Australians are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired - unaware what to do to feel better due to undiagnosed coeliac disease. The common intolerance to gluten results in:
- a lack of energy
- stomach pain
- weight loss
- as well as higher risks of developing infertility, osteoporosis or some forms of cancer.
Coeliac disease is one of the most commonly under-diagnosed conditions in Australia with 80% of the 230,000 with the condition unaware that they have it. Undiagnosed coeliac disease is associated with a four-fold increased risk of premature death, a three-fold increased risk of osteoporosis and some forms of cancer such as lymphoma.
Dr Jason Tye-Din conducts research into coeliac disease at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Chair of Coeliac Australia’s Medical Board stresses the importance of not ignoring symptoms of the condition.
“The real concerning fact is that 4 out of 5 people with coeliac disease remain undiagnosed and are in effect like walking time bombs because they have a medical condition that can cause some serious long term complications”.
Detection of coeliac disease is through a blood test to indicate risk performed in general practice, with a follow up bowel biopsy to confirm the condition. However, may general practitioners also are unaware of the symptoms of coeliac disease which means the condition is often overlooked when considering diagnosis.
Many people who are diagnosed with coeliac disease report an improved quality of life. Veteran Richmond AFL midfielder Shane Tuck noticed a 5-10% improvement in his playing performance after managing his coeliac disease following diagnosis in 2012.
The good news is there's relatively easy treatment available: a lifelong gluten-free diet that eliminates symptoms, reverses small bowel damage and importantly, significantly reduces the risk of long-term health complications.
Symptoms of coeliac disease may include:
If you think this sounds like you, and you wish to be tested, ask your GP. However, it's important that you do not trial a gluten-free diet before you are tested because the test results will not be accurate. To correctly diagnose coeliac disease you must consume the equivalent gluten content of four slices of wheat bread per day (for adults), for four-six weeks before testing.
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