Coeliac disease is an autoimmune illness affecting one in 70 people.
However, 80 per cent of affected Australians remain undiagnosed.
During Coeliac Awareness Week (March 13-20), Coeliac Australia aims to promote awareness of symptoms and best practice screening and management.
Symptoms may include gastrointestinal complaints, anaemia and nutrient deficiencies, chronic fatigue and headaches.
If the disease is left untreated, it can cause chronic ill health and may lead to liver disease, osteoporosis, other autoimmune illnesses and cancer.
Treatment involves a strict and lifelong gluten-free diet.
Coeliac Australia Medical Advisory Committee chairperson Dr Jason Tye-Din said the rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet has made diagnosis challenging, as the accuracy of testing depends on active gluten consumption.
“Coeliac disease is a serious medical illness, not a dietary fad,” Dr Tye-Din said.
“It is important to speak to your GP about being tested for coeliac disease, before starting a gluten-free diet.”
Bellbird mum Vanessa Streitberger-Sams, whose nine-year-old daughter Gabrielle was diagnosed with coeliac disease in May last year, agrees that awareness of the illness needs to be improved.
“It’s a real thing – but because a lot of people went on the gluten-free train people don’t take it as seriously as they should,” she said.
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