April is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) awareness month. So, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this post with you (it’s one I’ve been wanting to write for ages). IBS affects many people, but unfortunately it is a common misdiagnosis in people later diagnosed with coeliac disease. One in four people with coeliac disease have previously been treated for IBS.
IBS is a bit like the naughty child that seems to get the blame for all the mischief!! However, before the finger is pointed at IBS, tests must be carried out to check for all other possible bowel related conditions first, as there is no test to determine IBS and therefore it can only be diagnosed by the process of elimination. This is so important to ensure other more serious conditions such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and bowel cancer are ruled out as soon as possible.
IBS can display very similar symptoms to coeliac disease. Such as stomach pains, cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation and generally feeling wiped out. Unlike the other conditions that should be ruled out, coeliac can only be currently picked up whilst you are including gluten in your diet and therefore it is crucial to be done before you are advised to commence a gluten free diet. Which very often happens when you receive an IBS diagnosis.
Coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK but only 30% have been medically diagnosed. And as I mentioned, to get an accurate test result you need to have been including a normal amount of gluten in your diet 6 weeks before being tested for the condition (blood test and endoscopy). The initial test will be a blood test and if positive, you are generally then referred for an endoscopy. On some occasions the blood test for coeliac can give a false negative reading. An endoscopy is quite often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ when testing for coeliac.
It appears that more and more that people are self-diagnosing themselves with IBS or dabbling a little with a gluten free diet. And It’s a known fact, that people that have removed gluten prior to testing find it extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) to then introduce it back into their diet, as the symptoms they had before seem to magnify. This highlights why it’s so important that people are tested before they have had chance to adjust their gluten intake.
Coeliac disease is a genetic condition and other family members should also be tested if you are diagnosed with the condition as their chances of having the condition increases to 1 in 10. This applies, even if they don’t display a single symptom.
If you have been advised by your GP that you have IBS but have not had coeliac (and other conditions) ruled out, ask that you are tested and checked out.
Be mindful that coeliac can materialize at any time. Therefore, if it’s a little while since you were last tested for the condition, but you are still displaying symptoms, ask that the test is repeated.
As you know, I’m not medically trained, just desperate to hunt out all those undiagnosed coeliacs to ensure they get the best chance possible to live a long, healthy and very happy life!