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The impact of undiagnosed coeliac disease

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I was diagnosed five years ago, aged 35, and I suspect my undiagnosed coeliac disease could have contributed to the health issues I experienced both pre and post pregnancy.

In the months prior to becoming pregnant I was taking a highly recommended pregnancy multi-vitamin, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly so it came as a massive shock when my husband and I were told at our 12-week scan that the baby had a severe neural tube defect and would not survive to term. After the scan, blood tests showed I had very low levels of iron and folic acid. I kept thinking ‘how could I not be absorbing those nutrients when I’ve been eating a healthy diet and taking a pregnancy multi-vitamin’. At the time there were no further tests to see why I was deficient in these nutrients. Instead, I was prescribed iron and high dose folic acid tablets, and we went on to have two healthy children.

However, after both pregnancies I developed thyroid issues. After two years of thyroid issues, low iron levels and gut issues, my Dr suggested I get tested for coeliac disease. My antibody blood test was positive, and a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. Within two weeks of following a gluten free diet, not only did I start to feel so much better I also realised just how sick I had been and that the constant bloating, and ‘funny tummy’ I had been putting up with for years was not ‘normal’!

Being diagnosed with coeliac disease has been the best thing for my health as my thyroid issues improved, I have more energy, I no longer suffer from nutrient deficiencies and all feelings of being bloated and uncomfortable have been eliminated. Following a gluten free diet at home has been an easy adjustment although there is a lot of trial and error when baking and cooking gluten free! The biggest challenge is eating out especially with a coeliac child, while many places offer gluten free menu items, after asking a few questions I often discover the meal was not prepared or cannot be cooked in an entirely safe gluten-free way.

Soon after my diagnosis I contacted Coeliac New Zealand to see if there were any volunteer opportunities in my area. As a registered nutritionist with coeliac disease and a Mum of a coeliac I know and understand the unique challenges when it comes to following a gluten free diet. I want to not only provide support and guidance but also share my knowledge and experience, to help other people with this disease manage a healthy, balanced gluten free diet and feel well again. I am so happy to be able to do this through my work as a nutritionist and as a volunteer for Coeliac New Zealand as a Kids Club Coordinator.

See your doctor if you are experiencing unexplained fertility issues and ask to get tested for coeliac disease.

Article provided by Pip Meads, Christchurch Coeliac NZ Kids Club coordinator and owner of Pure and Simple Nutrition

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