Coeliac Awareness Week. 13th - 19th May 2019
What is Coeliac Disease? Why are we writing about this?
Our Senior Physiotherapist Helen suffers with Coeliac Disease. A disease which is perfectly manageable through diet alone but if left un treated can have serious effects on ones health. As it is Coeliac Awareness Week, Helen has written this blog in order to help with the understanding of the disease and help clear up any common misconceptions.
In 2014 I was under severe stress at work. I started to develop sharp pains in my stomach but nothing to really bother me, just intermittent through the week. I started to drop weight…a lot of weight and quickly, roughly 2 dress sizes in 6-8 weeks. I saw the GP, explained everything that was going on at work and was diagnosed with anxiety and stress. I was signed off work for 2 weeks. In those 2 weeks I caught up on all my sleep, I started to 'eat better' and started to go back to the gym and although I was not ‘cured’ in 2 weeks I was able to get some balance back and was able to start controlling my anxiety. My weight stabilised and I thought was the end of things.
In 2016 I thought I was healthy: balanced diet, 2 litres of water per day, 8 hours sleep a night, going to the gym. However whilst I was at work I started to notice serve fatigue and feeling generally unwell. I was constantly complaining to my boss at the time that I was tired. I could hardly keep my eyes open by the end of the day. I was snacking to just get me through the day in order to give myself ‘extra energy’. I started to develop night sweats and my weight started to fluctuate again. I’d convinced myself I had cancer and this was the end of things. I took myself to the GP for blood tests and these showed low iron and low Vitamin B12. I was given a loading course of vitamin B12 injections and iron supplements and was tested for a number of autoimmune conditions including Pernicious Anaemia, Diabetes and Coeliac Disease. Through bloods and a consultant appointment I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and now follow a life long gluten free diet. I also have to have vitamin B12 injections every 3 months and yearly blood tests for iron levels. I feel much better, though still get tired especially when my B12 is due.
Below I’ve aimed to answer a few common questions about the condition.
I don’t have an upset stomach when I eat gluten it can’t be coeliac disease?
This is not true. I never once bloated, had constipation or diarrhoea. There are so many symptoms of Coeliac Disease. If you have any of the following you should consider being tested:
Regular mouth ulcers
Neurological conditions such as ataxia or loss of balance
Coeliac Disease is an allergy
FALSE: Coeliac Disease is not an allergy it is an autoimmune condition. Unlike an allergy where histamines are released to fight the allergen in Coeliac Disease the body attacks itself and shuts down. In your small intestine we have hairs called villi and these absorb the nutrients from our food. Gluten causes these hairs to collapse and not function properly meaning no nutrients from the food is absorbed. For some, this effect can last up to 14 days after consuming gluten.
A little bit of gluten won’t hurt you
As mentioned above this comment is also false. Something as small as a crumb can cause a Coeliac to have a reaction and make them poorly. Over time if the gluten free diet is ignored then there is an increased risk of bowel cancer.
What is cross contamination?
This is the thing I think most Coeliacs get annoyed with because even something as small as a crumb can make us poorly. It is important we are as careful as we can be. This means having separate toasters or using toaster bags for our bread so no crumbs get mixed up. Separate pots/pans, cooking utensils, separate butters and spreads. If you put a knife in jam and then use it on ‘normal’ bread then place that knife back in the jam, the jam is now not gluten free (so annoying).
Is there a cure for Coeliac Disease?
No there is no cure for the disease through medication or surgery, the disease is managed and controlled by a gluten free diet only.
I have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, how do I know what’s safe for me to eat? I have a friend family member who is gluten free what can they eat?
I’d advise you join Coeliac UK for regular emails, magazines and research updates. I’d also download the Coeliac UK app and the Coeliac UK Food Checker app where you can scan the bar codes of food and this tells you if it is safe or not.
Meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are all gluten free
Go to the Free From isle in the supermarket for all your gluten free bread, pasta and treats
Also follow bloggers and influencers on social media they are always uploading recipes, ideas and restaurants they have eaten in which makes life easier.
I hope this answers a few common questions I always get asked. If you have any other questions please let me know and leave a comment.