Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Coeliac Awareness Week

This week is Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia. Unfortunately there is not alot of information out there to promote this. This leaves it up to us bloggers to promote this debalitating and at times life threatening illness.

Sorry for those of you who have read this before, but I'm going to provide you with the basic information about the disease. Firstly Coeliac Disease is not an intolerance but an actually autoimmune disease. The immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protenin found in wheat, barley, rye, an oats). In America they have declared some oats to be gluten free, but it is essential to follow the guidelines set by Australian organisations. When gluten containing products are digested, damage is done to the small bowel. In technical terms when gluten is digested, the villi which line the small bowel, become inflamed and flattened. When this occurs the surface of the bowel available for nutrient absorption is significantly reduced, which can lead to various gastrionitenstional and malabsorptive symptoms. A number of serious health conditions can arise from this diesase, if this condition is not diagnosed and treated properly and efficently.

To have this disease, you must have these genes HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8, thus it is a heredity condition. However it is important to note that only 1 in 30 people with these genes will develop the genes. If one of your parents has the disease, I would strongly suggest seeing the doctor and getting tested yourself as you have a higher chance than others of having the disease

At present in Australia there are 1 in 100 Australians are diagnosed with this disease, however approximately 160,000 Australians remain undiagnosed!

The symptoms of Coeliac Disease are very similar to that of IBS, and often many people including myself are diagnosed with IBS for many years prior to receiving a diagnosis. The symptoms include; bloating, abdominal cramps, fatigue, constipation, dirroeha, flatulence, low iron levels or anemia (I had severe anemia). If left untreated the disease can lead to cancer and severe illness as extreme malabsorption is occuring, thus you aren't receiving the goodness in food etc.

The good news is that this disease can be controlled by diet. Simply removing gluten from your diet, can change the damage to your small bowel and reduce the symptoms that you have been suffering from for many years. It is very common for people to be diagnosed later in life with this disease. At present scientist are in the process of developing a vaccine for coeliac disease, thus allowing us to eat gluten! Sounds exciting.

If you suffer from some of the symptoms for this disease, it is important not to self diagnose or remove gluten from your diet. If you suspect you have this disease, make an appointement with your gp, exlpain your concerns and ask for a refferal to a gastro specialist. If this diease is in your family, your chance of having the disease is raised significantly. The only way to officially diagnose this disease is by an endoscopy where there is a biopsy taken of the small bowel, this will give a positive or negative diagnosis of the disease.

More awareness of the disease is occuring now then 10 years ago, at most supermarkets, generally in the health food aisle, there is about 1/4 of an aisle dedicated to gluten free foods. There are also a number of restaurants which show a greater understanding of the disease and identify their gf products with the gf symbol. I have to advise that it is essential to check to ingredients, even if it says it is gf, ask if the stock or sauce is gf. If in doubt, opt for a different meal (its not worth the horrible side effects, and the damage to the small bowel).

Please forward this blog post to your friends, the more people who read about this disease, may just reduce the number of undigangosed people. This might just be the prompting someone needs to go to the doctor to get tested.

I would like to acknowledge that there is gluten intolerance, where people have an allergy to gluten, they often experience the same symptoms as a coeliac. However no damage is occuring to the small bowel and they can tolerate a small amout of gluten. Once again don't just assume you have one of these problems, please go to your doctor and get reffered to the appropriate specialist.

Many people are choosing to remove gluten from their diet. Unless you are a coeliac or have a gluten intolerance, you should not remove gluten at all. There are many great health benefits in wheat, barley, rye and oats. People often complain about eating too much bread, you can reduce your bread intake, or replace sandwiches with rice crackers or salads, but don't ever remove gluten totally from your diet.

I would like to mention and thank the Coeliac Organisation of Australia for a vast majority of this information An excellent website for any queries you have and you can also join the organisation, you need a form completed by your gp and you are provided with a variety of information, there is a cost involved for membership.

In August the Gluten Free Expo Sydney is on on Friday the 24th and Saturday 25th August 2012. I went for the first time last year and was amazed! There were so many exibits selling a variety of gf products. People came armed with massive bags, coolers, eskys etc. They stocked up on the products that were available. They were also experts talking about the disease, to give you a break from all the exhibits. This is a fantastic expo that I encourage everyone to go to. Here is the website to get further information

I will be re posting some of my gluten free recipes this week and providing you with more information about this disease. Please remember to forward on to as many people as possible, hopefully someone will go to their doctor after reading this blog.

If you have any questions please feel free to email me on or chat to me on Twitter @MMOAGFL or Facebook under the page Mishaps and Mayhem of A Gluten Free Lie.