The ability to eat food we want freely is certainly a blessing in disguise. To those with diseases that caused a person to not eat certain food due to the bad effect that could be harmful for them is an unfortunate scene. There are many diseases that could lead to such conditions but one of them is coeliac disease. This medical condition will be further discussed in this DoctorOnCall’s article.

Coeliac disease is a disease damaging the lining of the small intestine due to the consumption of gluten. People without coeliac disease would be able to eat food containing gluten such as food made with wheat, barley and rye without any problem as this is totally normal and the body is able to process the gluten. This is in contrast with those with coeliac disease as the body immune system attacks its own tissue (in another word, an autoimmune disorder) when eating these gluten products. Apart from the inability to eat gluten, damage from this abnormal body response causes a person unable to get enough nutrients as the small intestines that should be absorbing nutrients have been ruined.

Coeliac disease can affect everyone at any age and gender. This disease is likely to be inherited as a gene associated with coeliac disease which is the HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 is often passed down. Other conditions that have been linked to cause coeliac disease is if a person already has a gastrointestinal infection before. Chronic disease such as type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, Down syndrome or epilepsy has been said to have high risk for developing coeliac disease. A person can develop coeliac disease at any stage of life starting from baby to adults.

The most common symptom of coeliac disease is diarrhoea. This is due to the inability of the body to fully absorb nutrients as the lining of the small intestine has been disrupted.  In turn, this leads to malabsorption which then leads to abnormal stool texture. Stool would often seem somehow greasy, smelling really bad and frothy, this is also known as steatorrhea. Other symptoms include indigestion, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and nausea or vomiting. Symptoms of coeliac disease often mimic other gut problem issues and a person should seek medical advice if such symptoms persist for quite a while. Getting a proper check-up and diagnosis would help the person to get immediate treatment.

Since people with coeliac disease will always remain sensitive to gluten in their whole life, it seems impossible to cure this disease. Treatment is usually focused on improving the symptoms and allowing the intestines to heal. Gluten-free diet has been the mainstay treatment. This is done by eliminating food or meals containing gluten. A healthcare professional will explain what exactly is the gluten-free diet and may refer to a dietitian so that the dietitian can give a clearer picture of the diet and help recommend or plan the gluten-free diet.

Beside practising a gluten-free diet, a person with coeliac disease should always check food products and labels for gluten before buying and consumption. Choosing gluten-free products is the best way to go and making sure the food is not contaminated by any form of gluten. You can always ask the food company directly if the food labels do not seem clear or ask for further explanations. Always pay close attention to hidden sources of gluten in food products such as additives made with wheat such as modified food starch, preservatives and stabilisers.

It is vital for those with coeliac disease to receive treatment and to follow healthcare professional advice. This can prevent one from falling into disastrous complications such as deficiency of vitamin and minerals due to malabsorption, osteoporosis, anaemia and even risk for cancers.