Thursday, October 15, 2015
Coeliac disease is an increasingly common autoimmune condition. It is caused by the immune system, adversely reacting to gluten. However, only 24% of people who actually have the disease have been diagnosed. This is because some of the symptoms are easily ignored, and as gluten is present in a wide variety of foods, it’s unclear that this is the problem. Research has also shown that there is confusion between suffering from coeliac disease, food intolerances or allergies.
The good news is that there are far more gluten-free products on the market and recipes available to help you cook tasty food for yourself.
Coeliac disease occurs when your immune system develops an intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in barley, wheat and rye. By eating gluten, this damages the lining of the small intestine wall, which in time can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. It’s an autoimmune disease so the body basically begins to attack healthy tissue, as it has mistakenly marked the substances within gluten as dangerous. It’s not entirely proven what causes coeliac disease, but it’s thought to be a combination of the environment and genetic make-up.
The symptoms of coeliac disease can be very uncomfortable, but vary in their severity. Some of the symptoms that can be triggered by gluten include diarrhoea, constipation and flatulence, nausea, abdominal pain and bloating, mouth ulcers, weight loss and a feeling of exhaustion because the body is not receiving enough nutrients.
In addition to this, some people living with coeliac disease will find themselves suffering from the skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. Not everyone will suffer from this, but those that do will find that this affects their face, elbows, shoulders, knees and buttocks.
There is no cure for coeliac disease, the most successful form of treatment is to adopt a completely gluten-free diet. By removing gluten from your diet, you should start to see results and feel more comfortable after eating food. Doing this has been found to help keep symptoms under control and will prevent long-term damage from the disease such as cancer. Even if you have very mild reactions to gluten, it is still recommended that you remove it from your diet, as it can lead to more severe symptoms. After giving up gluten, it should take around two years for your body to completely recover and your intestines to heal.
There is a growing range of gluten-free products on the market, ranging from bread to beer. These can act as a substitute for products containing gluten. Research has shown that the market for gluten-free products is set to rise to £561m by 2017. It is difficult to avoid gluten in your diet, as it makes up wheat, barley and rye, so it is advisable to check labels and ask in restaurants when possible. Oats are not made up of gluten, but they are often mixed with other cereal based products that do contain gluten so the oats must be pure if you want to eat them.
Gluten can also be present in beauty products and some types of medication, so researching this beforehand is advisable. Gluten is not an essential protein that our body needs, so it is easily replaced by other foods.
Gluten can cause your spleen to be less effective and therefore, makes infection more likely, so sometimes it is advisable to undergo extra vaccinations such as flu vaccinations, MenC vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine. Your doctor may also prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure your body receives the nutrients it needs whilst your intestine is healing.
Removing gluten from your diet after being diagnosed with coeliac disease is the most important step that you can take and will help with your long-term health. There are many products on the market to make life easier, but it is advisable to always check what you are putting in your body, as even small traces of gluten can cause uncomfortable symptoms. There is no cure for coeliac disease, but you can plan your diet and lifestyle around this and still lead a healthy and active life.
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