Coeliac Disease


Story Details

"All my life I've had problems with my stomach, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation".

Sound familiar?

Lethargy, fatigue, as well as anaemia deficiencies?

If you suffer from more than two of these symptoms there is a high chance it has to do with what you're eating.

Pasta, bread, cereal, cake, biscuits, these foods form a large part of a normal diet. But what if they are making you chronically ill?

Isobel Meyer was 57 before she was finally diagnosed correctly.

"When I was in my mid twenties, I lost all my teeth due to the problems with the enamel on my teeth, this was caused by coeliac disease," says Isobel.

"Eventually they sent me to the skins clinic, it was a doctor there who looked at my history and said you've got coeliac disease," says Isobel.

Coeliac disease is a serious medical condition causing a life time intolerance to dietary gluten.

The biggest problem is it's extremely common. One in one hundred Australian's have coeliac disease, and the concerning thing is that four out of five, don't even know they have it.

"My mother was always sick she was always vomiting and always had a lot of trouble with her stomach, she was never diagnosed with coeliac disease, but when she died I honestly feel if they looked further they might have discovered she had coeliac disease," says Isobel.

Coeliac sufferers are unaware of the serious health problems. They are
Self inflicting until they are diagnosed.

Dr Jason Tye-din is a leading coeliac specialist working with a team to develop the first ever vaccine to treat the as yet incurable disease.

"The concept of a coeliac vaccine is to tolerise a persons' immune system to the harmful affects of gluten allowing them to return to a normal gluten diet, and return to good health," says Dr Tye-din.

Until a cure is found it can only be managed by following a rigorous gluten free diet.

Gluten is a protein that is found in certain cereal products particularly wheat and rye and barley and a very similar thing is found in oats as well.

Dietician Suzanne Flint is an expert in gluten free foods.

"Whether you get symptoms or not you're still doing damage to your gut, and that is really important, your gut will never recover from this condition if you keep having a tiny bit of gluten," says Suzanne.

The difference the diet makes is enormous.

"Once I stopped eating gluten and started to feel a lot better, I thought heck, I'm not getting mouth ulcers, I'm not getting sick in the middle of the night, not having to take a bucket coz I knew I would be sick in the middle of the night," says Isobel.

And these days there is a much bigger range of gluten free food readily available.

"It's a lot easier than it used to be because of the changes to the labelling its much easier to tell when you buy a product from the supermarket whether it's gluten free or not," says Suzanne.

"You can go to any suburb here in Adelaide, all the supermarkets will have something, you're not going to starve anymore," says Isobel.

Even catering to those with a sweet tooth and you no longer have to go without your favourite winter dish.

"There is a big range of pastas and they are available in most supermarkets and there is quite a big range of commercial breads and bread mixers," says Suzanne.

Fruits, vegetables, meats and chicken are also gluten free and many restaurants now cater for the ever growing demand of gluten free foods, but you still must be wary.

"You might see the same pair of tongs pick up the gluten free and the gluten containing products, well then the gluten free product is not longer gluten free when that's happened," says Suzanne.

Although the symptoms of coeliac disease are vast and varied, a simple test at the doctor may provide a life changing answer.

"People who aren't aware of coeliac disease, anything could happen to them, they could be having miscarriage after miscarriage and maybe just going on a gluten free diet might have helped it," says Isobel.

More information can be found at The Coeliac Australia website