks? How did you source your gf foodstuff?

It would be interesting to hear what life was like managing Coeliacs in previous decades. If you're happy to share your memories it would be good to hear your experiences.

6 Replies

Hi Irene, Prior to being diagnosed with the disease myself, I have only ever known of two other people. One was a girl I worked with in the 1970's and the other was a neighbour of a friend that I got to know in the 1980's. The girl in the 1970's told me that it had taken 13 years for her to be diagnosed with the disease. She had felt wretchedly ill and was offered no reason why. After diagnosis she was given prescription tinned bread but nothing else and she lived her life in total fear as she was told that if she were to have any food with gluten in it it would kill her. There were four of us in our office and birthday cake was not an option for her, sweets were not an option for her - she was left out over and over again and we all felt for her. On one of our birthdays, one of us offered her a Mars Bar - we thought that by bringing in bars of chocolate in place of cakes for our birthday, she would at last be included. She confided that she couldn't eat Mars Bars as although it didn't say on the ingredients, they, she had been informed, did contain both wheat and gluten. Even if I had just one bite (she had been advised) it would either make me very ill or possibly kill me.

She was in her teens when diagnosed and about 17 when we began working together ..


You want to read June Pearson's Memoirs of an English lady.

June was diagnosed in the 1930's and wrote her memoirs and had them published herself in her 80's. I met June around 2003/4 and helped to promote her book and what a charming lady, we had tea and gf biscuits in the garden of her equally charming cottage in WOT Bristol.

I bought a few copies of the book and gave them to other coeliac but only have one copy left which is signed to me from June.


That's interesting Lynxcat/Jerry. Am wondering how people managed in the 60s/70s when the move was to a more convenience lifestyle. Not everybody is a born kitchen whiz (or wants to be) so I wonder what did the poor souls do who could rustle up meat and two veg, bu tweren't able to make use of any flour substitutes?


I remember using the tinned bread on one of the wards I worked on early in my nurse training in the 1980s. Greasy, rubbery vile stuff which was apperently only edible when toasted. It reminded me of anaemic pumpernickel brot.

I first met someone with coeliac disease in the 1970s at a weekend for Ranger Guides in Cambridgeshire. I had a bit of a barney with her about her not eating sausages because after all they were meat and how did that mean they had this weird stuff called gluten in that she had told us about if gluten was in wheat oats and other grains... shows how much I knew about my food at 14 years of age.


hi my mum had a sister with coeliac in the 1940s & unfortunatly she died of malnutrician, when i was born in 1953 my mum recognised the symtoms but was told that no way did i have coeliac & that i would just have to start eating, mum did her best but i was eventually diagnosed as coeliac & had to have iron injections daily, i can remember my mum baking bread & cake with the only avalable flour that was really stiff & hard to handle, (it squeeked when you rubbed it into marg),the only differance between the bread & cake was bread had marge on & the cake had jam on,it was the same ingrediants, imagine that today, its luxury today compared to then (the tales we could tell)


I was one of those that had to endure that tinned bread.. we used to get a crate of 12 tins at a time. It was white as snow and fell apart when you cut it. My mum had to boil it in a saucepan like a steamed pudding for about an hour. I hated it!!! and there was no way I could eat it without it being toasted. I used to give my packed lunch to the horses on the way to school. (poor horses).

I do however remember having it in hospital and it tasting much better. It was always cut as if it were a mini pizza, I remember the triangle shapes. : )


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