UNDERSTANDING COELIAC DISEASE
Coeliac Disease affects on average 1 in 70 Australian however around 80% of this number remain undiagnosed. Coeliac Awarness Week runs between March 13 -19 with the aim to raise awareness of the disease, encourage symptom awareness and highlight the importance of getting tested.
Coeliac (seel-ee-ak) disease is an immune disease caused by gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, triticale and oats. When people with Coeliac disease eat gluten, an inappropriate immune reaction causes inflammation and damage to the small bowel.
Untreated, Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms and health problems including osteoporosis, infertility, depression, liver disease and an increased risk of autoimmune disease. Symptoms can vary considerably but common complaints include gastrointestinal upset (such as abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting), lethargy, mouth ulcers and weight loss.
As Coeliac disease has significant health implications, if you are suffering any of the symptoms, a definitive diagnosis is paramount. You should first approach your GP for an examination before further tests are undertaken. Coeliac disease is diagnosed through blood tests and a simple, painless, bowel biopsy.
Treatment of Coeliac disease involves lifelong and strict avoidance of gluten in the diet and leads to healing of the bowel and overall better health. The gluten free diet is not a trivial undertaking and involves lifestyle changes and learning new skills. Adjusting to the gluten free diet may seem difficult at first but managing the diet does become easier, particularly with all the gluten free foods now available, with a number of the population eating gluten free despite not having the disease.
If you have been diagnosed, or show symptoms of Coeliac disease, visit Coeliac Australia for more information and support.