Word on Health

In Profile - Sarah's Story

37 year old Sarah Pollock from Newcastle, suffered for years with the unpleasant symptoms of coeliac disease, a serious autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  It’s believed around half a million people in the UK also suffer from coeliac disease without knowing it.

“As a child, I was always being taken to the GP by my mother but she was never given an answer as to what was wrong with me. By the time I hit my teenage years I was suffering with migraines and my immune system was so low that I was always getting chest infections. The doctors thought I had glandular fever, and it just didn’t seem to go away.

I was given iron tablets throughout my teens as I was told I had anaemia and low iron count and by the time I had started full time employment after university things were getting worse. I contracted pneumonia and pleurisy and I just didn’t know what to do.

In May 2013 I had terrible stomach pain and diarrhoea for two weeks, so I went to the GP who tested me for the Helicobacter Pylori stomach virus. This came back negative, but I spent the next few months having stomach symptoms until I went back to the doctors, this time to see a different practitioner.

This GP asked me if I had been tested for coeliac disease, which I hadn’t. After a positive blood test and biopsy, I saw the gastroenterologist consultant who said my results were so high that I needed to start a gluten-free diet straight away. My villi (the finger like projections in the small intestine where food is absorbed) were completely flat from all the damage gluten had done. It was a real shock.

At first I was really overwhelmed with the changes I would have to make to my diet, but I also felt relief as I looked back at all the problems I had throughout my childhood and early adult life and everything started to make sense. The iron tablets I had been on for so long gave me a bit of a pick me up at the time, but being told I had coeliac disease made everything fall into place and I know now anaemia is a really common symptom of the condition.

Unfortunately for me, due to the time it took to diagnose me with coeliac disease, I now suffer with osteopenia, the early stage of osteoporosis, which is a complication of untreated or undiagnosed coeliac disease.

I wish I knew I had coeliac disease earlier on in my life, as I would have been able to feel better and avoid many years of symptoms. But for me, I’m just so glad I have a reason for all my symptoms and I can now start to feel better.”

Coeliac UK is oldest and largest coeliac disease charity in the world and we have been working for people with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis since 1968. We have over 60,000 members. We are not Government funded and rely on our members and the generosity of our fundraisers and supporters to continue our work.

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