If someone told me a year ago I had Coeliac Disease. I probably would have laughed. It was by chance that I got diagnosed and looking back it was so glaringly obvious, although at the time it really wasn’t. Hopefully through my own story others will discover how to spot coeliac disease in women early.
After my daughter was born I started feeling enormously exhausted, I put it down to being a new mum. Then breastfeeding, being overweight, unfit…The list goes on. Basically I just thought that the circumstances in which I found myself feeling exhausted were what everyone feels sometimes.
By January 2017 I have to admit I was starting to think I was seriously ill. I was exhausted all the time, I always felt sick after eating and was feeling really low. I once again put it down to ‘life’. The stresses I was under were great, so it was easy to lay the blame firmly at their feet.
A chance conversation with my local GP lead one of my children to be tested and eventually diagnosed with Coeliac Disease.
Like any good parent I did my research, looking for ways to ensure my child got everything from correct nutrition to support in her new diagnosis. During this research i found myself thinking, “wow, I have A LOT of these symptoms.” 8 weeks later I had been tested and diagnosed with Coeliac Disease also.
What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease. The body’s immune system attack the healthy gut tissue every time you eat gluten, as it sees the gluten as. ‘foreign body’ and tries to kill it. In doing this the white blood cells cause the finger like Villi in the gut to shrink and die.
Over a period of time the body is unable to get as many nutrients from the diseased bowel as it did when it was healthy. As this continues you begin to see the resulting starvation of essential vitamins and minerals within your body.
Some of the main symptoms of Coeliac Disease are:
Some of the less common are:
Loss of grip
Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
Dislike of foods containing gluten
Delay in the onset of puberty
Some people with Coeliac Disease can even appear to have no symptoms. It’s only clear from a blood test or biopsy that they have the disease.
It’s worth noting that you may only have a few if these symptoms or have experienced them over a number of years. For me I have suffered all of these over my lifetime and believe I have had Coeliac Disease since infancy.
Some of the side effects of being Coeliac can lead to a higher chance of:
Developing another autoimmune disease
Anaemia and other deficiencies
Dental Health issues such as enamel erosion, gingivitis and receding gums
Women, especially young diagnosed or menstruating women, need to ensure their diet is rich in calcium and iron to reduce the chances of Osteoporosis and Anaemia.
Is there a cure?
Sadly, Coeliac Disease is a lifelong disease And there currently is no cure for it. However, symptoms can be managed by maintaining a gluten free diet.
Living gluten free
At first going Gluten Free can seem daunting. It’s hard to cut of things such as bread, pasta, cake and biscuits if you have always loved these. Luckily there is a growing range of gluten free products on the market to substitute what you are cutting out. The harder part is that gluten is in things you wouldn’t think about.
For example, gravies, ready meals, drinks, chocolate or sauces as often wheat and barley is used to thicken or flavour foods.
Cross contamination is another risk to Coeliac, as wheat is very hard to wash off of utensils. Using utensils in normal foods then in gluten free foods invariably means the gluten free food will be contaminated. Extreme hygiene and common sense need to be used.
Eating out or even at a friend’s house can see a lot of Coeliac being ‘glutened’. Which means you have eaten gluten unwittingly.
Whilst having Coeliac Disease on the face of it can seem like a bitter pill, we are incredibly lucky nowadays that most people have heard of it and can cater better now than perhaps even 10 years ago.
How to spot Coeliac Disease early?
Looking back i had some signs of Coeliacs Disease very young. I have a dislike of bread and breaded products and often felt sick. The biggest sign however was my size. I was tiny not only in weight but in height. I wasn’t thriving at all. When i started Secondary school at 11 i still weighed only 3 stones the average weight of a 5-6 year old and was the height of a 9 year old. I also had very delayed onset of puberty. Whilst all my friends had started to grow hair and breasts, i had not. Even at 16 i was hugely lagging behind my peers.
As an adult the thing that i have always struggled with is fatigue. Which has increased over the years to the point i was using sugar and caffeine to get through the day. Subtle things like brittle nails and frequent headaches have also blighted my life. Not having clarity of thought and getting mixed up easily, especially when i am very tired. I have also suffered several late miscarriages and several more early ones. despite a varied, healthy diet and regular taking of supplements i still have become anaemic several times with no real reasoning that could be found as to why.
All of these symptoms, i feel are quite women specific and can be signs that you have Coeliac Disease as female, so think carefully, if you tick any of these boxes, get checked. If you have any questions on Coeliac Disease or want to share your story please do so in the comments below.
If you want to know more about Coeliac Disease visit Coeliac U.K. or Celiac Disease Foundation
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