Coeliac Disease

20 June, 2019

Regular readers will know the importance we place on gut health. The gut microbiome is being extensively studied and over recent years has come to the fore as an integral contributor to our overall health and well being.
We discussed various gut conditions and we felt that it was time to discuss Coeliac Disease.

What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac UK describe it as a lifelong autoimmune disorder. An immune response happens when your body encounters a substance it is allergic to. In the case of Coeliac disease the substance is gluten and the body responds by attacking the small intestine. This can cause serious damage to the digestive system. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.

Typical Coeliac Symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Anaemia
  • Fatigue

This is a very comparable list with gluten intolerance but the two conditions are viewed very differently. For this reason, it is recommended by Coeliac UK that you take a test before you give up gluten. The tests need to identify the antibodies and if you stop eating gluten this will not be possible.

If you maintain your gluten diet until the test has been performed you will know what is happening to your body from the beginning. Your GP can do this test for you.

The diagnosis

Coeliac disease is not readily identified and many people experience symptoms for a number of years before they receive the correct diagnosis.

The difficulty with Coeliac disease is that each person will react with varying symptoms. In addition, individual symptoms could be explained away by a variety of causes. Often, we don’t associate different symptoms with each other because the scope of the disease is so broad and comprehensive.

To further complicate things the intensity of symptoms can vary from day to day from nothing to many uncomfortable and maybe painful reactions.

Coeliac disease can appear like IBS, anaemia, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, food allergies or FODMAP sensitivity. This is why the test is so important. By understanding what you are dealing with from the beginning you can start your recovery sooner.

The implications of Coeliac disease are life long and need to be treated accordingly. It is a disease that affects 1 in 100 people and is twice as common in women as men. Diagnosis is estimated only to have been made for 30% of those actually suffering with the condition.

It is important to get a diagnosis to prevent further healthcare complications. If this disease is left untreated then you could experience the following:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Gluten Ataxia – this includes clumsiness, slurred speech, a tendency to fall over, uncoordinated movements and loss of balance
  • Gluten Neuropathy is identified through numbness or tingling typically of hands and feet; although it can involve other body parts. Other symptoms include confusion, cognitive issues, headaches, foggy brain and slow thinking.

What is happening to your body?

Your immune system is attacking your own tissues when you eat gluten. This results in damage to the lining of the gut. This in turn means that the body cannot absorb nutrients from food.

Malabsorption of food means that your body is not functioning well, it simply doesn’t have the energy it needs to perform well.

Further complications that can be associated with Coeliac disease include:

  • Diabetes type 1
  • Asthma
  • Heart conditions
  • Skin problems
  • Thyroid related conditions
  • Arthritis
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Multiple sclerosis

Gluten Intolerance/Allergy

Food intolerance is different from food allergy. Food allergy can be life threatening with just the tiniest amount of the food causing an extreme reaction for the person affected. You will be aware of people who risk anaphylactic shock if they absorb the tiniest amount of the substance, they are allergic to. This is the extreme allergic reaction but demonstrates how immediate an allergic response is.

Food intolerance is fortunately not as dramatic but it is challenging in that it is harder to identify because symptoms can appear within hours or as long as 48 hours after having eaten the offending food.

The amount eaten can also be relevant when you are food intolerant. It is easy to get confused by the fact that you “get away with” a small morsel of the food you are intolerant to and then react to a more normal portion size. This has been my experience and I know it is shared with many people I know.

What can I eat if I am Coeliac?

The diet you will adopt to maintain good health will be gluten free. We are now so lucky to have an abundance of delicious and tasty gluten free options available to us.

The key things to bear in mind are:

  • You need to stay away from gluten products
  • Gluten free doesn’t always mean wheat free so check that too
  • Life will not be difficult we have so many food options that are gluten free now so you can lead a normal life

A brief guide to foods you can eat:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Lentils and other legumes
  • Rice
  • Quinoa and many other grains
  • Potatoes

Foods you need to check:

  • Processed Foods
  • Sauces
  • Gravy
  • Drinks including alcohol
  • Look out for vinegar it contains barley as do many beers.

Check out our previous blogs on the Gluten free Diet Declutter and The Gluten Free Experience.

What if I get it wrong?

If you make a mistake your body will tell you and generally quite quickly. Learn from that mistake, deal with it by drinking plenty of water to flush the toxins out of your body.

Soothe your tummy with aloe vera juice. This is such an effective soother for upset tummies. During an attack take it before each meal.

How long before I feel better?

We are all individuals and each of us will respond differently to various foods. Some will display immediate reactions others will react more slowly. There are people who show hardly any symptoms at all.

Observe your body and eat the right foods and your body will do the rest. Be aware that ridding the body of gluten can take up to nine months so in turn the recovery process can take up to five years for some people.

Typically, once people are on the right foods most will see an improvement quite quickly.

Coeliac disease is a serious condition but with care you can lead a healthy and happy life. Come and see us we can guide you to the right products.

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