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What Is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the lining of the small intestine. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or a food intolerance. It is an auto immune disease. Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction of the gut to gluten. The lining of the small intestine contains millions of tiny tube-shaped structures called villi. These help food and nutrients to be digested more effectively into the body. In coeliac disease, these villi are flattened due the the inflammation of the lining of the gut. This then means that the food and nutrients can not be so readily digested into the body.
Who does coeliac disease affect?
Coeliac disease affects anyone at any age. It is also more common in people who have other auto immune diseases eg. type1 diabetes.
What causes coeliac disease?
It is caused by a sensitivity to gluten. Gluten occurs in foods containing wheat, barley and rye and any foods made from these such as bread, pasta and biscuits. Some people with coeliac disease are also sensitive to oats. People with coeliac disease make antibodies against gluten. Antibodies are proteins in the immune system that normally attack bacteria, viruses and other germs. In effect the gut mistakes gluten to be harmful, and reacts against it as if fighting off a germ. These antibodies lead to inflammation developing in the lining of the small intestine.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that exists in wheat, barley and rye.
What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?
The poor absorption of food may cause deficiencies of vitamins, iron and other nutrients. Anaemia due to poor absorption of iron is common. Other common symptoms include; abdominal pains, excess wind, bloating, diarrhoea, tiredness and weakness. You may also find you lose weight due to the poor absorption of food.
What is the treatment for coeliac disease?
The treatment for coeliac disease is to follow a gluten free diet for the rest of your life. If you eat gluten again the symptoms will return. Even small amounts of gluten can sensitise the gut again. To avoid symptoms and complications you must be strict about avoiding all foods that contain gluten.
What is the difference between a gluten free and wheat free diet?
Gluten is a protein found within wheat, barley, rye and oats. This means that those individuals with coeliac disease need to avoid wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats. Those individuals on a wheat free diet can safely include other cereals in their diet, only excluding the wheat. It is possible to remove the gluten from the wheat grain, making a product gluten, but not wheat free. For such products to be suitable for coeliacs only a certain level of gluten can be left with in the grain, this is an international standard called 'codex alimentarius'. Any food complying with this standard will be labeled as such.
For any further information please visit www.coeliac.co.uk