9 May 2024

Calling the Illawarra gluten-free community - your tribe awaits

| Dione David
Start the conversation
Ben Hampton from A Gluten Free Podcast

Ben Hampton invites you to A Gluten Free Evening in Gwynneville. Photo: Jim Skouras.

When Ben Hampton’s daughter brought a bout of gastro home from daycare at the start of 2020 that he and his wife inevitably caught, he couldn’t have known where it would lead.

Bouts of what he thought were gastro plagued him for the better part of three months thereafter and were soon joined by other symptoms such as joint pain, bad back pain and brain fog.

“I was constantly misplacing my things; I would forget what I was doing; I would quite literally forget what I was talking about mid-sentence,” he recalls.

“Medical professionals chalked it down to a lot of different things – COVID isolation, being a young dad etc.”

READ ALSO Illawarra’s only coeliac baker the best thing since sliced bread for gluten-free customers

Then quite suddenly, Ben, already a lean build, dropped about 15 per cent of his body weight, and no CT, MRI, ultrasound or blood test had the answer.

Ben was at his wit’s end when a friend, who had been diagnosed with coeliac disease the year before, made a suggestion.

“I specifically requested a test for coeliac disease and my doctor figured, ‘What the heck’ and added it to the battery of tests. Two days later they called me in, sat me down and told me the results were off the charts,” Ben says.

“Looking back, it was a ‘dots connected’ moment. As a child I had almost been diagnosed with ADD for my inability sometimes to focus. I suffered from migraines with aura and numerous stomach issues and was always on a tonne of antibiotics. And now out of the blue, in my adulthood, I had an answer.”

Coeliac Australia reports that while around one in 70 Australians have coeliac disease, only 20 per cent are diagnosed. In other words, though one of the most common autoimmune conditions, the vast majority of Australians living with coeliac disease don’t yet know it.

It’s a disease not only on the rise, but which can have silent and devastating effects including osteoporosis, liver disease, infertility and a higher chance of developing other autoimmune conditions. A gluten-free diet reduces these risks.

It’s what prompted Ben to launch A Gluten Free Podcast. In it, Ben, a gardener by trade and serial podcast listener, hosts leading coeliac disease experts, chefs, health professionals and people living with the disease to raise awareness.

“There are literally hundreds of symptoms, which already makes it super tricky to diagnose, but some people are asymptomatic,” Ben says.

“If you don’t have symptoms you might figure, ‘What’s the harm?’. The truth is if you have coeliac disease and you’re ingesting gluten, you’re doing as much damage as someone who has every symptom under the sun.”

READ ALSO Nowra student wins Wollongong’s Young Innovator of the Year with tasty allergy-free cookie range

The success of the podcast led to an expansion into A Gluten Free Family which hosts a series of events where people with coeliac disease or other gluten intolerances, their family and friends, people in health and hospitality and the “GF-curious” learn more about how to live gluten-free.

A Gluten Free Evening brings this community together with venues, businesses and individuals who understand and celebrate all things gluten-free, to enjoy some delicious gluten-free food, connect with like-minded individuals, hear from people behind gluten-free food and businesses, discover gluten-free products and services and share their own journeys.

Following the first two sold-out events, the next will be held at Gwynneville’s The Bistro on Beaton next month.

“The head chef Corey has a fine dining background and makes the most unbelievable gluten-free food – he’s a great guy to have in our corner,” Ben says.

“He discovered gluten-free food by chance and dived right in. Now he experiments with different dishes and we’ll get to see some of the results when he puts on a phenomenal buffet that’s 100 per cent coeliac safe.

“People will have the chance to connect with people who will really hear and understand them, in a place where they can actually eat without a worry.

“It often feels that from an outsider’s perspective when you ask about gluten-free options people think, ‘Oh God, you’re one of those people’. That’s a perception we’re trying to break, and we do it by coming together and sharing our stories, recipes and tips around living this way, in a venue that says, ‘Just relax and enjoy, we’ve got you.'”

A Gluten Free Evening is an 18+ event that will take place at The Bistro on Beaton on Saturday 1 June from 5:30 to 8 pm.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.