This week marks Coeliac awareness week. The last time I wrote about this, my aim was to raise awareness of everything you should know about coeliac disease. Today's post does the opposite - rather than tell you what coeliac disease is let's talk about and make clear from the offset what it is not.. So without further ado....
Coeliac disease is NOT....
1. An allergy to gluten. Despite what you may read, coeliac disease is a disease involving the immune system and is not the same as other allergies - such as milk allergy or lactose intolerance.
2. An intolerance. Let's not even go there! Gluten intolerance does exist in many individuals (formally named non coeliac gluten sensitivity) but this is not in any way the same as coeliac disease.
3. Something Gwyneth Paltrow invented.
4. Something that you can 'grow out of'. Unfortunately, this isn't just the ignorance of non-sufferers, I've even seen those with coeliac disease saying they 'used to have it.'
5. Something that has an instant cure. The gut can take many years to get back to normal and sufferers may find they're intolerant to more foods like dairy. There is also something called Refractory Coeliac Disease, in which the body does not respond to a strict gluten free diet.
6. Something that means you can have a 'small amount of gluten' or follow 'a low gluten diet'. Despite the number of restaurants offering 'low gluten' menus, the complete exclusion of gluten is the only way.
7. Just about having an upset stomach. In fact, some patients can go undiagnosed for a long time since they don't have this 'classic symptom.'
8. Always resolved by a gluten-free diet (See my post on why many coeliacs suffer with milk intolerances). But that's not all, many coeliacs may find it takes years until they truly feel better.
9. Something where 'you feel a bit bloated'.
10. Something that only skinny people have.
11. Something that helps with weight loss.
12. Rare. In fact, 1 in 100 people have it (but since only 24% are diagnosed; this number is likely to be a lot higher). It's much more common than you think!
13. Easily diagnosed. Nope! The average time taken for diagnosis is 13 years. This is just not good enough and one of the reasons that coeliac awareness week is so so important.
14. Diagnosed by the patient following a gluten-free diet. In fact, the opposite is true - you need to eat gluten consistently for six weeks for it to work. Never give up gluten before receiving a positive diagnosis- as this will mean results will not be accurate.
15. Resolved by cooking food at high temperatures. It almost beggars belief that some restaurant owners use this as an excuse- no amount of heat can destroy gluten!
Make sure you share the right information this Coeliac Awareness Week. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that has a range of symptoms. It is a lifelong condition but unfortunately, only 24% of people are diagnosed- leaving many sufferers out there unwittingly eating gluten every day. Find out more at www.coeliac.org.uk
Jenna Farmer is a gluten free blogger over at www.abalancedbelly.co.uk