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.