On Coeliac UK Awareness week (13-19 May) National Charity Coeliac UK, is calling on greater awareness of the similarity of symptoms and urges anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to ask their GP for a Coeliac disease blood test, if they have not already had one. Coeliac UK is the national charity for people who need to live without gluten, whether due to Coeliac disease or another medical condition requiring a gluten free diet.
As many as 1 in 4 people with coeliac disease were previously misdiagnosed with IBS as many of the symptoms for IBS such as bloating, stomach pains or cramps, diarrhoea or constipation and feeling exhausted are the same as the symptoms of Coeliac disease. Only 3% of British adults are aware that the symptoms of IBS are also common symptoms of Coeliac disease.
Possible symptoms in Coeliac disease may include severe diarrhoea, excessive wind and/or constipation, persistent or unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, recurrent stomach pain, cramping or bloating, iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency, anaemia, tiredness, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), mouth ulcers, skin rash, repeated miscarriages, neurological (nerve) problems such as ataxia (loss of coordination, poor balance) and peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and feet).
Vijay Patel, in his mid 30s, is a complaint handler at AA, who suffered on and off for 18 months with ongoing symptoms of bloating, tiredness, feeling breathless, nausea and acid reflux told Asian Voice, “I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease in March 2017. It took me several months of visits to GP before finally being referred to a specialist- a gastrologist. After much of fact finding, family history, I was referred for endoscopy and a scan of stomach. A small sample of the intestine was taken, and it was confirmed that I was intolerant to gluten.”
Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten found in food, making the body attack itself. 1 in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease but half a million people in the UK are undiagnosed and average time to diagnosis it is 13 years. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people are also sensitive to oats. IBS most commonly affects people between the age of 20 – 30 years and is twice as common in women as men, according to NICE.
Vijay's wife Rupal, who is a pharmacist, had already started looking up, trying to find out what he should ideally be cautious of, while eating. “I could not eat anything that I have grown up eating- like samosas, rotis and I had withdrawal symptoms. Once we came to know about my gluten intolerance, it was hard to explain to parents. No one in the family had it before me.”
The diagnosis turned his life upside down and was very difficult to deal with and Vijay says without the support of his wife and family and friends, the emotional challenge of dealing with the condition would have been much harder.
Vijay, who is open about his condition to his office manager, gets much support from his work. He is active in raising awareness about the disease and tries to encourage people in different platforms. “Whether going out to a restaurant or meal at home with family, I always try to tell people that there is nothing to be threatened by the Coeliac disease. The more we raise awareness regarding Coeliac disease the more we can help each other, don’t be afraid to talk about it.”
Coeliac UK has launched a new animation to explain what is coeliac disease. For more information see:www.coeliac.org.uk/get-involved/coeliac-uk-awareness-week-2019/symptoms-to-look-out-for/or YouTube channel https://youtu.be/tIepoFNUfaM.