Gut Feeling – Coeliac Awareness Week 13th to 19th May 2013
Suma member, Julie Knott, was fortunate to be diagnosed with Coeliac Disease as a baby 53 years ago. Knowledge of the disease was limited in the early 1960’s and Julie was hospitalised for 3 months as a result.
Julie’s mum, Jean, was distraught when Julie’s health deteriorated when she was 14 months old, Julie’s arms and legs were wasting away and her tummy had become bloated. She was admitted to St James’ Hospital in Leeds where doctors diagnosed Julie as suffering from malnutrition.
Julie said “My mum told me that she was shocked at what the doctors were saying. My granddad was head chef at Leeds Metropole Hotel at the time, my whole family were working in catering and my mum was adamant that she knew how to feed her baby.”
Jean pushed for a second opinion and was lucky that Professor Craig saw Julie. Professor Craig was the leading Paediatrician in the UK specialising in Coeliac Disease, he recognised the symptoms and transferred Julie to Seacroft Hospital where he was able to stabilise her condition over a 3 month period. Once a true diagnosis had been made she was transferred to the care of Dr Buchanan for 3 monthly appointments the next 15 years.
Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) is a serious illness where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues when gluten is eaten. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and means that the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food. It is not an allergy or simple food intolerance.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Julie became ill when she was weaned from breast milk and rusk biscuits were introduced to her diet. The change in her diet had made her seriously ill and her mum had to learn what foods were safe for Julie to eat.
Julie said “In the 1960’s product labelling wasn’t as detailed as it is today, products labelled as ‘gluten free’ were only available from chemists and eventually on prescription, adapting to my new dietary needs was a difficult time for the whole family. I remember my mum telling me she had to buy potato and soya flour from the local health food store to make bread and I still have a scar on my hand from trying to slice a rock hard loaf!”
“Twenty five years ago I joined Suma, I’ve always been keen for Suma to add specialist dietary products to our range and am very proud that we now stock over 3500 gluten free products in our warehouse. Maintaining a tasty and healthy gluten free diet is thankfully much easier these days”
Coeliac disease is now recognised as being common and affects 1 in 100 people, however only 10-15% are diagnosed.
Some symptoms may be confused with irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) or wheat intolerance, while others may be down to stress or getting older. In the past, people with coeliac disease were expected to be underweight. In fact, most are a normal weight or even overweight. It can take some time before an accurate diagnosis is made.
If you think you or your child has coeliac disease, you must keep eating gluten and speak to your GP for advice.
For more information on Ceoliacs Disease visit: http://www.coeliac.org.uk/
To download a copy of Suma’s gluten free product list: http://www.suma.coop/resources/product-lists/