Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance have been receiving a lot of attention lately. Because of this it’s important that you understand exactly what these conditions are, the effect they have on your body, and how they can be treated.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in three different types of cereal grains:
Gluten can be found in any food containing the above, including:
- Most bread
- Some sauces
- Some ready-meals
Most beers are also made from barley.
What are Coeliac Disease, Gluten Intolerance and Wheat Allergy?
- Coeliac disease is one of the most common autoimmune conditions, and it affects an estimated 1 in 133 people. Despite it’s common nature more than 80% of of coeliac sufferers remain undiagnosed. Coeliac disease is a serious illness where your body’s immune system attacks itself when you eat gluten. This damages the lining of your gut, which stops your body from absorbing the nutrients it needs from your food.
- Non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity causes similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but there’s no damage caused to the lining of your gut.
- Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to the proteins found in wheat grains. Reactions are normally triggered by your immune system and happen within minutes or seconds of eating.
If you suspect you might have coeliac disease you must be tested by your doctor. For a successful diagnosis you must be eating gluten, so do not start cutting gluten out of your diet until you have been tested.
What are the symptoms?
What are the treatments?
There is currently no cure for Coeliac Disease, although it can be managed by maintaining a gluten-free diet. If you have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and your symptoms are still mild, it is still recommended that you switch to a gluten-free diet. Continued exposure to gluten can cause more serious long-lasting effects.
Even if you are keeping to a gluten-free diet it is possible to maintain a healthy and varied diet. Vast improvements to gluten-free alternatives have been made in recent years, so you needn’t go without.
Who is most at risk?
Screening for Coeliac Disease is not routine in the UK. It is, however, recommended to those who have a family history of the disease. It is actively recommended to first-degree relatives, so brothers, sisters, children, and parents.
If your symptoms are mild they can be misdiagnosed as another digestive condition like IBS, so if you’re continuing to have difficulties it’s wise to ask for a specific Coeliac test.
You’re most likely to get symptoms very early, between the ages of 8 and 12 months old, although it can take a few years before a proper diagnosis is made. You can also get it later, between the ages of 40 and 60.
Reported cases of Coeliac Disease are 2-3 times higher in women than men, although as an estimated 80% of cases go unreported this may be due to the fact that women are generally better at seeking medical help than their male counterparts.
If you think this might apply to you or someone you know, babylon GPs are available in minutes wherever you are, so there’s no time like the present!