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Coeliac Awareness Week: what you need to know about coeliac disease

Coeliac Awareness Week: what you need to know about coeliac disease

It’s Coeliac Awareness Week, and in the spirit of the event we thought we’d share our knowledge on the common disease, which affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, only 24% of those are clinically diagnosed.

What is coeliac disease?

Put simply, coeliac disease is an autoimmune syndrome caused by the immune system reacting to gluten. When someone with the disease eats gluten(a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), the immune system reacts by attacking the lining of the small intestine.

What to watch out for

There is a range of symptoms of coeliac disease and they vary in severity. That means that it can be tricky to spot and the symptoms can be attributed to a number of other conditions. As a rule of thumb though, watch out for the following symptoms and keep an eye on any foods that might be triggering them:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Wind
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Unaccounted for weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Anaemia
  • Itchy skin or a rash – this is sometimes linked to a secondary condition called dermatitis herpetiformis which affects around one in five coeliac disease sufferers.

Getting diagnosed

If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms it’s a good idea to ask your GP about getting tested for coeliac disease. In the first instance, the doctor will refer you for a blood test, to see if your blood contains any antibodies that resist gluten. If the antibodies are present, you’ll be referred for a biopsy of the gut via an endoscopy and samples of your small intestine lining will be taken for examination.

Treatment

A simple exclusion diet is the normal course of treatment for sufferers.  Excluding all foods containing gluten from your diet prevents further damage to your digestive system, allowing your small intestine to heal and stopping other symptoms. Your GP or a dietician can help you to manage your diet to make sure your digestive system heals completely.

If you have been suffering from the symptoms of coeliac disease or have any concerns about your diet, it’s always best to talk to a health professional or your GP to make sure your body stays healthy and in the best condition.

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