Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance. It is an autoimmune condition which occurs in people who become sensitive to the protein gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Eating foods containing gluten such as bread, pasta and breakfast cereals has a life-long damaging effect on the bowel and includes symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, sickness (vomiting), stomach cramps, tiredness, weight loss and anaemia.
Coeliac disease was once considered a rare condition of childhood. However, doctors are now diagnosing more people later in life. Research shows that the disease may affect as many as 1 person in every 100, with the majority of those un-diagnosed.
1 in 10 relatives of a person diagnosed with coeliac disease may also be affected, so family screening is recommended.
Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) is a skin condition linked to coeliac disease. A red raised rash, often with blisters, most commonly seen on the elbows, knees and buttocks.
The treatment for both coeliac disease and DH is to follow a strict gluten free diet.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of coeliac disease or DH, do not make any changes to your diet until you have spoken with your doctor or healthcare professional so they can make sure you get a proper diagnosis.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in these common grains - wheat, rye and barley.
What causes coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is caused by the immune system reacting to the protein gluten.
Eating foods that contain gluten affects the body’s ability to absorb the important nutrients from food.
Eating foods that contain gluten has a life-long damaging effect on the small intestine (bowel).
Who can get coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is a common condition affecting children and adults of any age.
Does coeliac disease run in families?
Yes. Research has established that there is a genetic link to coeliac disease. One in ten relatives of a person diagnosed with coeliac disease may also be affected, so family screening is recommended.
What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?
The symptoms of coeliac disease can affect any area of the body, can vary from person to person, and may be severe or mild. This is why healthcare professionals call coeliac disease a multi-system disorder.
Common digestive symptoms
Sometimes the symptoms can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Symptoms in the rest of the body
How to get diagnosed
Why it is important to get diagnosed?
Complications of coeliac disease may occur in those who have taken a long time to get diagnosed or when people continue to eat gluten (inadvertently) after diagnosis. These include osteoporosis, malnutrition, infertility, lymphoma and small bowel cancer.
Coeliac disease is also closely associated with other pre-existing medical conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and auto immune thyroid disease.
If you are concerned about any of these complications or pre-existing related conditions, please seek medical advice.
What is the treatment for coeliac disease?
The treatment for coeliac disease is a life-long gluten-free diet.