Coeliac Awareness Week

Coeliac Awareness Week is taking place from May 15th to May 20th

Coeliac disease affects up to 75,000 people in Ireland but there may be many undetected cases amongst thousands of Irish people. There is clear evidence of a genetic component to coeliac disease.

It is an autoimmune disease which causes some adults and children to react adversely to gluten in food. Gluten is the protein in wheat, barley and rye. These grains are common ingredients in foods such as bread, cakes, pasta, beer, pizza and other manufactured foods such as soups, gravy, chocolate and ready meals.

If a person with coeliac disease eats gluten, their intestine becomes damaged. This reduces their ability to absorb nutrients from food. This can lead to various symptoms and complications, if undiagnosed.

It can heavily impact quality of life if left untreated but the positive thing is that it is very treatable.

Common signs of the disease include:

  • Recurrent diarrhoea or constipation, happening at least twice a month

  • Itchy and blistery rashes can also be part of the symptoms

  • Bloating, abdominal pain

  • Fatigue

  • Iron deficiency

  • Severe headaches

  • Recurring mouth ulcers

  • Weight Loss

The symptoms can be very different between one person and the next. The most common symptoms are in the gut but other areas of the body can be affected. Some people may have no symptoms and are only found to be coeliac when they are being tested for something else. Age is also a factor with regard to symptoms.

Is there a cure for coeliac disease?

At the moment, there is no cure for coeliac disease. The only treatment is a strict gluten free diet. Unfortunately even a tiny amount of gluten can trigger the full auto-immune reaction of coeliac disease. If a person with this disease does not follow the gluten free diet, there is a higher risk of osteoporosis, problems with fertility, nerve damage and poor enamel on teeth among others.

The Coeliac Society of Ireland is a great resource for information -