Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects 1 in every 100 people although it is thought that misdiagnosis of it means that statistic is higher. Coeliac is not a food allergy, it is a condition where if gluten is sensed then the body's defence against infection mistakenly attacks healthy tissue of the bowel.
The villi in your intestines help absorb the nutrients from food but, in the case of coeliac disease, it will inflame the surface of the intestine causing the villi to go flat and therefore less nutrients will be absorbed.
With Coeliac disease, the immune system mistakes one of the substances that makes up gluten, called gliadin, as a threat and attacks it as if it were a bacteria, causing inflammation and the symptoms of the condition to occur.
- Bloating or stomach pain
- Excessive wind
- Weight loss – although people with Coeliac are often of normal weight
- Tiredness all the time
- Your hands and feet can tingle or sometimes they can swell
- In children’s cases they will often vomit
You might end up looking malnourished and your body lacking in vital nutrients.
Coeliac disease can be very mild or very severe and sometimes it’s not discovered unless a blood test is done for other illnesses. But as soon as it is diagnosed then treatment will start.
Should I ask for a test?
I’m a firm believer in finding out all you can if you are concerned about something, you can ask your GP for advice or tests about anything, it’s up to them if they think it’s of genuine concern.
You should definitely ask for a test if you have any of the following connections –
- Family history of the condition
- IBS or related closely to someone with IBS
- Diabetes, other colon conditions, Epilepsy, dermatitis herpetiformis, under/over active thyroid.
- Abdominal pain that reoccurs
- Long term vomiting or diarrhoea
- Persistent constipation
- Turners syndrome
- In children – not thriving or growing to standards
The two tests done to diagnose Coeliac Disease are:-
Blood test – to identify Biopsy – to diagnose
If your blood test is negative but symptoms persist then you might be told to have a biopsy anyway.
In a Biopsy, an Endoscope will be inserted down the throat and a sample of your small intestine will be taken for testing.
After these tests you might also be tested for your body’s level of vitamin and minerals, also possibly a bone x-ray to study the density of your bones since this condition can cause osteoporosis.
A tiny bit of Gluten can cause damage to someone who suffers from Coeliac Disease therefore it’s only sensible to be very aware and take precautions when preparing food.
- Use separate cooking utensils.
- Clean your kitchen surfaces properly
- Buy toaster bags to cook your toast in
- Always read the label of what you are eating
Other conditions can develop from having Coeliac Disease such as – Lactose intolerance – Where you can’t process diary and will need calcium supplements.
Bowel cancer – In a previous article I wrote about how people can develop cancer when food does not get digested correctly and acids remain behind in the intestine longer than normal. If your intestine can not move or process the food properly then bowel cancer, especially in the small intestine, will eventually become a risk.
In the UK a board called the Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances have gluten free food on prescription. Basic type food such as breads and pasta that are a common must in most households. You can find out more from the link
Shops like Tesco also stock special Gluten free food –
And Asda - http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/shelves/gluten_free_in_asda.html
Coeliac UK have an app you can download once you join the charity which is brilliant go to this link to apply https://www.coeliac.org.uk/gluten-free-diet-and-lifestyle/mobile-phone-app/
I recently found out a friend had just been diagnosed with Coeliac, which is what brought my attention to the condition in the first place as I knew nothing about it. I asked her to write a little about her own personal experience:-
Lisa’s story – “I wasn’t aware that I had any symptoms of coeliac disease. I went to the doctor in October with a bad shoulder and generally just feeling tired out. The doctor organised blood tests and they came back that I was deficient in vitamin B12, iron and folate. They then put me on B12 jabs (you have to have a 6 jab booster over 2 weeks first) every 3 months and I have to take iron and folic acid every day. As there is normally an underlying reason for someone to be deficient in these things, I was tested for coeliac in January. The blood test came back positive so I was referred to a gastroenterologist. I had an endoscopy (camera down my throat) where he took biopsies of my intestine. He also did a 2nd blood test which came back positive as did the biopsies. The villi that line your intestine flatten when you have coeliac disease and mine had started to bend. I now am on a gluten free diet for life. I was gutted at first but now I am not bothered as there is worse things out there. I am not just waiting for my results for a vitamin D blood test. I am also waiting for a bone density scan as people with coeliac are at risk of osteoporosis and to see a dietician. People seem to think that a little gluten will be ok but it’s not. Coeliac is not an allergy, it’s an auto immune disease, so basically my body attacks my intestine when gluten is present, and therefore I can never eat gluten again. I am very new to this so I am still learning lots but the bloating I had has stopped and stomach ache (I just thought that it was ‘one of those things’). Also, mouth ulcers, anxiety and tiredness are symptoms (again I just thought it was the way I am) of coeliac disease and apparently people with IBS can be misdiagnosed.”
As it is coeliac awareness week 2015 I hope that some of the above information is helpful to anyone who has been diagnosed with this condition. This week programmes such as This Morning are focusing on Coeliac Disease and there will be lots of advice online, social Media and through your GP available. Remember you are not alone and you should find out as much information as possible to keep yourselves healthy and well.
Danielle Bessant. Marketing@abilityaware.com