What is Coeliac Disease? How is it Diagnosed?
What is Coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the chemistry in the gut and small intestine; this means it reacts to the consumption of gluten. It’s most common in people aged 40 upwards, with higher rates of diagnosis in the over 50s.
It’s 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 becomes inflamed, causing discomfort.
Which Foods Have Gluten in Them?
Gluten is most obviously 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.
Coeliac disease & Vit D deficiency
What happens if Coeliac sufferers eat gluten?
There are a number of symptoms that a Coeliac sufferer may experience if they consume Gluten. Below is a list of the most common ones:
- Bloating of the stomach
- Vitamin deficiency, particularly iron, B12 or folic acid (as the intestine refuses 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 Disease 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, 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.
Please contact Coeliac UK for more information.