Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an immune system driven condition which is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. The immune system reacts to the gluten and the cells that line the small intestine are damaged. To calm this reaction to gluten, gluten containing foods need to be removed from the diet. In addition to wheat other foods with similar proteins to gluten may have to be avoided. These are proteins such as secalin found in rye and avenin found in oats.

While many people carry the genes which appear to increase the risk of developing coeliac genes alone are not diagnostic. 92-95% of coeliacs have the HLA-DQ2 gene. However, only 2% of the general population with this gene will actually then go on to develop coeliac disease. As is often said, the genes may load the gun but it’s the environment that pulls the trigger.

Wheat in a field

Coeliac Disease Symptoms

Typical symptoms can be chronic diarrhoea, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Other more atypical symptoms may also present. These include anaemia, constipation, abnormal liver function tests, low bone mass, oesophageal reflux, and reflux. Often these can result from the poor absorption of nutrients due to damage in the small intestine.

Often there’s been a number of years from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis of coeliac. This means the lining of the small intestine (the mucosa) will have been damaged. While this can repair over time in some cases this can take up to two years. However, there are ways to speed up and support this recovery and healing process.

Due to its increasing prevalence this something I routinely test for to lessen the consequences of long-term gluten exposure if coeliac.

It was commonly thought that the condition raised its head in early years and was primarily found in infants. However, we now see that coeliac disease can develop at any age.

It’s incidence has risen over 400% since the 1940s and may be attributed to a combination of;

Changes in infant feeding practices

Shortened duration of breastfeeding

Introduction of gluten before 4 months of age

Increased frequency of C-section births

Alterations in gut microflora

Genetic predisposition

Already removed gluten but don’t feel much better?

Maybe you’ve already been diagnosed with coeliac and have been on a gluten-free diet for a few months and only feel 30% better.

Coeliac disease may not be the only issue.

Further investigation into dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) and additional problematic foods may be helpful.

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