What is it….
Coeliac Disease is often referred to as an allergy; it is actually a autoimmune condition and can be a serious condition if not managed well.
A autoimmune condition is where your immune system believes its under threat and attacks your body; in Coeliacs disease the bodies innumne system attacks the gut after eating gluten.
The gut can become damaged leading to issues with absorbance of nutriments
Coeliac disease, if untreated, can potentally cause long term complication
Like most gastrointestinal (GI) issues symptoms can differ between people and can range from mild to severe.
Some can suffer milder symptoms and Coeliac disease can be diagnosed whilst investigating another issues. Even with the mildest of symptoms treatment is required.
Other times Coeliac disease can be mistaken for other GI issues like IBS or a gluten intolerance.
Symptoms may include:
- Diarrhoea– this can present as mild to severe. Your poop can be foul smelling, frothy and hard to flush. This is due to your bowel being unable to absorb nutrients leading to abnormally high levels of fat in you poop.
- Excessive wind
- Stomach cramps – again this can be mild or very painful
- Vomiting – this tends to appears mostly in children
- Fatigue– extreme tiredness. this may also be a sign of iron deficiency anaemia , B12 folate deficiency anaemia or Folic acid deficiency or a combination
- Unexpected weight loss
- Oedema– swelling of the feet, hands, arms or/and legs caused by water retention
- Mouth ulcers
- Tooth enamel issues
- Liver abnormalities
- Difficulty getting pregnant or repeated miscarriages
- Itchy rash– this is called Dermatitis herpetiformis. This rash is a itchy rash with little blisters that burst when scratched, its mainly formed on the elbows, knees and buttocks
- Peripheral neuropathy- tingling and numbness of the hands and feet
- Ataxia– this is a group of disorders that can affect your speech and balance
- Malnutrition– this can be caused due to your body not being able to digest food properly
The first thing anyone should do if they are having any health isues is contact your GP.
When you visit your GP you must make sure you tell them everything, small details you may not believe are important maybe be helpful in diagnosis.
Routine tests for Coeliacs are not completed routinely and you may only be offered the testing if you have symptoms or are at high risk of developing the condition.
NICE guidelines 2015 state testing should only be carried out if:
“Adults or children should be tested if they have the following signs or symptoms:
- persistent unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as feeling sick and being sick
- faltering growth
- prolonged fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- unexpected weight loss
- severe or persistent mouth ulcers
- unexplained iron deficiency anaemia, vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia
- type 1 diabetes, at diagnosis
- autoimmune thyroid disease (an underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid), at diagnosis
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (in adults)
Testing is also recommended if you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with coeliac disease.”
Your GP will ask for you symptoms and may suggest 2 types of tests to diagnose Coelias disease;
After the results….
If you have been diagnosised with Coelias disease there a several test your GP may want to complete to assess how the condition may have affected you so far.
- Skin test– If you have been having issues with Dermatitis herpetiformis your GP may asked for a skin biopsy. This will be carried out under local anaesthetic and examined to conferm a diagnosis
- Further blood tests– This will be to check you iron and other vitamins and minerals levels as you may have developed anaemia due to lack of nutrients absorbed
- DEXA scan– This is a type of X-ray which will scan your bone density. This is not a test for arthritis but to see if coeliacs has affected your bone density which can lead to brittle and weaker bones. Weaker bones may be at higher risk of damage.
The only treatment for Coeliacs disease is a gluten free diet.
Those with Coeliacs disease must cut all gluten out of their diets to prevent long term damage to their bodies.
It may take several years for your body to heal fully from your previous gluten including diet but you should start to notice difference (for the better) in a few weeks of stopping all gluten.
If you accidentally consume a small amount of gluten you will notice the effects but this should not cause no permanent damage, however, if you continue to regulary consume gluten you will be placing yourself at high risk of permanent damage including developing osteoporosis and cancer in later life.
Find out more about what is gluten here and how do you know if something is gluten free here.
Coeliacs dieases can sound really scary when reading the complications that can come with it.
You must stay on your gluten free diet to prevent these complications, except lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance– this is a complication that even on your gluten free diet you may develop. Lactose intolerance will cause no perminant damage to your body but can come with gastrointesternal symptoms.
Malabsorption– this is where your body is unable to fully absorb nutrients which can lead to conditions like anemia or osteoporosis.
Malnutrition– Coeliacs disease can cause your digestive system to work ineffectively. This can lead to lack of vital nutrients. Untreated it can become sever and lead to your bodt being unable to function normally.
Cancer– this is a rare complication but those with coeliacs disease have a slightly increased risk of developing such cancers as small bowel cancer, small bowel lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. However, if you have been following your gluten free diet for 3-5 years research shows the risk reduces to the same as the general population.
Pregnancy– You should have no issues during pregnancy if you stay on your gluten free diet however, those who do not maybe at risk of pregnancy-related complications such as a low birthweight.
If you have any concerns or worries about possibly having a food allergy please contact your registered GP as soon as you can.