Be aware of symptoms

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Coeliac UK is the national charity for people with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis.

It is estimated coeliac disease affects one in 100 people but only around a quarter of those with the condition are currently diagnosed. We are urging people, in Coeliac UK Awareness Week (May 9 to 15), to ask “is it coeliac disease?” if they are suffering from any of these symptoms – anaemia, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, regular bouts of diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, ongoing fatigue, weight loss, or constant mouth ulcers. If that is you, we encourage you to visit www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk and take Coeliac UK’s online assessment. The assessment provides you with a result that you can take to your GP if your responses indicate a need for further tests.

Since the assessment was launched under a year ago, more than 30,000 people have taken the questionnaire and from feedback initial results suggest that about 8% of those who were recommended to seek advice went on to be diagnosed with coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) is not an allergy or an intolerance but an autoimmune disease, so when people with coeliac disease eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, the body attacks and damages the lining of the gut where food is absorbed, making it difficult for the body to get the nutrients it needs. Gluten is found in many every day foods such as bread, pasta, cereals, cakes, biscuits and sauces.

A lack of diagnosis means unpleasant symptoms recurring on a frequent basis which, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems such as osteoporosis, fertility problems and, in some cases, small bowel cancer. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 people in the UK have coeliac disease but remain untreated and undiagnosed.

The good news is that coeliac disease is treatable by switching to a strict gluten-free diet for life.

So, in this week of awareness be ready to ask yourself “is it coeliac disease?”.

Sarah Sleet,

Chief Executive Coeliac UK