British charity Coeliac UK is calling on greater awareness of the similarity of symptoms between celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The organization urges anyone with IBS to ask their GP for a celiac disease blood test, if they have not already had one.
Only 3% of British adults aware that the symptoms of IBS are also common symptoms of celiac disease, the organization says.
As many as 1 in 4 people with celiac disease were previously misdiagnosed with IBS as many of the symptoms for IBS such as bloating, stomach pains or cramps, diarrhea or constipation and feeling exhausted are the same as the symptoms of celiac disease.
Norma McGough, Coeliac UK director of policy, research and campaigns said: “The first step to diagnosing celiac disease is a simple, inexpensive blood test done in primary care, but thousands of people are not getting the necessary testing and are being left undiagnosed including those with IBS symptoms. This not only causes years of unnecessary suffering but also wasted costs to the NHS with repeated appointments and investigations. We urge anyone who has symptoms such as ongoing bloating, diarrhea or constipation and has been given a diagnosis of IBS but not been tested for celiac disease to ask their GP to test them for celiac disease. However, it is essential to keep eating gluten until all tests are completed as otherwise, these tests may give a false negative result.”
Celiac disease is not an allergy or 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. There is no cure and no medication; the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life – the organization explains.
1 in 100 people in the UK is estimated to have celiac disease but of these, only 30% are currently diagnosed, meaning there are nearly half a million people in the UK with undiagnosed celiac disease.
The average time it takes for someone to get a diagnosis is 13 years from the onset of symptoms; by which time, they may already be suffering from added complications caused by the disease. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to a number of serious complications.