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22nd May 2024

‘Many people self-diagnose IBS but are coeliac’ – 75% of coeliacs in Ireland remain undiagnosed

Sophie Collins


In Ireland, almost 2 in every 100 people have coeliac disease, yet 75% remain undiagnosed

New research has found that many people are self-diagnosing themselves with IBS due to the nature of their symptoms.

There is a lot of overlap between Coeliac Disease symptoms and those associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

This has led to many people not seeking medical advice and simply treating what they believe to be IBS symptoms.

It is understood that 20% of people with IBS actually have the auto-immune disease and are unaware because they haven’t sought further medical advice.

There are many dangers with remaining undiagnosed, as this can lead to more serious issues in the future.

According to “Common symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation can be attributed to both IBS and coeliac disease. 

“However, failing to get properly tested for coeliac disease can result in long-term health complications. 

“In Ireland, almost 2 in every 100 people have coeliac disease, yet 75% remain undiagnosed. 

“This autoimmune condition can lead to severe fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, infertility, and even balance problems if left untreated.”

Explaining the importance of diagnosing those suffering with coeliac disease, Sarah Keogh, Nutritionist and Dietitian at the Coeliac Society of Ireland said: “For Coeliac Awareness Month 2024, we urge everyone experiencing IBS-like symptoms to promise they’ll get tested for coeliac disease. 

“This year’s focus is on raising awareness about common conditions that may indicate coeliac disease, and ensuring people check if coeliac disease is the real issue.”

She went on to say: “What people should look out for are symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation which are common in both IBS and coeliac disease. 

“However, if you have IBS and any of the following conditions, it’s essential to rule out coeliac disease. 

“These can include low iron or low B12 tests, low vitamin D or low folate tests, osteoporosis, especially at a younger age, under-active thyroid, and Fertility problems.”

In situations where your GP assumes you have IBS, the Society says it’s so important to insist on a simple blood test to get a diagnosis started if you believe it could be coeliac disease. 

Undiagnosed and untreated coeliac disease can lead to numerous long-term problems, including a significantly higher risk of osteoporosis, infertility, and several types of bowel cancer. 

A strict gluten-free diet is an effective treatment that helps manage fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, and prevents serious long-term diseases.

Sarah Keogh Continued: “Before getting tested you must keep eating gluten as this is essential for accurate testing. 

“If you have already cut out gluten, you need to consume gluten every day for six weeks before getting tested. 

“Book a blood test with your GP – The blood test alone does not diagnose coeliac disease but indicates if further tests and a biopsy are necessary. 

“If your blood test is positive, keep eating gluten until you have a biopsy – This advice may vary for children, so consult your GP.”