MORE than 150 people turned out for a special coeliac awareness day at Worthing Hospital.
Vistors had the chance to sample gluten-free food, get advice from dietitians and have their health questions answered.
Specialist dietitian Heidi Heddings said: “We can count the day as a success.
“It is very important to raise awareness, as a high percentage of people have this disease but don’t know it, and so continue to cause damage to their systems.”
Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease where sufferers are intolerent to gluten – a type of protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
People who have the disease are advised to follow a life-long, gluten-free diet.
Clinically diagnosed coeliac suffers are entitled to a certain amount of gluten-free food on prescription. According to NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, one in 100 people are gluten-intolerent and, of these, only ten to 15 per cent have a clinical diagnosis.
If left undiagnosed, sufferers can experience stomach problems, prolonged fatigue, weight loss, anemia and damage to the small intestine.
At the event, there was a range of gluten-free food samples on offer, including pizza and cheesecake, contributed from Pizza Express, Dominos and Green Cuisine.
Supermarkets such as Sainsburys and Morrisons donated prizes for the raffle, which raised £72 for Coeliac UK.
Heidi added: “It was great to speak to people who would usually have to go through their GP to speak to a specialist about either their symptoms or their struggle with a gluten-free diet.
“It was the best part of the event – talking to people and seeing the concern in their face go away as we had a chat.”
Others who helped organised and run the event included specialist dietitian Charlotte Cheeseman, student dieticians Laura Boyle and Kate Hampshire, and co-ordinator of coeliac support group Bill Andrews.