Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes damage to your small intestine, which is the body part that absorbs the most nutrients.
As a consequence, nutritional deficiencies such as osteoporosis and anaemia can arise.
Those with coeliac disease actually have a type of allergy to gluten, a protein found in everyday grain foods like rye, wheat, oats and barley.
Because of this, it is best for those with the disease to avoid eating a number of staple foods like pasta, biscuits, cereal, bread and cakes.
So what happens when someone with coeliac disease eats gluten?
An autoimmune process is triggered whereby the immune system actually causes damage to the small intestine lining. With time, the cumulative result is a blunting of ‘villi’ in the small intestine – small projections that are needed for absorbing nutrients.
In developed cases an endoscopy or gastroscopy will be able to reveal the damage of ceoliac disease by seeing a change in appearance of the small intestine.
The symptoms of ceoliac disease tend to vary from case to case and it can sometimes be difficult for doctors to identify the condition.
It used to be the case that children were predominantly diagnosed with coeliac disease but now more adults are being diagnosed too.
If there is a family history of the disease, bloating and flatulence, tiredness and irritability, weight loss, abdominal pain or signs of anaemia then a person should be screened for the disease.
A blood test will be able to confirm a diagnosis.
There is only one treatment for ceoliac disease, and that is to begin and sustain a gluten-free diet.
The best way to go about arranging this diet is to consult a qualified dietician and, in conjunction with your doctor, arrange an eating plan.
You will need to gain an understanding of which food groups contain gluten and which do not, so that you can be prepared to eat alternative foods whenever necessary.
Fortunately, sustaining such a diet has become much easier recently than in the past. Most supermarkets will stock a range of gluten-free products, and organic food shops will sometimes have the things that the supermarkets lack.
Eating out can be particularly difficult for sufferers of coeliac disease, and for this reason planning is of critical importance.
If you are going to a restaurant and are unsure of the fare, ring ahead and ask about gluten-free options.