Learning to recognise coeliac signs

SERIOUS MEDICAL ILLNESS: As little as one-100th of a slice of wheat bread can damage the small intestine of a person with coeliac disease.
SERIOUS MEDICAL ILLNESS: As little as one-100th of a slice of wheat bread can damage the small intestine of a person with coeliac disease.

Coeliac Awareness Week  runs from March 13-20 and aims to increase awareness and the diagnosis of coeliac disease nationally.

Coeliac disease is a serious illness, affecting 1 in 70 of the population. However, 80 per cent of affected Australians remain undiagnosed.

Coeliac Australia aims to help sufferers recognise symptoms and take steps towards diagnosis and treatment.

People with coeliac disease are unable to eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Untreated coeliacdisease can lead to liver disease, cancer, osteoporosis and infertility. 

Maintaining a strict gluten free diet is the only way for people to treat the autoimmune disease. 

Symptoms and signs that should prompt testing for coeliac disease include:

  • Chronic or intermittent gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating or flatulence
  • Prolonged fatigue (“tired all the time”)
  • Iron deficiency anaemia or nutritional deficiency
  • Sudden or unexpected weight loss
  • Dental enamel defects or mouth ulcers
  • Low-trauma fracture or premature osteoporosis
  • Infertility, recurrent miscarriage
  • Abnormal liver function tests (especially elevated transaminases)
  • Peripheral neuropathy, ataxia or epilepsy 

High-risk associations that should prompt testing for coeliac disease include: 

  • Family history of coeliac disease (10-20% risk)
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Other autoimmune disease e.g. Addison’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, autoimmune liver disease
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy, blistering skin condition) • Immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Turner syndrome 

Coeliac Australia is highlighting the importance of food outlets understanding best practices when labeling and serving dishes gluten free with their Gluten Free Online Training program.

 Information about coeliac disease and the training program can be found at www.coeliac.org.au.