What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is a condition characterized by unpleasant digestive problems after consumption of wheat, rye or barley products. These grains contain gluten, a protein that makes bread dough elastic. This is a significant problem because foods made with these grains are ubiquitous. Rye, barley and wheat are also used in many food products.

Coeliac disease is a debilitating condition that, if left untreated, results to more serious health problems. If you have coeliac disease, eating food with gluten causes abdominal symptoms that can be source of embarrassment especially in public places. In the long-term, a person with coeliac disease becomes at risk of malnutrition that results to numerous health problems.

Symptoms of coeliac disease

Coeliac disease primarily causes symptoms in the digestive system. The classic signs of coeliac disease in children and adults are diarrhoea and unexpected weight loss that occurs after eating food with gluten-containing grains. You may also experience significant bloating, flatulence and nausea. These symptoms occur soon or sometime after eating food with gluten. Some patients also experience contradictory symptoms such as constipation or obesity. Patients with coeliac disease also experience headache and fatigue.

Children with coeliac disease tend to be overweight and short in stature. They also tend to suffer from delayed puberty and neurologic problems such as ADHD and learning disabilities. In infants, the condition cause failure to thrive as chronic diarrhoea results to pain, swollen belly and weight loss.

Many cases of coeliac disease are accompanied by a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis, which cause formation of itchy rashes with numerous tiny blisters on the scalp, elbows, torso, buttocks and knees. This condition is caused by sensitivity to gluten, and it is indicative of coeliac disease

Symptoms of coeliac disease damage the lining of the intestines, causing reduced absorption of nutrients resulting to malnutrition. This is the reason why coeliac disease have to be treated.

What causes coeliac disease?

The primary cause of coeliac disease is the body’s immune response to gluten. Normally, the immune system ignores gluten. However, coeliac disease causes the immune system to react abnormally to gluten in the digestive tract. Because gluten is in the intestines, the first reaction is to flush them out quickly resulting to diarrhoea. This abnormal immune response in gluten is linked to genetics.

In some cases, coeliac disease is triggered by pregnancy, intense emotional stress, childbirth and surgery.

Diagnosing and treating coeliac disease

The only treatment for coeliac disease is not eating food-containing gluten. Coeliac disease cannot be treated with medications or specific medical procedures. This means that you need to stay away from foods with gluten completely. Specific food items with gluten include pasta, breads, noodles, imitation meats (made from wheat or pure gluten), baked products like cakes, cupcakes, malt, breakfast cereals, bran, couscous, semolina, flat breads, foods with batter and breadcrumbs, snacks made with rye, wheat or barley, and malt drinks, beers and barley teas.

The fact that many gluten-containing foods are staples is a significant problem for persons with coeliac disease. You can still eat staples that do not contain gluten, like rice, quinoa, legumes, corn and millet.

Most baked goods will trigger symptoms in coeliac disease sufferers. There are however, bakeries that specialize in certified gluten-free baked products. GF Bakery makes cakes and baked desserts that are gluten-free and made with fresh natural ingredients so to avoid using artificial ones that may contain wheat-derived substances.