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The Coeliac Society and the Irish College of General Practitioners have published a set of guidelines entitled the “Diagnosis and Management of Adult Coeliac Disease” for use within the context of the Irish healthcare system. It puts in place a framework for the early identification and treatment of patients with coeliac disease in primary healthcare.

For the first time, this guide outlines 50 different indicators that are identified as the Clinical presentation of coeliac disease for GPs and health practitioners. Included amongst them are conditions such as osteoporosis, anaemia, mouth ulcers, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation and infertility.

It is estimated that there are 400,000 people in Ireland who suffer from gluten intolerance. An estimated 50,000 of these will suffer from lifelong autoimmune Coeliac Disease for which there is no cure and which poses significant health risks if left unchecked.

Gill Brennan, CEO, Coeliac Society Ireland said: “This document is one of the most significant pieces of work addressing the issues of coeliac disease in many years, given that the importance of an early diagnosis cannot be underestimated.

We know that over 70% of current sufferers are undiagnosed. There is no cure and if left untreated, as is currently the case for many sufferers, it can result in a range of significant health risks including cancer and infertility.”

According to the Coeliac Society another important aspect contained in the new guidelines is the inclusion of a clear long-term care plan. Currently the only treatment is a strict lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. Studies have shown that dietary compliance is often poor if not followed up by those caring for the patient.

Richelle Flanagan, contributing author and board member of the Coeliac Society of Ireland said: “When adopted these guidelines will prevent needless delays in diagnosis while also providing medical practitioners with a clear treatment path to follow.

The guidelines acknowledge that the only treatment for the disease is a strict lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet and that dietary compliance without continuing support is often poor. As a result, sufferers may present later with long-term health issues placing a further – and wholly preventable – burden on our health system.”

The Diagnosis and Management of Adult Coeliac Disease guidelines as presented by the Quality and Safety in Practice Committee are available to view on www.icgp.ie or www.coeliac.ie


The risk of coeliac disease increases from one in every 100 people to one in 10, when a first-degree relative has the disease. That’s according to the Coeliac Society of Ireland, which today launched its annual Awareness Week. Coeliac Awareness Week 2018, which is supported by Ireland’s leading grocery retailer SuperValu, takes place nationwide 14th to 20th May.

This year, the Coeliac Society of Ireland are highlighting the impact of coeliac disease on families, and in particular, children. A number of events will be taking place during Awareness Week, including a series of in-store events at SuperValu stores around Ireland, featuring dietetic talks, advice from the Coeliac Society of Ireland and gluten free food samplings.

Commenting at the launch today, Mary Twohig, Chairperson of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, said: “Each year, Coeliac Awareness Weeks provides us with an important opportunity to highlight the seriousness of the disease. It’s not a fad or a lifestyle choice, it is a serious, lifelong condition. If undiagnosed, people with coeliac disease could develop osteoporosis, anaemia, nerve damage and it can have negative impacts on fertility.

“If people are suffering with symptoms we want them to be aware that if a first-degree relative has coeliac disease, their own chances of having the disease are increased to one in ten. It’s also important to note that some people with the disease experience no symptoms but internal damage is still taking place. We advise anyone with a first blood relative diagnosed as coeliac to discuss testing with their GP.”

Officially launching Coeliac Awareness Week 2018 was Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD, who said: “I am delighted to officially launch Coeliac Awareness Week 2018. With approximately 47,500 people in Ireland affected by coeliac disease, it’s hugely important that the medical risks of the disease are highlighted.

The Coeliac Society of Ireland’s annual Awareness Week is an important event in the calendar for not only those with the disease, but the general public as a whole – we can all do our bit to make sure we’re familiar with the seriousness of the disease, and find out how we can help those with it live life to the full.”

Also at the launch of Coeliac Awareness Week was Paddy Curran, SuperValu’s Health & Wellness Manager, who said, “At SuperValu, we are committed to ensuring we provide a range of products that provide quality, choice and value to meet our aoeliac shoppers needs. Our focus is to provide the same food experience for our Coeliac customers as we do for all our shoppers.

We’re excited about our new ranges available in store. We are delighted to be sponsoring Coeliac Awareness Week again this year, providing our support in helping raise awareness of coeliac disease and being able to demonstrate that there are hundreds of gluten free products available to the coeliac community in our stores – peoples’ lifestyle and eating habits do not need to be restricted.”

Commenting further at the launch, Ms. Twohig said “A diagnosis of coeliac disease can be a difficult adjustment but with some planning and family support it’s possible to live a full and healthy life. We would encourage friends and family of a person diagnosed as coeliac to learn a little about the disease so that those diagnosed don’t feel left out of family occasions. The Coeliac Society website have top tips for hosting/cooking for a coeliac person both in and out of home.

 “Some of our top tips for hosting a coeliac guest at your home include:

  • Discuss what you plan to cook with your coeliac guest (or their parent, if it’s a child) in advance. Often a meal can be made gluten free with some minor tweaks.
  • Cook gluten free food separately, if using a deep fat fryer ensure the oil is changed if it was previously used to cook a gluten containing food. If using a toaster, try toaster bags to ensure gluten free bread is not contaminated.
  • Sharing is not always caring where a coeliac guest is concerned. For example, using the same butter knife for standard and gluten-free bread could make your guest ill. Allow your guest to serve themselves first at a buffet meal to avoid cross contamination. Providing a separate dish for butter or dips is also a good idea.”

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease that prevents those affected from digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  The disease can manifest itself at any stage in a person’s lifetime, with symptoms including abdominal pain, recurring mouth-ulcers, weight-loss, vomiting and diarrhoea.  It is estimated to affect 47,500 people in Ireland.