Most people don’t know the words Coeliac Disease.
When I was diagnosed back in 1998, not even my doctor had heard of it.
Coeliac Disease is an auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease causes the body to attack and damage its own tissue. In a response to a trigger the immune system will begin to produce antibodies that attack the body’s own tissue; in cases of coeliac disease these triggers are the proteins found in wheat, barley, oats and rye. The consumption of gluten causes an inappropriate immune reaction in which it can cause inflammation and damage to the small intestine, specifically the villi which are broken down and lost. The villi absorb nutrients into the bloodstream and which them malnutrition can ensue regardless of teh quantity of food consumed.
Due to this damage caused by the bodys’ own immune system; coeliac disease is also considered a disease of malabsorption.
In Australia coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 people, with an estimated 75% remaining undiagnosed. However those who have the genetic markers for coeliac disease may not show intial symptoms; the disease can be triggered or become active after surgery, stress, pregnancy, childbirth or viral infections.
Coeliac Disease is the most under-diagnosed chronic disease due to the difficulty in a diagnosis. These difficulties are due to the fact that symptoms which can be many and varied are similar to those of other diseases, like IBS, Crohn’s disease and many other issues.
An endoscopy and biopsy of the small intestine is required in order to diagnose coeliac disease. The lining will show shrinking of the villi and inflammation of the mucosal tissue. Coeliac disease can be suggested through blood tests. Abnormalities in the blood can be used to screen coeliac disease especially in relatives of a person with coeliac disease.
The only treatment for coeliac disease is to follow a strict gluten free diet. Health improves drastically once a gluten free diet is in place, however a coeliac must always be wary of accidental glutenening and cross contamination.
For more information on coeliac disease, visit the Coeliac Australia Website