Help is at hand and life can be much better for those with coeliac today than years ago.
That’s the message from the local support group of Coeliac UK to Fylde coast residents with the condition.
Coeliac is an autoimmune disorder.
Gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye, triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease – gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. Other parts of the body may be affected too.
Symptoms vary from person to person but can include bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and chronic fatigue.
Sandra Whitmore, of Marton, who set up the local support group 15 years ago, said: “When I was about two or three years old, my mum took me to the doctors because I wasn’t growing. Things were very different back then.
“It was only really when I got older and after my third gastroscopy, I was told I was actually sensitive to gluten and barley.
“When I was little, my mum used to make me special bread – which, no disrespect to her, the products weren’t great, wasn’t very nice, although she did make wonderful biscuits for me.
“Things are very different now. There are a lot more products more widely available.
“My family are so supportive, my husband Steve does the food shopping for me because I don’t like it as there are so many things I can’t have.
“You have to be careful even with foods you wouldn’t think contain gluten because of contamination,
“But there is definitely more choice than there used to be.
“And there are more places you are able to go and eat out these days, though still more needs to happen.
“Within the support group, we have trips to restaurants and so on, which we know offer gluten-free choices so we can just relax and enjoy a meal out.
“On June 15 for example, we are going to Sweet Mandarin Chinese in Manchester, who recently gave us a cookery demonstration too.
“We can provide information and help, but also have a good social side too.
“We have a great committee and are always looking for new members.”
This week is Coeliac Awareness Week and the theme for the annual event this year is “gut feeling” – focusing on the diagnosis of the condition.
Members of the group will be present in Sainsbury’s, on Red Bank Road, Bispham, to give information and advice today, tomorrow and Wednesday.
It is thought one in 100 people have coeliac disease, but only one in eight of those with the condition are diagnosed.
The group’s annual meeting will take place on May 18, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church Centre, St Albans Road, St Annes, at 2pm.
To get in touch with the local support group, call Sandra Whitmore on (01253) 764836, or David Pearce on (01772) 563113.
For more information, visit www.coeliac.org.u
Diarrhoea, excessive wind, and/or constipation
Persistent or unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting
Recurrent stomach pain, cramping or bloating
Any combination of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency
Tiredness and/or headaches
Weight loss (but not in all cases)
Hair loss (alopecia)