What is Coeliac Disease?

I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2018, 4 days before Christmas. The diagnosis initially can be a relief to some people, overwhelming to others. For me, it was a shock, as I had no obvious stomach symptoms. You can read my story here.

What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that means that the body attacks itself when gluten is consumed.

The walls of the stomach have finger-like protrusions called villi which reach out to grab nutrients from our food to put them into our bodies.

When a coeliac sufferer eats gluten, those villi become flattened meaning that they cannot absorb the nutrients. This means that coeliacs can become extremely unwell and have nutritional deficiencies.

There’s no cure apart from changing to a gluten-free diet. That sounds simple, but it’s not. It can be confusing initially, however, with time it normally becomes easier.

diagnosis of coeliac disease. Information about the condition

Symptoms of Coeliac Disease

Symptoms most often involve stomach disorders like diarrhoea, nausea, constipation, wind, indigestion and bloating. Many people, like myself, have no stomach symptoms. This is classed as ‘silent coeliac’.

Doctors might test for it due to the patient having other symptoms.

Other symptoms can include tiredness and fatigue, headaches, mouth ulcers, nerve, muscle and joint pain.

In children, as well as the other symptoms, it can cause slow growth and delayed puberty.

Long term, coeliac disease can cause malnutrition, nerve damage, fertility problems, osteoporosis and it has been linked to stomach cancer.

Many symptoms are caused by the malabsorption of nutrients. Very often people suffer from anaemia caused by low iron, low B12 or low folate levels.

Once diagnosed, after changing the diet to exclude gluten, some symptoms can improve.

Testing

Initially, a blood test is done. If there is a positive result, the doctor will refer the patient to the gastroenterology clinic. An endoscopy is carried out (a tube with a camera goes down your throat into your stomach) and samples of the stomach lining are taken. This will give the doctor a conclusive result.

In order for the tests, either the blood test or the endoscopy, to give an accurate result, the patient must have been consuming gluten for at least six weeks. Therefore, if coeliac disease is suspected, don’t stop eating gluten until you’ve been officially diagnosed.

Gluten Free Diet

After testing positive, a strict gluten-free diet needs to be followed. This means eating no gluten at all. No wheat, no barley, no rye and no oats (unless the oats are gluten free).

It also means no food products can be eaten which ‘may contain’ gluten. And great care must be taken when preparing food to avoid contamination.

Links to Coeliac Disease Posts on My Blog

I have written some posts about living with coeliac disease which you might find helpful. I will continue to add to this list, so please keep checking back.

There are so many myths about coeliac disease. It’s not just a fad diet and gluten can’t be burnt off in hot fat. For more myths, please read this post
Myths About Coeliac Disease

Learning to understand food labels is imperative when you have any type of food allergy:
How to Understand Food Labels

My own story about my diagnosis and adapting to a gluten-free life:
What is Life Like with Coeliac Disease?

Keeping a food diary can be a helpful tool prior to diagnosis. This link is relating to a pain diary, but will work for food too:
How to Keep a Diary

Oats are technically gluten-free, but due to farming and processing, they are normally contaminated. However, you can buy gluten-free oats which are safe. Read my review of the only company in the UK which produces gluten-free oats.
Glebe Farm Gluten-Free Oats

We shouldn’t have to give up all the food we enjoy. This post is a review on gluten-free haggis with a few recipe ideas.
Gluten-Free Haggis

Healthy snack bars aren’t always healthy. Some have lots of sugar and sadly are not gluten free. Check out these snack bars by Suzero. They are low sugar, gluten free and vegan.
Suzero Health Bars

Other Useful Links

Getting accurate and helpful information is important.

Coeliac UK

NHS Information about Coeliac Disease

American Celiac Society

Coeliac Disease For Beginners – a very helpful group on Facebook

Nannie and Me are Gluten Free is another helpful group on Facebook. It focuses on gluten-free cooking and recipe ideas.

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