Coeliac Disease: A brief history and the importance of Gluten Free

Imagine waking up every day to a life where the simple act of eating could potentially harm your body. This is the reality for those living with Coeliac Disease, a condition that affects roughly 1 in 70 Australians. Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, leading to a range of symptoms including bloating, diarrhoea, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies. 

The history of Coeliac Disease dates back over a century when classic clinical features were described by both Samuel Gee from England and Christian Herter from the United States. Although these features were noted, the management was unclear. It wasn't until the 1940s that Dutch paediatrician Dr. Willem Dicke was able to make the clinical discovery that gluten was the culprit behind the symptoms experienced by those with the disease. This discovery paved the way for the development of gluten free diets as the primary treatment for Coeliac Disease.

Fast forward to the present day, and awareness of Coeliac Disease in Australia has grown significantly. This is thanks in part to initiatives such as Coeliac Awareness Week, which is held annually to raise awareness about the condition and the importance of gluten free living. This year, Coeliac Awareness Week will be more important than ever as it aims to educate the public about the impact of Coeliac Disease on individuals and their families.

Here are some key points to keep in mind during Coeliac Awareness Week:

  1. Understanding the Symptoms: Coeliac Disease can present with a wide range of symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. Although the common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, fatigue, and weight loss, a survey conducted by Coeliac Australia found that only 34% of members with Coeliac Disease sought diagnosis due to gut related issues. The other 66% of members sought the diagnosis due to other symptoms. This is why It's so important to recognise possible correlating symptoms and seek medical advice if you suspect you may have Coeliac Disease.
  1. Diagnosis and Treatment: If Coeliac Disease is suspected, a blood test and biopsy of the small intestine are typically performed to confirm the diagnosis. The only treatment for Coeliac Disease is a strict gluten free diet, which involves eliminating all sources of gluten from your diet. This can be challenging at first, but with the right support and resources, it becomes easier.
  1. Gluten Free Living: Adopting a gluten free lifestyle is essential for those with Coeliac Disease to manage their symptoms and prevent long term complications. Fortunately, there are now a wide variety of gluten free products available in supermarkets, online stores like ours and restaurants, making it easier than ever to enjoy a diverse and delicious gluten free way of life.