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HALF a million people could be suffering from a serious stomach disorder – and don’t know about it.

Coeliac disease causes the body’s immune system to react to gluten found in food, making the body attack itself resulting in a lifetime of pain and discomfort.

Diagnosing the condition has been extremely difficult with the average time being about 13 years!

But a new and simple blood test is now available so that some adults over 55 can be diagnosed almost immediately, without first having to have an endoscopy and biopsy.

The move follows new interim guidance from the British Society of Gastroenterology, pending the publication of its new Coeliac Guidelines in 2021.

Hilary Croft, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said: “This will enable a greater number of people to gain a faster diagnosis, without the need to wait for an endoscopy at the hospital.

“Getting an accurate diagnosis of coeliac disease means keeping gluten in the diet throughout the testing process – a difficult feat when waiting lists are long and people feel unwell.

“These guidelines are good news for those who meet the criteria for a no-biopsy diagnosis who will be able to start to feel better sooner on a gluten free diet, the only treatment for coeliac disease.

“However, those that do not meet the criteria are likely to face long waiting times as endoscopy services begin a phased return. Access to blood tests may still be limited at the moment, so we encourage people to speak with their GP if they are experiencing symptoms.”

To make it easier to understand if symptoms are possibly due to coeliac disease and discuss further testing with your GP, Coeliac UK has developed a self-assessment test to make it easier to take that first step to diagnosis.

Go to www.isitcoeliacdisease.org.uk to take the online assessment.

Fact file

  • Coeliac disease is not an allergy or an intolerance but an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system damages the lining of the small bowel when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye is eaten. Obvious sources of gluten include breads, pastas, flours, cereals, cakes and biscuits.
  • There is no cure and no medication; the only treatment is a strict gluten free diet for life.
  • 1 in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease but only 30% of those with the condition have been diagnosed. There are an estimated half a million people in the UK who have the condition yet don’t know it.
  • Some symptoms may be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or wheat intolerance, while others may be put down to stress or getting older.
  • Coeliac UK Helpline 0333 332 2033