Dietitians at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust are raising awareness of coeliac disease, during coeliac awareness week, which runs from 11 – 17 May.
Coeliac disease is a life-long condition caused by the immune system reacting to the protein gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, in foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, cereals and cakes.
Around one in 100 people have coeliac disease. The symptoms of coeliac disease vary between individuals. Not everyone with coeliac disease will have the same symptoms. The symptoms can include bloating, changes in bowel habits, unintentional weight loss, nausea and tiredness as well as iron deficiency.
Dietitian Kirsty MacLean said: “As a dietitian I see just how challenging living with coeliac disease can be, but the condition can be treated when people begin to manage their diet and avoid products containing gluten.
“If you have symptoms of coeliac disease, you should talk to your GP and not just remove gluten from your diet. People can develop the condition at any age. Screening involves having a simple blood test and is often recommended if there is a family history of coeliac disease, as it can run in families. Further investigations may be required.
“Left untreated it may lead to iron deficiency anaemia, osteoporosis and an increased risk of small bowel cancer.
“If you have had a positive diagnosis the only treatment is a gluten-free diet for life. It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet of gluten free foods and to understand the risks of cross-contamination for example using the same butter that someone else has used who is not on a gluten free diet. Working with your dietitian and being aware of gluten free food products to manage your diet can make a big difference to the symptoms and risks of untreated coeliac disease.”
You can find more information about coeliac disease at www.coeliac.org.uk/home/