Coeliac awareness week

Coeliac Awareness Week

 

Today marks the start of Coeliac Awareness Week (8th to the 14th of May). This seven day event is being sponsored by Coeliac UK- a charitable organisation which provides support for people with coeliac disease. The purpose of Coeliac Awareness Week is to raise awareness and encourage people to support Coeliac UK as they work with healthcare professionals to improve treatment, diagnosis and the availability of gluten free food.

Over the last few years, the theme of Coeliac Awareness Week has been ‘The Gluten Free Challenge’. People without coeliac disease are encouraged to eat gluten free for a week so they can get an insight into the difficulties and challenges faced by coeliacs in maintaining a gluten free diet.

 

What is Coeliac Disease?

This autoimmune disease affects the day to day life of sufferers. Symptoms occur when gluten damages the lining of the small intestine as well as other organs in more severe cases. Gluten is the term for a group of proteins found in foods such as pasta, cereal, bread, cakes, soy beans and certain sauces. When a person with coeliac disease eats any of these food types, their immune system has an adverse reaction which damages the surface of the small intestine and stops the body from absorbing nutrients from these foods. This then triggers symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting

In addition to these extremely uncomfortable symptoms, people with Coeliac disease often experience fatigue, anaemia, sudden weight loss and itchy rashes.

 

Help and Support

If you recognise any of the symptoms listed above and are affected when you eat foods which contain gluten, you may be suffering from coeliac disease. If this is the case, it is extremely important that you get a diagnosis from your GP so that you can get the help you need.

The most effective and essential way to handle a coeliac disease diagnosis is to cut out gluten. People with the condition cannot eat anything that contains this protein, so if you are diagnosed, you will be referred to a dietician who will help you come up with meal plans and adjust to your new diet and lifestyle. The dietician will ensure that your diet is balanced and healthy so that you are getting all the nutrients you need.

In more extreme cases of coeliac disease, the spleen can be affected and will work less effectively. Under these circumstances, you will be more vulnerable to infection so you will need extra vaccinations including the flu jab, Hib/MenC vaccine, and pneumococcal vaccine.

Your GP or dietician may also recommend that you take vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure you are getting all of the necessary nutrients while cutting gluten out of your diet. If you would like additional information on vitamin supplements, you can get speak to your pharmacist who will provide you with in-depth advice.

 

Get Involved With Coeliac Awareness Week

Many famous faces will be supporting Coeliac Awareness Week, including rugby player, Phil Vickery, Dr Chris Steele and Esther Rantzen. If you would also like to get behind this cause, there are plenty of activities to get involved with and ways you can help spread awareness. If you do not have coeliac disease yourself, you could join in with the Gluten Free Challenge and encourage friends, family members and co-workers to do the same.

Another option is to order a campaign toolkit from Coeliac UK and promote Coeliac Awareness Week by handing out leaflets in a public place or private business. Alternatively you could spread the message on social media by updating your status or profile photo or by sharing some of Coeliac UK’s animated films.