For those of you that know me personally, you will have heard all about my personal struggles with Coeliac disease and my path to discovering that I am in fact NOT a Coeliac. My Mother is however, and after living Gluten Free for 8 years I feel I am relatively qualified to offer some advice on the topic. And I guess my journey stresses the importance of getting tested, and getting the correct tests.
Starting tomorrow, it is Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia, which aims to help promote the disease. Did you know that 4 out of 5 people don’t know that they have it, scary huh? Have a look at the Australian Coeliac Society website for information.
And this is the website for Coeliac Awareness Week information.
What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is a condition whereby your body reacts to a protein called Gluten that is found in wheat, oats*, barley and rye. When ingested, this gluten then causes havoc on the small intestine, by causing destruction to the little finger like projections contained in the lining. Theses projections are essential for absorbing nutrients such as Iron, Calcium, B12 and for general bowel health.
So why is it important to get tested?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body starts to attack itself, mainly in the small intestine. When this happens, you may not be absorbing critical nutrients such as Iron and Calcium, leaving you at risk of developing osteoporosis or being anaemic. If left undetected it could also lead to bowel cancer in the long term, so it is vital to get tested if you feel you are suffering any of the symptoms. Click here for a checklist of symptoms:
So if you think you may have one or a few of the symptoms see your GP who can order some specific blood tests for Coeliac and possibly refer you to a Gastroenterologist for an endoscopy and a small bowel biopsy for a definitive diagnosis. There is currently no treatment of cure for the disease. Management involves strict adherence to a Gluten Free diet for life. This may sound daunting at first, but with some careful planning, and education on food sources you will find that there are plenty of wonderful option.
For any of you that are a diagnosed Coeliac, you will have noticed a huge change in Gluten Free foods in the last five years. Food labelling laws in Australia make it a little easier to identify those products that are safe to eat, by showing the Gluten Free symbol.
Don’t forget that plenty of foods are naturally Gluten Free and won’t carry the symbol. These include meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, but always check labels to make sure.