Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is an extreme sensitivity to gluten in which the presence of gluten in the digestive tract causes an autoimmune reaction whereby the immune system starts attacking the gut lining. This causes villus atrophy destroying brush border enzymes and leaving less surface area in the gut for digestion and absorption. Coeliac disease is thought to affect 125,000 people in the UK and may present in up to 1 in 100 people.

The cause of coeliac disease is believed to be a combination of a genetic predisposition and environmental triggers such as infections, stress or pregnancy.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt that is responsible for the elasticity of dough, and for the chewy nature of breads and baked goods. Wheat in particular has been selectively bred over the centuries to make good dough. You can notice this in gluten free breads, as they are usually quite hard and compact. Gluten is one of the most common food intolerances that can lead to subclinical symptoms both inside and outside of the bowel. Symptoms may include bloating, diarrhoea, tiredness, skin problems, depression, joint pain or infertility.

How do I know if I’m gluten intolerant?

A standard blood test will not tell you if you are gluten intolerant, however look out for:

  • Anaemia / low iron
  • Low potassium
  • Low bicarbonate
  • Low albumin
  • High liver enzymes

Food intolerance tests such as the one offered by York Test can tell you if you have an IgG reaction to gluten or any other grains. To get a coeliac diagnosis you will need to have a tissue transglutaminase test and / or a biopsy of the bowel. London nutritionist Steve Hines can help you with getting a diagnosis of coeliac disease.

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