Coeliac Disease – Iron Deficiency

The British Society of Gastroenterology and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence are recommending that people who suffer from iron deficiency anaemia should be screened for coeliac disease.

Iron deficiency is common in people who have un-diagnosed coeliac disease because the damage that has been suffered to the intestine through the reaction to gluten before diagnosis stops iron being absorbed properly.

If people who visited their GP because they have a lack of iron in their blood were screened for coeliac disease it could potentially lead to more and earlier diagnoses of the disease. This in turn will prevent prolonged damage to the intestine and prompt an earlier change to the gluten free diet for the patient.

ilumi spoke to Miriam who has been diagnosed with coeliac disease for 5 years, she had previously suffered from iron deficiency since the birth of her second child, some 20 years ago:

 ‘I went to the doctors when I was pregnant and they said I had an iron
deficiency and they gave me tablets to improve my iron levels. For the
next 20 or so years I continued to go to my GP and my chiropractor
complaining of tiredness, pains and headaches’

‘It wasn’t until I had a bad fall about 5 years ago that I decided to
visit a second doctor. She was concerned about the constant low iron
levels, and she then screened me for coeliac disease.’

‘If I was screened when I was first tested for anaemia, it would have
prevented a lot of worry and illness, I really hope this change is
implemented so that others can get a quick diagnosis and don’t have to
go through what I went through’

Iron is an essential nutrient, it is used in the body to transport oxygen in red blood cells, to store oxygen in muscles and to produce enzymes needed for energy metabolism.
Women need almost double the amount of iron that men do, this is because women lose a lot of iron each month during menstruation.

You can find iron in most foods, the chemical element can be added to foods or it can naturally occur. There are two different types of iron, one is more easily absorbed and can be found in meats and fish among others, whereas the other is found in cereals and vegetables and take slightly longer to be absorbed.

If you have low iron levels or have anaemia, don’t cut gluten out of your diet, go to your GP and ask to be screened for coeliac disease.