Royal Surrey supports Coeliac Awareness Week

Victoria WesthorpLike any new mother, Victoria Westhorp thought suffering from crippling exhaustion was just par for the course.

But after becoming increasingly rundown, tests revealed she was suffering from the auto-immune condition coeliac disease.

It is estimated that half a million people in the UK could be living with the undiagnosed Coeliac Disease.

Royal Surrey County Hospital is raising awareness of the symptoms of this debilitating condition as part of the annual awareness week.

“I initially thought my symptoms were just the result of having had a baby,” said Victoria from Chiddingfold, Surrey.

“I was anaemic, exhausted, had a bizarre sore throat and I just could not pull myself together.

“It was quite a shock when I was told I had coeliac disease, as I wasn’t expecting it.  I don’t have a family history of it and I don’t think I even really knew what it was.”

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition, which affects approximately 1 in 1,000 people in the UK.

Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye, triggers a reaction in sufferers that can lead to symptoms including diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, recurrent stomach pain, cramping or bloating, anaemia, fatigue, skin rashes, osteoporosis, depression and infertility.

After her diagnosis, Victoria was invited to an appointment at Royal Surrey County Hospital for an appointment with specialist dietician Liz Toft.

“That was a really important step for me, having somebody who was extremely sympathetic and extremely knowledgeable,” said the mother-of-two.

“She helped and advised me on what I could and couldn’t eat and gave me tips, including how I could get a good lifestyle balance.”

Liz also introduced Victoria to Coeliac UK and the South Surrey Coeliac Support Group, both of which have proved invaluable and helped her to feel as if she is ‘part of something.’

Victoria, who has now been living with the condition for 10 years, comes to the hospital annually for an appointment and to have her blood analysed.

She even took up running and has recently completed the British 10K following the advice of the team at Royal Surrey to do more physical exercise in order to keep her bones strong.

“I always just feel so much better after seeing Liz as she always gets me back on track,” Victoria added.

“It can be quiet lonely and a bit depressing, but knowing I have the support of Liz and the team at Royal Surrey is really important to me.”

Liz Toft, Specialist Dietician, explained that Coeliac disease is entirely treatable once diagnosed.

“Although the symptoms can be very debilitating, being a Coeliac need not be,” she said.

“A gluten-free lifestyle is becoming increasingly manageable now that supermarkets provide their own ranges of tasty gluten-free alternatives and there are many, naturally gluten-free foods to choose from.”

During the awareness week, visitors to Royal Surrey have been invited to visit an information stand in the restaurant, featuring advice on how to spot and manage the symptoms.

There will also be a gluten-free bake sale and a gluten free meal option in the restaurant.

For further information about Coeliac Disease and the campaign please visit:  http://www.coeliac.org.uk/

©2017 Royal Surrey County Hospital

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