Our ENDIA participants are requested to have a regular blood test. One of the main reasons for this is to look for the early markers of type 1 diabetes (antibodies or islet autoimmunity) and what in the environment may have triggered this response. But did you know that ENDIA also screens for coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body mistakenly attacks itself when it senses a particular trigger. The trigger is the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  It is estimated to affect one in 60 females and one in 80 males in Australia. And the prevalence is on the rise.

Interestingly, around 50% of the population carries genetic risk factors for coeliac disease, but only a small percentage of people go on to develop the condition. Why is this so?

The signs and symptoms of coeliac disease include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • lack of appetite
  • stomach pain
  • mouth ulcers
  • iron deficiency
  • anaemia
  • delayed growth
  • weight loss
  • tired & irritable

Currently, the way to check for coeliac is to firstly take a blood test to check for antibodies. The antibodies reflect an immune response typical for coeliac disease. Diagnosis can only be confirmed via an endoscopy (inserting a specialised device via the mouth into the gut) to look at the condition of the bowel and take a biopsy to determine any damage to the bowel. This is done under anaesthetic.

For those people diagnosed with coeliac disease, a gluten free diet is recommended, i.e. no foods containing wheat, rye or barley.

There are strong links between type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, autoimmune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. The ENDIA Study is hoping to be able to piece together what causes type 1 diabetes, which may in turn shed light on some of these other autoimmune responses.