You may have heard of those who live on a ‘gluten-free’ diet or seen the growing number of ‘free from’ products on the shelves at your local supermarket – but for some people, going gluten-free isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s a necessity for their health. Coeliac Disease Awareness Week (9th-15th May) aims to raise awareness of coeliac disease for the 1% of the UK population who suffer from it. Did you know that only 24% have been properly diagnosed with coeliac disease? That’s why, this year, the campaign’s theme is ‘is it coeliac disease? – a theme designed to help get people familiar with the signs and symptoms of the condition so they can work out whether they’re within that 1%.

 

About coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is a medical condition which affects the way the body reacts to gluten. Gluten is present in a number of foods, often alongside those which contain wheat, barley and rye such as bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, beer and others. Like an allergic reaction, ingesting gluten can lead to a number of symptoms including:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and passing wind
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling tired or having a lack of energy
  • Stunted/slow growth within children

The level of reaction can vary from person to person. Someone with undiagnosed coeliac disease who continues to eat gluten could find themselves losing weight at a very fast rate, and suffering from malnutrition due to the body being unable to absorb nutrients correctly.

At present there is no cure for coeliac disease, and switching to a gluten-free diet is the best way to manage it. Cooking meals from scratch and using gluten-free alternatives is the best way to avoid eating gluten. The growing range of gluten-free products means that it’s even easier to manage coeliac disease than it was 10 years ago.

 

Coeliac Disease Awareness Week

This year’s campaign builds upon last years and aims to target the 500,000 people who remain undiagnosed in the UK. There are many ways for people to get involved and whether you have just 5 minutes or 50, you can do your bit to raise awareness.

 

Get involved

There are a number of different ways for you to get involved in this year’s Coeliac Disease Awareness Week, including:

  • Joining the Thunderclap campaign by posting a status featuring ‘Is it coeliac disease?’ on your social media profile, or even take a ‘symptoms selfie’ and encourage others to do the same. The more creative and eye-catching your selfie, the better.
  • Help spread the word by volunteering as part of the leafleting day on Saturday 14th May. Marks and Spencer will be offering up their stores to help. You can sign up to take part, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
  • Getting familiar with the symptoms and sharing information with your friends and family can help get coeliac disease diagnosed and help people put an end to their symptoms. There are resources available online to help you with this.

There are plenty of places to find information about coeliac disease including some great recipe ideas to help you live gluten-free. The NHS website and Coeliac UK are two excellent online resources to help you learn more about coeliac disease and how to manage the symptoms. Take part in Coeliac Disease Awareness Week and help campaigners to reach the many people who still remain undiagnosed in the UK.