The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~ Alfred Austin

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Coeliac Awareness Week

Today marks the start of Coeliac awareness week. It runs from Wednesday March 13 through until next Wednesday March 20.

Image from Australian Coeliac website.

Coeliac awareness week is held each year in March to raise awareness about the condition.

According to The Coeliac Society of Australia, coeliac disease affects about 1 in 100 people which equates to about a quarter of a million Australians. It also appears to be on the rise.

Some of the symptoms of coeliac disease include:
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Skin bruises easily
  • Recurrent mouth ulcers
  • Skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Fogginess and irritability
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Failure to thrive in children
  • Delayed growth or delayed puberty in children
Some people may suffer greatly with any of the above symptoms and some may have no symptoms at all. Also some people with other medical conditions may be at a greater risk of coeliac disease. If you have any of the following it may be worth getting checked out:
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as; diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating and abdominal pain
  • A family history of coeliac disease
 If you suspect you may have coeliac disease, a blood test to measure your antibody levels is needed.

People with untreated coeliac disease generally have elevated antibody levels.
Some of the antibodies they measure include:
  • Anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTG-IgA)
  • Deamidated gliadin peptide (DGP) IgA and IgG
  • Anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA) This was the test my daughter had 13 years ago and this test is less commonly used nowadays.
A diagnosis of coeliac disease cannot be made just by a blood test alone. A positive blood test needs to be followed up by a small bowel biopsy to fully confirm the diagnosis.

The small bowel biopsy is a day procedure where they take several samples from the small bowel which are then examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of villous atrophy (coeliac disease).

If coeliac disease is left untreated it can lead to very poor health and a much greater risk of suffering from things like; osteoporosis, depression, infertility, miscarriage, liver disease, increased risk to autoimmune disease and scarily some forms of cancer such as lymphoma.

The good news is that once a diagnosis of coeliac disease has been made and strict adherence to the gluten free diet is made, then symptoms should start to disappear and the small bowel starts to heal itself quite quickly. There is no cure for coeliac disease and there is no medication to take for it. The strict gluten free diet is the only option. Most people start to feel so much better once they have started on the diet, that they realise how important it is to stick to it.

For us the gluten free diet is a way of life now. As I mentioned earlier my daughter was diagnosed with coeliac disease 13 years ago. At the time she was just three. We had a long and arduous time before her diagnosis. I had taken her to numerous Doctor's outlining her symptoms two of which included chronic diarrhoea and vomiting every time she ate something. Her hugely distended stomach was also a big worry. Not one of those doctor's took me seriously. One day my Mum had gone to see a Naturopath for herself, at the end of the consult she enquired as to whether he saw children. Mum then went on to explain RM's symptoms and he immediately said without having seen her that the Doctor's need to start taking us seriously and insist that they test for coeliac disease. At the next appointment I requested a blood test to test her antibodies for coeliac, the Doctor stated he didn't believe for a minute that was what she had, after going around and around in circles, I eventually had to slam my fist down on his desk and demand he test her.

What do you know - her blood test came back positive and a short while later her gastroentrologist said the biopsy had confirmed she had coeliac disease. So began our path along the gluten free diet. For us it was further complicated as RM had also been diagnosed with anaphylaxis to peanuts and also an allergy to soy and to milk. Thankfully after a few years the soy and milk allergy were outgrown. It is just the coeliac disease and anaphylaxis to peanuts that she will have for life.

Great roads are being made into developing a vaccine for coeliac disease, and I think at this stage they are up to conducting human trials. I remember when we first heard about the vaccine from the information given then, we worked out RM would be about 20 years of age. So all things going well hopefully in the next four to five years there should be a vaccine available.

Please note that I am NOT a medical professional. What I have written above comes from being the parent of a child with coeliac disease and what I have read in both the Australian Coeliac magazine and from the Australian Coeliac website. If you have any queries about your health and think that maybe the symptoms you have could point to coeliac disease, then please see your Doctor or medical health practitioner.

For lots more information visit the Australian Coeliac website at  From there you are also able to link to the coeliac society in your state. Another really good website to visit is  for loads more information and videos to watch.

If you are in Perth this coming weekend March 16 - 17, then the Western Australian branch of the Coeliac Society have their annual gluten free food & healthy living expo on at the Perth Convention Centre. Opening times are 10am until 5pm both days. A great place to learn more about gluten free food and be able to taste a range of products at the show.