What is Coeliac Disease?

How did Coeliac Disease Begin?

Originally, our species were hunter-gatherers, so only had access to fruits, nuts and meats. As our species developed, we learned how to cultivate plants. This is known as the agricultural revolution.

Our guts had only had to process this very limited diet for more than two million years, so we were only used to this very small selection of antigens. 

Most people had no issue adapting to these new antigens, but a small number of people developed food allergies and intolerances to these new food antigens. This was the very beginning of the coeliac disease.1

What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is a chronic disorder categorised by the inflammation in the small bowel caused by irritation from gluten.2 Studies have shown that Coeliac disease is very common; in fact, it affects roughly 1 in 250 people.3 Gluten is a dietary protein and will be found in wheat, barley, triticale or rye.4

It is a condition that causes your immune system to attack your own tissue when you consume gluten. This causes damage to your small intestine, which means you are unable to absorb nutrients.4 This can make those with a coeliac disease very ill.

What are the Symptoms of Coeliac Disease?

Symptoms of Coeliac disease can affect any area of the body. They can range from mild, to moderate and severe and can feel very different for each individual. Symptoms will occur when gluten has been consumed by the individual. Some symptoms include:5

  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Lathergy
  • Iron deficiency
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Poor balance
  • Mouth ulcers

Unfortunately, having Coeliac disease can also affect fertility and cause miscarriages. Luckily, the risk associated with this area can be reduced to normal if Coeliac disease is treated. This makes it vital to seek a diagnosis if you feel you may have Coeliac disease.6

What is Gluten Found in?

Gluten is in many everyday household foods, so it’s really important to check ingredients if you have Coeliac disease. Pasta, noodles, bread, pastries, crackers, cakes, cookies, pancakes, waffles, flour tortillas, crisps, cereals, sauces, gravies and beer may all contain gluten.7

When reading the ingredients of the food you eat, you need to know what to look out for. This includes going to restaurants, doing your own food shopping, being in a pub or any place you may consume foods or drinks containing gluten.

Wheat comes in many forms, so you need to avoid spelt, farro, graham, khorasan wheat, semolina, durum, wheat starch and wheatberries to avoid wheat altogether. Avoid anything that says “malt” including malted milk, malt extract and malt vinegar. You must also avoid rye, barley, triticale and brewer’s yeast.8

There are other hidden sources of gluten, so it’s not all about food and drink. Absolutely anything you consume must be checked for gluten to avoid a reaction. Medication, vitamins and supplements, make up products, communion wafers, play dough, toothpaste and mouthwash may all contain gluten.8

Some restaurants also add gluten to foods like scrambled eggs, so always tell the restaurant you have Coeliac disease to avoid accidental contamination. 

How is Coeliac Disease Treated?

There is only one treatment for Coeliac disease and that is to stop consuming any gluten.9 Unfortunately, it is a life-long condition with no cure. If you stop consuming gluten, you will not have any symptoms related to Coeliac disease as the symptoms only occur as a direct reaction to the consumption of gluten.

Luckily, there are many gluten-free alternatives available ready at supermarkets! There are gluten-free alternatives of every food you’d usually eat; bread, pasta, noodles, pancakes, beer, tortillas, gravies…all of them!

Usually, there is a separate gluten-free section in supermarkets and shops. You can also shop online if you can’t find what you’re looking for. You can also continue to eat all products you usually would that do not contain gluten such as meats, fruits, vegetables and eggs.

The Bottom Line

Coeliac disease can be debilitating for some, and frustrating for others. It can be disappointing that theirs no cure for Coeliac disease, and frustrating to have to choose alternatives. Although gluten-free products are easy to find, it can be difficult for the sufferer to have to eat differently from other people.

If you think you have Coeliac disease, it’s important to get tested by your healthcare provider as soon as possible. You can cause damage to your small intestine each time you eat gluten, so removing it from your diet is crucial to optimal health.

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