Gluten. A lot of us take this little protein for granted, consuming foods like wheat, rye, and oats on a daily basis. But for people with coeliac disease, consuming gluten can lead to serious health issues. However, the vast majority of Australians who have this disease don’t even know it yet.
Approximately 1 in 70 Australians are affected by coeliac disease, but 80% of these still remain undiagnosed. Men and women of all ages who are born with the genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease can be affected.
If you have coeliac disease, gluten causes your immune system to react abnormally, causing damage in your small bowel. Gluten intake causes the tiny villi (small finger-like parts) that line the bowel to become flattened and inflamed. As a result, the surface area of the bowel available to absorb the necessary nutrients is reduced. This bowel damage is referred to as villous atrophy, most commonly caused by coeliac disease. Numerous gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms can result from this condition.
Common symptoms of coeliac disease include:
· Constipation and/or diarrhea
· Mouth ulcers
· Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (i.e. anaemia)
· Weight loss
· Stomach pain
· Growth problems / delayed puberty in children
· Bone and joint pains
· Fertility problems
· Easy bruising to the skin
· Skin rashes (i.e. dermatitis).
If coeliac disease is not diagnosed and treated properly, long-term health effects can result from the malabsorption of nutrients and chronic systematic inflammation caused by the disease. So it’s important to be tested if you have any concerns.
If you think you might have coeliac disease, visit us at Moonee Valley Specialist Centre so you can be tested. Testing includes a simple blood test and a gastroscopy, during which a small bowel biopsy will be taken and sent for testing. A gastroscopy is a painless examination performed under light sedation as a day procedure in hospital.
Following your gastroscopy you will have an appointment with Dr Connelly to find out your results and next steps.
Booking a gastroscopy is easy and doesn’t always require an appointment with Dr Connelly first. Simply contact our rooms on 03 9372 0372.
If you are diagnosed with coeliac disease, the only treatment is to maintain a life-long strict gluten-free diet. Encouragingly, there are currently many great gluten-free options both in supermarkets and restaurants, allowing you to lead a healthy lifestyle without missing out on your favourite foods.