Coeliac disease is a medical condition that is only just beginning to gain more media attention and interest.
What Is Coeliac Disease
If someone has coeliac disease but is undiagnosed and consumes food which contains the protein gluten, which is in foods such as bread or pasta, the immune system thinks it is the enemy and starts to attack it and the small intestine. The problem protein is Gliadin which is found in wheat, barley and rye. The villi which live in the small intestine has the job of capturing the nutrients needed for us to stay healthy, it resembles the tips of a baby’s fingers or minute tubes and stands upright. However, when it is attacked it becomes flattened and vital nutrients needed to support a healthy body escape from the system.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease an intolerance to gluten. It is different to a food allergy. Some people with coeliac may also develop a dairy intolerance.
There are many symptoms, these vary from person to person. Some people may suffer fatigue where others will not. The symptoms in children will not become apparent until they start to eat solid food. Some of the symptoms include:
- Weight Loss
- Abdominal Pain
- Noisy Stomach
- Vomiting (more common in children).
- Some sufferers may also develop the skin rash, dermatitis herpetiformis.
- Swelling of the hands, arms, legs and feet
- Osteoporosis (when the bones become weak and brittle).
Diagnosis and Gluten Free Foods on Prescription
Diagnosis is normally through a blood test and an endoscopy when a camera is inserted through the mouth and into the small intestine. The amount of damage to the villi is seen through this procedure.
Once diagnosed, an appointment is made to see a dietician to discuss the diet. Some types of gluten-free foods are available with a medical prescription. For more details visit https://www.coeliac.org.uk who provide all the information available on the disease. Buying gluten-free is more expensive than ordinary food and the prescription can help to save money.
There is no cure for coeliac disease at the moment and following a gluten-free diet is essential to keeping healthy. Failing to follow the diet could result in other medical problems developing. The risk of bowel cancer and lymphoma (the lymphatic system), is a slightly higher risk, for people with coeliac disease, but it is rare and once the gluten-free diet kicks in this decreases.
The diet is not complicated. Fresh vegetables, fruit, plain meat and fish, are naturally gluten-free and so is cornflour. Gluten-free bread, cakes and pasta are available at most supermarkets. Alcohol, such as wine, cider and spirits are gluten-free. There are gluten-free beers and lager available in supermarkets and online suppliers.
Eating out is a matter of research. Consider asking the establishment if there are any gluten-free meals available, or find out where in your area, they cater for people with coeliac disease. Restaurants, pubs, and eating out places in general, are becoming more aware that there is a need for gluten-free meals.
Buying Gluten Free
Most supermarkets have a free from section, for shelf foods like pasta, biscuits, and bread, and a freezer section for meats and fish coated in gluten-free bread crumbs. You can find gluten-free sausages on the chilled shelf along with some gluten-free ready meals. These days there is a wider variety available and this continues to grow. Some foods are naturally gluten-free such as rice pudding, tinned fruit, tinned tomatoes and baked beans. Always check the label until you become familiar with foods you can and cannot eat. All allergies and food intolerance known to affect people’s health is highlighted in bold on the food ingredients label.
Living With Coeliac
Becoming accustomed to the diet will be a challenge at first but once this has been achieved life will not have changed that much from before diagnosis. Have fun cooking and get the family to enjoy your type of food as well. Someday a cure will be found but for now follow the gluten-free diet and stay healthy.
© May 2015 Healthybite