Coeliac UK Awareness Week

Spotting the warning signs this Coeliac UK Awareness Week

Coeliac UK Awareness Week takes place from 15-21 May 2023.  

Organised by Coeliac UK, it’s a national event designed to raise awareness of coeliac disease with fundraising events taking place across the UK.

The aim for this year’s Coeliac Awareness Week is to highlight the less-common symptoms of coeliac disease while giving real people living with the condition an opportunity to share their stories.

What’s more, by talking about the condition and being aware of the warning signs and risk factors, more people can get the support they need.

Coeliac disease: what to look out for

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue when gluten is eaten. This results in damage to the gut lining and means the body can’t digest nutrients properly. Coeliac disease is a food intolerance, not an allergy.

1 in 100 people in the UK are diagnosed with coeliac disease, although it’s thought that thousands more could be suffering with unexplained symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that symptoms can vary from person to person, and having the associated symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have coeliac disease.

Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Bloating and wind
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Constipation
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexpected weight loss

There are also several lesser-known symptoms, which the charity behind the awareness week wants to highlight as potential warning signs.

These include:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Anaemia
  • Skin rashes
  • Bone diseases
  • Migraines

As coeliac disease affects the gut, it’s very common for it to be misdiagnosed as IBS or Crohn’s Disease. If you have any digestive concerns, it’s important that you speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.

What causes coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is caused by an immune system reaction to gluten found in foods like pasta, bread, biscuits, and cereals. When gluten is eaten, the immune system mistakes healthy cells for harmful ones and creates antibodies to attack them. These antibodies then cause your gut to become red and swollen, which impacts digestion.

The main trigger of a coeliac flare-up is gluten, but some people also find that eating oats can cause symptoms. This is usually because of cross-contamination during the production of oats.

It’s not fully known why some people develop the condition, or why some people have mild symptoms and others have more severe symptoms. However, researchers have confirmed that there are certain factors known to increase your risk of developing the condition.

These include:

  • Family history – Coeliac disease runs in families. If you have a parent, brother or sister with the illness, there’s a 10% chance you could also experience symptoms. Those who have a twin with coeliac disease have a 75% chance of developing symptoms.
  • Environmental factors – Research also says that you’re more likely to develop the disease if you’ve suffered with a digestive system infection during early childhood. Some experts suggest there is a small chance that babies could develop the condition if they’re not being breastfed when gluten is introduced into their diet.

  • Health conditions – There are also other health conditions that can increase your risk of coeliac disease. These include Type 1 Diabetes, thyroid conditions, Down’s Syndrome, and Turner Syndrome.

Treatment for coeliac disease

Once an individual has been diagnosed with coeliac disease, the only treatment available is a gluten-free diet. However, as a leading health testing laboratory, we know that it can take years for someone to get the diagnosis they need. Not to mention the worry that comes with genetic conditions when a family member is diagnosed.

For just £99, an AlphaBiolabs Genetic Coeliac Disease Test can tell you whether you have the genes associated with coeliac disease, with only a simple cheek swab DNA sample required. 

Our test uses Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) typing to confirm or rule out the potential of developing coeliac disease by analysing six DNA markers for the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 genes. Simply collect your cheek swab samples at home, return them to our award-winning laboratory, and receive your secure, confidential results via email in 4-5 days. 

The test can be performed on anyone of any age, from young children to adults. However, we strongly advise that you speak to your doctor before making any decisions regarding dietary changes based on the results of the test.

For more information, contact our friendly and knowledgeable Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email

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