Eight-year-old Hannah Cowie may look a perfect picture of health, but just a few crumbs of toast can leave her in intense pain.
For Hannah (pictured left with her friend Berenike Kahane) suffers from Coeliac Disease, which is caused by an intolerance to gluten.
One in every 100 people in the UK are affected by the condition, which causes inflammation to the lining of the gut.
As there is no cure or medication, the only treatment is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.
Mum Lesley said Hannah receives vital support from national charity Coeliac UK, but feels more people should be aware of the condition.
Lesley, 50, who lives with Hannah and husband Robert in Copthall Gardens, Twickenham, said: "I had heard of the disease before because one of Hannah’s friends was dairy, egg and gluten intolerant – but not many have."
Hannah, who is also diabetic, was diagnosed two years ago after she became very lethargic, had a poor appetite and complained of tummy pains.
Her parents presumed her symptoms were related to her diabetes.
But once the condition was confirmed and her diet was altered the change in her soon became evident.
"She’d gone from a child who was always tired and not interested, to one who got all her energy back," said Lesley.
"You do have to be careful. If we go out I either take along a packed lunch, fill up in advance, or ask restaurants if they will cook special pasta for her. "The trouble is Coeliac Disease and diabetes don’t really compliment each other."
Unfortunately, many restaurants, catering establishments and even hospitals have little or no understanding of the need to offer gluten-free meals.
Hannah is luckier than most, as her mum Lesley has been extremely proactive in her approach to her daughter’s illness.
She managed to find outlets such as Pizza Express in Twickenham, which agreed to cook a separate gluten-free pizza base they take along to the restaurant. But it is not always that simple.
"There was only one place who said we shouldn’t really be doing this when I asked them to prepare a gluten-free recipe for Hannah, but they did agree to do it in the end.
"We don’t tend to eat out that much. Hannah’s not that interested in food anyway. Even crisps may be coated with gluten."
The family gets fresh gluten-free breads from their pharmacist, plus bread, cake mixes and pizza bases on prescription, which Lesley says is a boon.
But Coeliac UK is keen to raise further awareness of the condition among the food industry.
It is launching a week-long campaign called Food Without Fear from May 12 to May 18 to highlight the importance of offering gluten-free meals.
For more information call 0870 4 448 804 or see www.coeliac.org.uk