Coeliac disease is a condition characterised by inflammation of the lining of the small intestine due to an autoimmune reaction (body’s immune system mistakenly attacks own healthy tissues) against gluten, a protein found in foods such as oats, wheat, rye and barley. Intake of such foods may lead to gastrointestinal and malabsorptive problems.
The small intestine of the human body consists of numerous small finger-like projections called villi, which line its inner wall. These villi provide a larger surface area for food to digest and absorb into the body. In patients with coeliac disease these villi become inflamed and flatten due to the autoimmune reaction, thereby reducing the surface area for the absorption of nutrients.
Coeliac disease occurs when your body’s immune systems mistakes gluten, a protein found in many foods, as a threat to the body and causes an inflammatory reaction in the small intestine. The cause for this autoimmune reaction is not very clear. A family history and underlying conditions, such as type 1 diabetes and ulcerative colitis, increase your risk of developing coeliac disease.
Coeliac disease usually causes an inflammatory reaction that leads to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive problems. The condition may sometimes be associated with dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy skin rash.
Some people experience severe symptoms while others are asymptomatic (they have no obvious symptoms at all).
The various symptoms of coeliac diseases include:
The ‘gold standard’ of diagnosing coeliac disease is bowel biopsy where a small amount of bowel tissue is removed to examine the presences of inflammation, flattening or damage. However the following tests may be used to help make a diagnosis:
While undergoing these tests, you will be advised not to discontinue gluten intake in order to obtain appropriate results.
If coeliac disease is left untreated for a long time, it may lead to several associated conditions such as poor nutrition due to mal-absorption of nutrients, and complications in other parts of the body such as skin, joints, liver, pancreas, thyroid gland, nervous system and reproductive tract. Severe reaction of your immune system to gluten intake may lead to a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes skin rashes on various parts of your body.
The foremost treatment for coeliac disease is avoiding foods containing gluten. Some of the common foods containing gluten include wheat, barley and rye used in bread, pasta, pastries, cereals and cakes. You can substitute with gluten-free substitutes.
In addition to this, you may also be prescribed supplements for calcium, iron and vitamin for a certain period of time to replenish lost vitamins and minerals while your digestive system is healing. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat associated conditions such as dermatitis herpetiformis along with diet control.
With a gluten free diet, you can live a life free of symptoms and nutritional deficiencies. Once diagnoses with coeliac diease, you will be closely monitored by your dietitian to ensure that you are maintaining a gluten free diet and also to examine the development of any associated conditions, such a concurrent food intolerances.
Our dietitians can help you learn everything you need to know about following a gluten-free diet, and provide you with practical suggestions so you can implement necessary changes easily. With your dietitian you will cover numerous topics including label reading, gluten-free alternatives, preventing cross-contamination and managing eating out of the home and social occasions. They are always available to answers any questions or queries anytime also.