Coeliac disease: symptoms and treatment

Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) is a life-long condition that prevents food from being absorbed properly in the body. The disease affects one in 100 people in the UK and only about 10-15% of those affected are diagnosed. If undiagnosed, celiac can lead to severe malnutrition. This is why it is absolutely important that you understand coeliac disease symptoms and treatment to maintain your good health.

Causes of coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is caused by adverse reaction to gluten and similar proteins found in wheat, barley, oats and rye. Gluten and proteins similar to it damage and inflame the villi (finger-like projections) that line the small intestines, resulting in problems with food digestion and absorption. Often, problems with food digestion and absorption cause severe malnutrition and diarrhea.

Occurrence of coeliac disease

Coeliac disease occurs in men and women equally, but the disease is more common in adults between ages 30 and 45. People with type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, epilepsy, ulcerative colitis, osteoporosis and autoimmune thyroid disease are, nonetheless, more susceptible to the disease.

The disease has also been found to run in families and be prevalent in people from certain parts of the world, such as the west of Ireland, the Middle East, the Punjab region of India and North Africa.

Symptoms of coeliac disease

The most common symptom of coaliac disease is diarrhoea, which manifests in people of all ages. You may also feel week and tired as a result of anemia caused by folate or iron deficiency that may result from malabsorption of nutrients in the body.

Dermatitis herpetiformis, a condition that causes itchy rashes on knees and elbows may also occur. Other possible symptoms of the disease may include vomiting, ulcers and abdominal pain.

Affected children may not gain weight as expected or may fail to grow properly. Adults will often find they lose significant weight when affected.

Diagnosis and treatment

If you suspect you may be suffering from coeliac disease, you are strongly advised to go for a specialised blood test to confirm diagnosis. While there is no cure for celiac yet, the disease can be treated and managed effectively when diagnosis is confirmed.

Treatment for coeliac involves the use of a gluten-free diet for life, such as a diet of fresh meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, fruits and vegetables. Eating good food helps damaged villi to recover and beats symptoms of the disease. Consult your dietician to get clear guidance on gluten-free foods to eat.

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