Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune condition where the body reacts to gluten causing damage in the small bowel. Often sufferers are unaware they have the disease for a long time. It is not technically an allergy, as the mechanisms are different, but it results in dietary restriction hence is something I wanted to include.
Exposure to gluten damages the villi in the small bowel. Villi are basically small finger shaped ripples in the bowel surface where nutrients are absorbed. In people with coeliac disease these villi become damaged and flatten, losing their large surface area, resulting in the body not absorbing the nutrients it needs.
It is often this malabsorption that leads to diagnosis, most commonly through low iron levels or weight loss associated with poor nutrition.
A lot of Coeliacs do not have any outward symptoms of the disease, but some do suffer nausea, stomach pain and skin rashes.
So how is Coeliac Disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis is by a gastroenterologist doing a biopsy of the small bowel. There are blood tests and gene tests that are indicators but biopsy is the definitive tool.
How is Coeliac Disease treated?
There is no cure or medication for Coeliac Disease. The treatment is a strict gluten free diet for life. This means not even a crumb or a trace. There is a lot of research being done currently around this disease in the hopes of a vaccine that will help people diagnosed.
With the abundance of gluten free products on the market now, and the ever-increasing awareness of the disease and the idea of being gluten free, it is easier than ever before to find alternatives and places to eat out. However vigilance is always necessary to ensure there is not trace of gluten in anything eaten.
For more information reach out!