What is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, it is caused by our immune system reacting to gluten, when someone with coeliac disease ingests wheat or gluten the body reacts with an autoimmune response producing antibodies which cause chronic inflammation.
The gut also becomes damaged not only making it difficult to absorb vitamins and nutrients from the food you eat, (which can lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies) but it also damages the protective net in the digestive system which then allows undigested food particles and proteins to pass through the digestive tract, sending toxins directly into the bloodstream.
Where is gluten found?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and it is also used in lots of food and drink and even toiletries and cosmetics;
- Breakfast cereals
- Ready meals
- Beer and lager
- Shower gel
How common is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is very common and affects around 1 in 100 people. Only 24% of people who have the condition have actually been diagnosed, this means there are currently nearly half a million people who have Coeliac disease but they do not even know they have it.
If a family member for example, your mother, father, sister or brother has Coeliac disease then you have a one in 10 chance of having it yourself as coeliac disease is hereditary.
What is the cause?
If you read any of the medical websites or see a doctor they will tell you that the cause of coeliac disease is unknown and that they don’t actually know why people have it but this is because doctors are not trained in nutrition, they are trained to treat symptoms with medication.
Coeliac disease is caused by eating gluten, if you stop eating gluten you will heal yourself of coeliac disease, it will still be there lying dormant until the next time you eat it and have a flare up but you will be relatively symptom free.
Our bodies were not designed to or even evolved to eat wheat or gluten which is why we now have an epidemic of coeliac disease, gluten intolerance, and gluten sensitivity.
When someone eats something they are not supposed to eat they get a symptom or a side effect, for instance if you ate something poisonous your body would know that it needs to get rid of the poison and it does this by making us sick and giving us diarrhea until we have removed all of it from our system, you should think of gluten in the same way.
When someone eats gluten they may not have a reaction for a long time but then one day they get a rash or experience bloating or some other minor symptom, if this person continually eats gluten they will start to get a whole host of symptoms and if you continue to eat it after that point you will get disease.
Doctors will prescribe medications or creams but they will never link what you are eating to illness because remember they are not trained in nutrition they are trained to treat symptoms with medication, they say there is no cure for coeliac disease this is complete and utter rubbish, if you stop eating gluten you will heal from coeliac disease. All of the symptoms associated with coeliac disease are your body’s way of telling you to stop eating it and once diagnosed you will be told to go on a gluten-free diet.
Symptoms of coeliac disease
The symptoms of Coeliac disease can vary from person to person, while one person can show mild symptoms another can show severe symptoms, some do not show any symptoms at all but can be affected later on in life.
It usually affects the intestines and the digestive system but it can affect other areas of the body as well leading to other diseases.
Coeliac disease should not be mistaken as an allergy, it is an autoimmune disease, if it were an allergy your body would respond immediately, in some cases anaphylaxis would occur, but then the symptoms would go away once treated.
The symptoms of Coeliac disease can last a lot longer, in some cases up to, or even over a week after gluten has been ingested.
In the past, people with Coeliac disease were expected to be underweight, In fact, most people with the condition are either a normal weight or even overweight.
Symptoms in adults
- Severe or occasional diarrhea or constipation
- Excessive extremely smelly wind
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain, cramping or bloating
- Iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency
- Sudden or unexpected weight loss or weight gain
- Mouth ulcers
- Acid reflux
- Hair loss
- Lactose intolerance
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin rashes
- Tooth enamel problems
- Liver abnormalities
- Repeated miscarriages or infertility
- Loss of coordination or poor balance
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
Symptoms in children
Coeliac disease can have a completely different effect on children making them feel tired and irritable,they may also be
- Smaller than normal
- Delayed puberty.
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain & bloating
- Persistent diarrhea or constipation
- Pale, fatty, foul-smelling stools
What to do if you suspect you have coeliac disease
If you believe you have Coeliac disease you should first discuss it with your doctor, they can carry out a blood test to confirm it. It is important that you DO NOT stop eating gluten at any point during the blood test and the time in between the biopsy or your test will not be accurate and can even show negative.
Firstly you need to make an appointment with your GP to discuss your symptoms, some doctors are still uneducated about coeliac disease and will sometimes give you the wrong information.
Some doctors are even advising patients to give up gluten before your test, if you give up gluten before you get tested your body may not show the antibodies which will mean your test will be inaccurate and in order to get retested you will need to eat gluten again for at least six weeks.
It is important that you DO NOT stop eating gluten for the entire time you are being tested (blood test and biopsy), this can be as long as 3-4 months.
It is harder to reintroduce gluten once you have cut it out due to the severity of symptoms it causes, some patients find that they feel too ill to reintroduce for the 6 week period that is needed and give up on getting a diagnosis all together.
How to get a diagnosis?
There are 2 parts to diagnosing coeliac disease
A simple blood test which checks for antibodies – it is possible to have a negative test and yet still have coeliac disease.
A biopsy (Do not go gluten free until after you have the biopsy) if you have a positive blood test you’re GP will refer you to a gastroenterologist where a gut biopsy will be carried out, once you have had the gut biopsy it is safe to start a gluten-free diet.
Diagnosing coeliac disease in children
A child who has had a positive blood test may not always be sent for a biopsy, new information published by Coeliac UK and the British society of paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition (BSPGHAN) states that if children with coeliac disease symptoms, who have a high level of antibodies in the blood test and who also have the genes for coeliac disease may not need to have a biopsy confirming a diagnosis.
To make sure the correct diagnosis is carried out your child will be referred to a gastroenterologist for the appropriate tests.
My test was positive
If your test was positive you can switch to a gluten free diet straight away.
My test was negative
Just because the test was negative doesn’t mean you are not a coeliac, it is possible to have a false blood test, if your symptoms are severe you can request the biopsy for definitive proof.
It may also be that you have a gluten sensitivity rather than coeliac disease. Whatever the outcome switching to a gluten free diet will be the best course of action.