As it is coeliac awareness week 14th – 20th May, I thought I’d take a break from my dissertation writing and spread a little bit of awareness myself. I’m afraid blogging will remain intermittent until I officially finish my degree on 30th May, sorry!
So, here are a few quick facts about Coeliac Disease.
- Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten. A person’s immune system attacks its own tissues when gluten is consumed, causing damage to the lining of the gut and stopping the body from properly absorbing nutrients from food.
- Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barely and rye, with some people with coeliac disease also reacting to oats, even when certified gluten-free.
- Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, mouth ulcers and sudden or unexpected weight loss, although weight loss doesn’t occur in all cases.
- There’s no treatment for coeliac disease except for following a gluten-free diet.
- 1 in every 100 people are diagnosed with coeliac disease.
- Undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to a greater risk of complications like anaemia, osteoporosis and neurological conditions, such as gluten ataxia and neuropathy. Also a rare but increased risk of small bowel cancer and intestinal lymphoma.
- Coeliac disease can run in families, but in an unpredictable way. 1 in 10 close relatives of people with coeliac, e.g. parents, children and siblings, will also be at risk.
Since being diagnosed as coeliac over 4 years ago, I’ve encountered many misunderstandings about the disease and thought I’d do some myth busting of some of the most common myths!
- “Only children can get coeliac disease” Coeliac can develop at any age, not only in infants. It’s most often diagnosed in people aged 40-60.
- “Coeliac is a food allergy” It is NOT an allergy or an intolerance, coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease.
- “You can outgrow coeliac disease” It’s a lifelong condition with a gluten-free diet being the only treatment. However, if a person following a gluten free diet was to be retested with an antibody blood test or a gut biopsy, it would be expected that they’d be negative. There’d be no antibodies in the blood because there’d be no gluten for the immune system to react to.
- “A small amount of gluten won’t hurt you” Even tiny amounts of gluten are damaging to coeliacs. We’re not being obsessive just to annoy others, we just can’t risk being ‘glutened’ by even the smallest amount.
To get any more information, or to take the online ‘Is it coeliac disease?’ assessment, go to Coeliac UK‘s website.
Have you heard any myths about coeliac disease? I’d love for you to share any other facts you have!