Ashleigh Bishop gives her top tips for living gluten free
Ashleigh Bishop currently stars in Survivor UK, which sees contestants marooned on a tropical island, competing against each other in a range of physical and mental challenges.
Ashleigh was diagnosed with coeliac disease when she was 18 and talks here about the challenges she has faced and her top tips for others living with the condition.
Q. When were you diagnosed with coeliac disease and what did your diagnosis journey look like?
I was diagnosed when I was 18 - but looking back, I realise that I’d been experiencing symptoms for many years before that. Coeliac disease was much lesser known back then and the symptoms were very similar to other issues such as IBS.
It wasn't until I started to experience extreme fatigue, where I could barely muster the strength to get out of bed, that my university housemates insisted I see a doctor. It was at that moment that my concerns began to be taken more seriously and I was eventually diagnosed.
Q. Do you have any advice for anyone who has recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease?
Firstly, give yourself a second! It’s not easy to find out you are living with a disease that affects you for the rest of your life, so take some time to absorb and process the information. Then I would get researching - the more informed you are the easier it’s going to be to adapt to your new diet. Use resources like Coeliac UK to get factual, trustworthy information, and I would also tell your close friends and family so they can support you when it comes to food.
Then start having some fun with it! There’s loads of great recipe books, food brands and restaurants that centre around being gluten free - time to get exploring!
Q. What have been your biggest challenges living gluten free and do you have any tips to make managing the gluten free diet easier?
The biggest struggle after my diagnosis was highlighting my dietary needs in new environments, for example, a new restaurant or at someone’s home. I felt like I was being fussy and didn’t want to cause a hassle. But it turns out people are a lot more understanding than you might think, and if you don’t feel comfortable with something, you are completely within your rights to ask! It’s so hard not to feel embarrassed, ashamed or like you’re being ‘high maintenance’ but at the end of the day it’s your body and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks - you are the one that has to suffer the consequences, so don’t suffer just to make it easier for someone else. My top tip would be to always carry a gluten free snack or two as a handy back up. You never know when you’re going to get caught short!
Q. We heard you were accidentally glutened before you started filming Survivor UK, how did this impact your start on the show?
Yes I was really disappointed as I haven’t had a flare up in such a long time, so for it to happen when I needed to be in peak health was incredibly frustrating!
It’s taken years for me to find a good and manageable balance between health, fitness and diet but having a reliable regime 90% of the time often helps me recover when it comes to be glutened. I gave myself plenty of rest and focused on simple foods that I knew would give me the nutrition I needed to maintain as much strength as possible whilst my body recovered.
I was still recovering when I started the show and experiencing brain fog and fatigue but fortunately with a careful and considered recovery process, I managed to limit the impact on my experience on the beach.
Q. Finally, can you spill any gossip about your time on Survivor and who won?!
Ha ha, no not yet, you’ll just have to watch the show to find out!