Avoiding gluten alleviates coeliac symptoms. / SUR

27 May 2016: Spain celebrates its first National Coeliac Day

Every year, the Federation of Spanish Coeliac Associations marks the date to give visibility and support to people with the illness

LILY FARRANT

Coeliac disease affects at least one in every hundred people, but awareness of this condition is often limited. The Federación de Asociaciones de Celíacos de España, known as FACE (Federation of Spanish Coeliac Associations) has made 27 May National Coeliac Day since 2016. The day's events include activities and campaigns involving the whole society to raise visibility and awareness of this condition.

Coeliac disease is a chronic digestive and autoimmune condition, which causes the immune system to attack the small intestine when the sufferer consumes gluten. This can affect the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food, sometimes with long-lasting effects.

Gluten is found naturally in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and sometimes oats and their by-products. The most effective way to manage the condition, alleviating symptoms and healing the small intestine, is to eat a gluten-free diet, although this can be difficult due to the prevalence of gluten. Not only is it common in foods such as bread and pasta, it can sometimes be found in different products such as lip balms, toothpastes, nutrition supplements and sometimes even medicines. The cause of the illness is unclear, although it often runs in families. Both children and adults can suffer from the condition, and symptoms, commonly including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of muscle mass, range from mild to severe.

FACE estimates that many sufferers are undiagnosed, highlighting the importance of marking National Coeliac Day on 27 May every year to raise awareness.

It's also important to maintain the distinction between coeliac disease and gluten intolerance. While both mean sufferers stop eating gluten, the latter does not have the same longevity or consequence.

In the spirit of National Coeliac Day, yesterday 26 May, Malaga hosted the first Andalusian Coeliac Day, organised in collaboration with the regional ministry of Health and Families, the Malaga provincial council, the Malaga Coeliac Association (ACEMA) and the Malaga Regional University Hospital.

They offered information about the disease, including clinical and therapeutic aspects and the development of programmes that improve the quality of life of patients, and provided a space for those affected by it to exchange ideas.