Coeliac disease can develop at any age and affects both men and women. Lots of people don’t know that they have and live with it experiencing symptoms.
In people with coeliac disease the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage. The tiny, finger-like projections (villi) that line the inside of the bowel, become inflamed and flattened. This reduces the surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption, which can lead to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms.
Scientists believe that there is a genetic link for people with Coeliac disease with close family members (parent, sibling, child) of someone with Coeliac disease having a 10% chance of also having the disease. If one identical twin has Coeliac disease there is an approximate 70% chance that the other twin will also have Coeliac disease. Environmental factors play an important role in triggering Coeliac disease.
The only cure for Coeliac disease is to follow a gluten free diet. Please consult an expert and some helpful pages can be found in our resources section. You will need advice on how to successfully manage your intake of Iron; Calcium; Fibre; Thiamin; Riboflavin; Niacin; and Folate.
Some people choose to cut out gluten because they have a sensitivity and some symptoms associated with Coeliac disease — including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, "foggy brain," rash or headache — even though there is no damage to the tissues of the small intestine. Studies show that the immune system plays a role, but the process isn't well understood.
Some people have an allergy to wheat that is the result of the immune system mistaking gluten or some other protein found in wheat. The immune system creates an antibody to the protein, prompting an immune system response that may result in congestion, breathing difficulties or other symptoms.
Gluten Free symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms of having a possible problem with gluten are:
- Diarrhoea and constipation
- Abdominal pain
Other less common symptoms are joint and muscle pain; depression or anxiety; confusion; severe abdominal pain; and anaemia.
Gluten Free diet
Because so many foods contain gluten it is important to pay careful attention to the ingredients found in foods. There are obvious traces of gluten but also foods where it is not going to be so straightforward.
You should check with a nutritionist or doctor but generally speaking allowed fresh foods on a gluten free diet include; fruits and vegetables; beans, seeds, legumes and nuts in their natural, unprocessed forms; eggs; lean, non-processed meats, fish and poultry; most low-fat dairy products.
Generally speaking the following grains tends to acceptable in a gluten free diet – but of course everyone is different and this is a broad guide for your information. Acceptable grains might be: amaranth; arrowroot; buckwheat; corn — cornmeal, grits and polenta labelled gluten-free; flax; gluten-free flours — rice, soy, corn, potato and bean flours; millet; quinoa; most rice, including wild rice; sorghum; soy; tapioca (cassava root); and teff.
Again, generally speaking the grains to completely avoid are: wheat; barley; rye and in some cases, oats (nb. oats are naturally gluten-free, but they may be contaminated during production with wheat, barley or rye. We recommend caution around oats).
Wheat, barley and rye are obvious ingredients in many foods, however, these grains are standard ingredients in a number of other products. Also, wheat or wheat gluten is added as a thickening or binding agent, flavouring, and also as a colouring. It's important to read labels of processed foods to determine if they contain wheat, as well as barley and rye.
In general, avoid the following foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
Beer, ale, porter, stout (usually contain barley); breads; bulgur wheat; cakes and pies; boiled sweets; cereals; cookies and crackers; croutons; french fries; gravies; imitation meat or seafood; malt, malt flavoring and other malt products (barley); pasta; hot dogs and processed ham and pepporoni; salad dressings; sauces, including soy sauce (wheat); seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips; soups, bouillon or soup mixes.
You should also check some medicines and supplements as they might use gluten as a binding agent.