Why meals had to change

Nikki Watson and her daughters Megan (12) and Amy (10) having fun with gluten-free flour. Picture: Dominique Menegaldo www.communitypix.com.au d397041
Nikki Watson and her daughters Megan (12) and Amy (10) having fun with gluten-free flour. Picture: Dominique Menegaldo www.communitypix.com.au d397041

But it was only when her youngest daughter started suffering from mouth ulcers, often waking up with blood on her pillow, that she had first-hand experience with the disease.

‘She went on antibiotics and they did nothing, so I said to the doctor that I thought we should screen her for coeliac, which we did and her readings came back as a high positive,’ she said.

‘We then screened our oldest daughter, who had no symptoms at all, and she came back with an even higher reading, so we took them both off for an endoscopy to confirm and they both have it.’

Mrs Watson carries the relevant gene, but she may never show symptoms of the disease, which is triggered by environmental factors.

The disease makes the subject intolerant to gluten, which truncates the villi (finger-like projections) in the small intestine, which are responsible for absorbing nutrients and vitamins required by the body.

‘Wheat is the big thing, so we have to cut that out of the girls’ diet, which essentially means we have cut it out of our diet,’ Mrs Watson said.

‘However, because I carry the gene, I have to keep eating gluten to make sure a lack of gluten doesn’t trigger the disease.

‘Our daughters coped with the change really well, and our friends and family have really taken our gluten- free diet in their stride; they work with us at Christmas to make sure everything is gluten free.’

Now that her family has adapted to a gluten-free diet, Mrs Watson has taken her involvement a step further. She now works for Coeliac Western Australia.

‘I’d been a stay-at-home mum for 12 years and when I returned to the workforce, they happened to have a role open for me,’ she said.

‘I’ve learnt so much more about the disease by working with Coeliac WA and, with Coeliac Awareness Week running from March 13 to March 20, we’ve been extremely busy.’

Coeliac WA will also host the Gluten Free Food and Health Living Expo at the Perth Convention Centre on the weekend of March 16 and 17 , from 10am to 5pm each day.