Coeliac Disease

 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease an intolerance to gluten and not a food allergy.  Some people with coeliac may also develop a dairy intolerance.   

 

What Is Coeliac Disease

If someone has coeliac disease, is undiagnosed and consumes food which contains the protein gluten, which is in foods such as bread or pasta, the immune system thinks it’s the enemy and starts to attack it and the small intestine.  The problem protein is Gliadin, a component of gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.   The villi which live in the small intestine has the job of capturing the nutrients needed for us to stay healthy.  The villi resemble the tips of a baby’s fingers or minute tubes and stand upright.  However, when it is attacked it becomes flattened and vital nutrients needed to support a healthy body escape from the system.

The Symptoms

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There are many symptoms, these vary from person to person.  Some people may suffer fatigue where others will not. The symptoms in children will not become apparent until they start to eat solid food.  Some of the symptoms include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Noisey Stomach
  • Vomiting (more common in children).
  • Flatulence
  • Some sufferers may also develop the skin rash, dermatitis herpetiformis.
  • Swelling of the hands, arms, legs and feet
  • Osteoporosis (when the bones become weak and brittle).
  • Bloating

Diagnosis and Gluten Free Foods on Prescription

Diagnosis is normally through a blood test plus an endoscopy;  a camera is inserted through the mouth and into the small intestine.  The amount of damage to the villi is seen through this procedure.

Once diagnosed, an appointment is made to see a dietician to discuss the diet. Some types of gluten-free foods are available with a medical prescription (UK).  For more details visit https://www.coeliac.org.uk  who provide all the information available on the disease.  Buying gluten-free is more expensive than ordinary food and the prescription saves money.

After Diagnosis

There is no cure for coeliac disease at the moment so following a gluten-free diet is essential to keeping healthy. Failing to follow the diet could result in other medical problems developing.  The risk of bowel cancer and lymphoma (the lymphatic system), is a slightly higher risk for people with coeliac disease but it is rare and once the gluten-free diet kicks the risk decreases.

Gluten-Free Diet

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The diet is not complicated. Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and canned fruit, plain meat and fish, nuts, seeds, rice, beans, salad foods like lettuce, tomatoes, celery etc and dairy are naturally gluten-free and so is cornflour. Tinned baked beans and tomatoes are gluten-free.   There are a number of gluten-free flours such as almond and rice for making your own cakes, bread, biscuits etc.    Alcohol, such as wine, cider and spirits are gluten-free.  There are gluten-free beers and lager available in supermarkets and online suppliers.

Eating Out

Eating out is a matter of research.  Consider asking the establishment if there are any gluten-free meals available, or find out where in your area, they cater for people with coeliac disease.   Restaurants, pubs, and eating out places in general are becoming more aware that there is a need for gluten-free meals.     If gluten-free is on the menu the food would have been prepared in a separate place away from foods containing gluten so that there is no risk of contamination.  

Buying Gluten Free

Most supermarkets have a free from section, for shelf foods like pasta, biscuits, and bread etc and a freezer section for meats and fish coated in gluten-free bread crumbs,  desserts and ice cream   You can find gluten-free sausages on the chilled shelf along with some gluten-free ready meals.    These days there is a much wider variety available and this continues to grow.  Always check the label until you become familiar with foods you can and cannot eat.   All allergies and food intolerance that affect people’s health is highlighted in bold on the food ingredients label.

Living With Coeliac

Becoming accustomed to the diet will be a challenge at first but life will not have changed that much from before diagnosis.   Have fun cooking and get the family to enjoy your type of food as well.  Someday a cure will be found but for now, follow the gluten-free diet and stay healthy.

 

©Jan Horner

[Featured image: Pixabay]


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