Coeliac Disease has an awareness week (May 16 to 22), but it’s one of those things you should have a year round awareness of, as it’s sometimes a tricky one to identify for the layperson, unless you have some idea of the symptoms – some of which can be pretty innocuous. But identify it you must, because if you have it you need to get onto it, so both your short and long term health is safe guarded by removing gluten from your diet. With an increase in people choosing not to eat gluten, many people have heard of going ‘gluten free’ but it’s actually only deemed medically necessary for those with Coeliac Disease. In fact, as this article notes, it’s not a great idea to undertake it on a health whim fad…particularly with youngsters. Find out why going gluten free for children may be doing more harm than good. So, firstly… what is gluten? It’s a protein that’s found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. There goes the sandwiches, crackers, cakes, burgers and beers – ah, and the brekky cereals. And what is Coeliac Disease? It is someone who has a gene that makes them develop an immune reaction to gluten, which when eaten, damages the intestine. A damaged intestine flattens all the villi in there that would usually do a stunning job of gathering all the goodness from your food as it travels through your system. Gluten inflames these villi so they become clubbed and flattened, reducing the ability of your gut to get what it needs to, in the way of nutrients from your food. I recall meeting a gentleman at the gluten free show some years back now who lamented the fact he was not diagnosed at a young age because in doing so, he never grew to the full height he felt he should of when compared to his non Coeliac siblings, and his wish for a sporting career was knocked on the head when he started breaking bones and getting excessively fatigued – both due to his body being unable to absorb what it needed to grow and function as it should. For some, grumbly tummies might be the teller, but for others, being fatigued, or having a low iron level might be the only tell-tale things. Raise the notion with your GP – particularly if you have someone in the wider family with CD, because it is genetic. I should know – our whole family has the gene! By the way, having the gene does not mean you are coeliac – just that you could be. If you are gene tested there is a therapeutic vaccine on the way currently undergoing trails – some in NZ, so go check it out – plus there’s a great animation clip on here which explains Coeliac Disease really nicely too! And if you’re in Auckland this weekend 21-22 May – the annual Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show is on. Plus Coeliac NZ has a host of info on the subject.