The charity Coeliac UK have earmarked this week in May as Coeliac Awareness Week to reach out to the half a million people in the UK who remain undiagnosed and offer advice and support to the many sufferers of coeliac disease.
What is Coeliac disease?
Coeliac is an autoimmune disease that affects the chemistry in the gut and small intestine; this means it reacts to the consumption of gluten. It is most common in people aged 40 upwards, with higher rates of diagnosis in the over 50’s.
It is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a substance found in gluten which, in turn, is found in wheat, barley, rye, durum, spelt, and some semolinas. The immune system reacts with the gliadin and the gut becomes inflamed, causing discomfort.
You can learn more. Listen to Dr Chris talk about this subject.
Gluten is frequently found in pizza bases, breads, biscuits, cakes, and other products that contain wheat, barley, rye or other gluten-containing products. However, coeliac sufferers also have to watch out for less obvious products such as sauces, soups, processed meats (such as sausages), vinegars and dressings. These could all contain gluten, or gluten-containing ingredients that may not be immediately obvious.
The best way to make sure food is gluten-free is to check in the allergens section on the packaging. There may also be a seal of approval from the UK Coeliac Society on it too.
Pernicious Anaemia – Understanding the Condition
Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks stomach cells that produce a protein vital for the absorption of vitamin B12.
What happens if Coeliac sufferers eat gluten?
There are a number of symptoms that a coeliac sufferer may experience if they consume gluten. Here is a list of the most common ones:
- Bloating of the stomach
- Vitamin deficiency, particularly iron, B12 or folic acid. This is as a result of the intestine failing to absorb vitamins from the gluten.
- Stomach cramps
- Joint/bone pain
Coeliac disease is often wrongly diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), as certain foods act as triggers to sufferers of IBS; the effects can be similar to that of coeliac. But 1% of the British population has coeliac, with an alarming number of cases going undiagnosed.
How is Coeliac Diagnosed?
Thankfully, there are many ways to diagnose coeliac disease. Most NHS practices have blood tests for depleted antibody levels; the immune system, if exposed to gluten for too long, seems to lower white blood cell levels.
There are also endoscopies available on the NHS, with an almost guaranteed 100% success rate in diagnosis. These normally test the duodenum (the upper section of the small intestine). Tests for vitamin deficiencies (especially iron, folic acid and B12) are also available and can also point to the right diagnosis.
Thanks to the raised awareness surrounding coeliac and the need for a gluten-free diet, there are now home-testing kits for coeliac disease and gluten intolerance which tend to cost around £20-30.
If I Was Diagnosed With Coeliac Disease, What Could I Eat?
The answer is: pretty much anything without gluten in it!
Rice, potatoes, vegetables, non-processed meats, fish, fruits, lentils, beans – the list is practically endless. Even for the foods coeliac sufferers are unable to eat, there are gluten-free versions that are just as good as and, in some cases, superior to, the ‘real’ thing.
The good news is that once gluten is removed from the diet, you should start to feel much better.
If you would like more information, please contact Coeliac UK by clicking on the link.
If you would like to try some new gluten-free recipes, please follow the link below to the Metro UK news website: