coeliac disease

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye. In most of Europe, this affects approximately one in every 100 people, with rates varying in other regions. Coeliac disease results in damage to the lining of the gut, which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. This has long term consequences for many aspects of health.

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Consultation with a specialist and diagnosis is the first step to feeling better

    Symptoms of coeliac disease
    Symptoms of coeliac disease range from very mild to severe and everyone is affected differently.

    If you have coeliac disease and eat gluten, you may experience symptoms including:

    • Varying degrees of diarrhoea and flatulence
    • Nausea, vomiting, pain, cramping and bloating
    • Iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency
    • Chronic fatigue, lethargy and anaemia
    • Weight loss
    • Mouth ulcers and skin rashes
    • Neurological problems including loss of coordination and numbness in the hands and feet

    It is easy to confuse the symptoms of coeliac disease with other less serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or wheat intolerance.

    Experts believe one in four people with the disease are misdiagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

    Seeing a specialist, who can correctly diagnose the cause of your symptoms, is the first step.

    coeliac disease treatment
    Causes of Coeliac Disease

    Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition, which means that the immune system reacts to gluten and begins attacking the gut itself. Even tiny amounts of gluten can be damaging and the only way to feel better is to remove gluten from the diet completely, which allows the gut to heal.

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    Diagnosis of Coeliac Disease

    Symptoms of coeliac disease can be mild to severe, and investigation may not be triggered until adulthood or even into mature years. Over time, a failure to diagnose and treat coeliac disease can lead to serious complications, such as nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, neurological problems and rarely lymphoma, a type of cancer. Yet, it takes people an average of 13 years to get a diagnosis, and longer in some cases. If you have symptoms that suggest coeliac disease diagnostic tests could include:

    • Blood test – A simple blood test that can detect the antibodies that result from eating gluten if you have coeliac disease. It is important to keep eating gluten until you have an accurate diagnosis or the test will not work properly.
    • Endoscopy – this involves using a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light to look inside your gut. If evidence of damage is detected a biopsy will be taken and the results sent to the laboratory for testing. You will also need to continue eating gluten for the endoscopy to show an accurate result.
    Coeliac Disease Treatment

    A diagnosis of coeliac disease will mean working with your doctor to make lifestyle changes and avoid eating gluten. We will help you to understand which foods you can eat and which you need to avoid. There are plenty of foods that are naturally gluten-free including potato, rice, plain meat, fish, eggs, cheese, fruit, vegetables and pulses. You may also be able to get certain gluten-free food alternatives on prescription, such as bread and flour mixes. Once your gut is no longer exposed to gluten you will feel much better. Talking to other people with the condition and joining organisations like Coeliac UK, can also be helpful.

    Doctors Who Can Treat Coeliac Disease
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