Born in the swinging sixties, Caroline Quentin has been on the television for decades. Yet, behind the facade, she was struggling with her health until she finally received a diagnosis.
After years of ill health, Caroline’s coeliac disease diagnosis came in 2013.
“I had frequent nausea, mouth ulcers and skin rashes, and I often had to rush to the loo,” she recalled.
“I didn’t know about coeliac disease then and just thought I had an allergy.
“I assumed I’d grow out of it, and just got on with life for the next 30 years,” she continued.
“But my symptoms actually grew worse over time. I developed anaemia and lethargy and bloating.
“And the bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting became more frequent,” she told the Daily Mail in 2015.
The charity Coeliac UK explained coeliac (pronounce see-liac) disease is where “the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues when you eat gluten”.
“I’d have a bowl of pasta or a slice of toast and soon afterwards I would be sick,” added Caroline.
The illness causes damage to the lining of the gut, which means the body can’t properly absorb nutrients from food.
Affecting one in 100 people, lots of people may not realise they have the condition at all.
Coeliac disease symptoms
Symptoms range from mild to severe and can including gastrointestinal issues, such as:
BloatingDiarrhoeaNauseaWindConstipationTirednessMouth ulcersSudden or unexplained weight lossAnaemia
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The way in which coeliac disease affects the gut, it’s frequently misdiagnosed as IBS – this happened to Caroline.
To prevent symptoms, one must avoid gluten in their diet; this is easier to do nowadays as supermarkets have branched out into gluten-free products.
Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye – so it’s in a lot of foods.
Prior to her diagnosis, Caroline admitted to “eating vast amounts of gluten each day in bread, cake, pizza and biscuits”.
“It’s in so many foods, even things like sausages, soups, soy sauce and stock cubes,” she confirmed.
The charity described another symptom of coeliac disease – dermatitis herpetiformis (DH).
This skin rash occurs on the elbows, knees, shoulders, buttocks and face, with red, raised patches often with blisters.
Caroline, too, had this adverse reaction to gluten. “The rashes were horrible,” she remembered.
She blamed the “tender, raw pustules” down to her washing powder, and “didn’t connect the skin problem with [her] digestive issues”.
“Now I know the rashes were probably dermatitis herpetiformis,” she acknowledged.
If you’re unsure whether you could have coeliac disease, you can take an online assessment here.
A doctor is able to request a blood test to check for gluten antibodies.
This will require eating gluten, for at least six weeks, before testing.