Coeliac Awareness Week 13 – 20 March
This month, Coeliac Awareness Week is held between the 13th and the 20th of March. The key aims are to improve methods of diagnosis, increase awareness and to positively manage coeliac disease through a gluten free diet.
Gluten is the protein component of wheat, rye, barley and oats. After consuming gluten, an inflammation of the small intestinal lining occurs. Damage to the small bowel may occur. When tiny projections called villi become inflamed, they begin to flatten and atrophy. Once atrophy begins it reduces the bowels surface area, hindering nutrient absorption.
People diagnosed with coeliac often feel a combination of emotions ranging from relief to shock and disappointment. Presently, a cure for coeliac is unknown though conversely, adjustments made to a person’s diet, eliminating gluten allows a person to control their levels of health and reduce the recurrence of symptoms.
The variation of symptoms can often confound medical practitioners that find a clear diagnosis of Coeliac disease challenging.
Some gastrointestinal symptoms include:
- Loose stools/diarrhoea, or constipation (or a combination of both)
- Abdominal pain
In some instances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is diagnosed. Anyone experiencing symptoms of IBS should also be tested for coeliac disease.
Coeliac disease is estimated to affect 1 in 60 women and 1 in 80 men in Australia, with diagnosis rates increasing. Coeliac disease also occurs in 10% of first-degree relatives. More than 99% of people with coeliac disease have the genetic profile of HLA DQ2 or DQ8. (Statistics from www.coeliac.org.au)
The biggest weapon in the fight to control coeliac is to introduce a gluten-free diet. The greatest benefit for taking on this disciplined approach to diet is to prevent further damage to the intestinal lining. When the villi begin to heal, nutrients can be properly absorbed.
With a consistent gluten free diet in place, villi usually return to normal, though this may take a varying amount of time in each person. Those choosing to leave coeliac untreated may increase their risk of bowel cancer, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriages and chronic ill health. By adhering to a gluten free diet, risk to these diseases is minimised.
The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and Coeliac Australia gives you many resources assisting to make your transition to a gluten free diet an easier one. If you have recently been diagnosed with coeliac or you would benefit from on-going support contact Coeliac Australia (www.coeliac.org.au).