Coeliac disease is a type of condition where the body reacts to gluten. This gluten is a protein found in different foods such as cereals, bread and pasta. The lining of the small bowel gets damaged which can cause various symptoms such as – bloating, diarrhea and tummy cramps. You may need to conduct a coeliac disease blood test at any age. If you are already having it, you will have to follow a gluten-free diet for your entire life. This can prevent the symptoms in most people.
About coeliac disease
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that means the immune system of your body attacks the healthy tissue, by mistake. When you have coeliac disease, the immune system will mistake gluten for something extremely harmful. When your immune system attacks gluten, it damages your small bowel lining. The lining of the small bowel is made of small finger-like projections known as villi. In coeliac disease, the villi get damaged and flattened. This stops the small bowel fully from absorbing the nutrients present in food.
Causes of coeliac disease
The doctors do not know the exact cause of coeliac disease. It may run among 1 in 10 families who have coeliac disease or whose parents already have it. But having a relative with the coeliac disease does not mean you will suffer from it. There are higher chances of getting the coeliac disease if you have another autoimmune condition like autoimmune thyroid disease or type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of coeliac disease
Some people suffering from the coeliac disease do not show any symptoms. You may find out only when the doctor checks you due to other medical problems.
The symptoms of coeliac disease may differ widely. If you are having coeliac disease, the symptoms will include:
- diarrhea which may smell unpleasant
- tummy cramps
- excessive wind
- unexplained loss of weight
- feeling tired and fatigued all the time
- bloated tummy or abdomen
The symptoms of coeliac disease are somewhat similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So if you are having IBS, the GP may test for coeliac disease to know if this is causing your symptoms.
When you do not digest food properly, you may not have sufficient vitamins and minerals. This can cause certain conditions such as osteoporosis and anemia. Children having coeliac disease might really find it difficult to gain proper weight. They may grow slower than other children and seem to be more irritable than usual. Having these symptoms does not mean in any way that you have coeliac disease. But it is always a good decision to get yourself checked by the doctor,
How to diagnose coeliac disease
The diagnosis of the coeliac disease involves:
- conducting a blood test to know if you are having the condition
- performing a biopsy of your small intestine to find out whether or not you have it
On visiting the GP, he will ask about the symptoms you are facing and the medical record of your family. The GP will ask to conduct a blood test for celiac disease when you have it. This can detect certain antibodies that might be there in people who already have coeliac disease.
If the test results show you are having these antibodies, the GP will refer you to a gastroenterologist. He is the one who specializes in identifying as well as treating conditions that can affect your digestive system. In case the blood test is negative but you still have the symptoms, your GP may still refer you.
The gastroenterologist will suggest performing a test known as an intestinal biopsy. Your doctor uses a flexible and tube-like telescopic camera called an endoscope and passes it through your mouth down to the stomach and to your small bowel. He will then take a small sample or biopsy of the lining of your bowel.
The sample will then be sent to the laboratory for finding any damage to your bowel. The doctor explains the entire procedure to you and discusses suitable ways to make it comfortable.
Vital information about testing and eating gluten
It is extremely important to continue eating gluten when you need to conduct these tests. If you have switched to a diet that is gluten-free, the tests may be normal even if you are having coeliac disease. Try to take some gluten in more than one meal daily for at least six weeks before doing the tests.
Treatment of coeliac disease
The only treatment for coeliac disease is to maintain and follow a strict gluten-free diet for your life. You may find that your symptoms improve within one or two weeks when you decide to cut out gluten fully. The doctor will refer you to a dietician who provides lots of support and practical help to deal with your condition.
Gluten is found in different food items made with barley, rye, or wheat. So, the products such as – cakes, bread, pasta, pastry, biscuits and pizza bases all have gluten in them. Gluten is also there in several foods where you may not expect it such as – breakfast cereals and processed foods like soups, sauces and sausages. Also, most beers have gluten in them and oats may be contaminated with gluten. Hence, you should take care when eating oats.
It is necessary on your part to read through the labels on different food items. The label on the foods denotes if there is gluten in them. The foods which have been labeled as ‘gluten-free’, ‘very low gluten’ or which have Crossed Grain Symbol are considered to be safe for most people who have coeliac disease. You will become more familiar with what you can eat and what you cannot eat by checking the labels on the foods. You will get gluten-free bread, pasta and biscuits in the health food shops.
If you eat out and the menu does not say if or not the food has gluten, then you may ask about it. It is always safe not to eat something you are not sure about. Many people find it difficult to stick to a gluten-free diet but it is very important for your health. Thus, nine out of ten people having this disease who stick to this type of diet find the symptoms go away quickly. If you have coeliac disease, the dietician may advise you to include some vitamin and mineral supplements in your diet.
Eat gluten by mistake
It may be very difficult to stick to a gluten-free diet and mistakes can happen, especially when you have just started following it. When you eat gluten, it is possible to get some symptoms within a few hours after you eat. These may last for a few hours to several days. But everyone with this disease is different and you may find you do not get any symptoms at all. If you make any mistake, it is unlikely to get lasting damage to your bowel. But you need to always check what you are eating when following a strict gluten-free diet.
Perform routine health checks
Coeliac disease is a permanent condition and so, you need to go for routine check-ups for your health condition. Like other places, celiac tests in London are usually done once a year, as suggested by your doctor.
During the check-up, they will ask about any symptoms you have and how you are following your gluten-free diet. Both children and teenagers may need to measure their height and know whether or not they are growing properly. You may need to conduct some blood tests to check your health condition and find out whether your body is absorbing sufficient nutrients.
Due to the possible risks of osteoporosis, your GP may suggest performing a dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan, from time to time. This may help to know the density of your bones. Having coeliac disease may mean you are less able to fight against these infections. The GP will suggest taking the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine every year to protect yourself against some types of pneumonia. If he asks you to take other vaccinations, he will explain the reason why you need to take them.
Complications with coeliac disease
Coeliac disease can cause several possible health problems. But you may lessen the chances of developing these complications by following a gluten-free diet.
Certain complications of coeliac disease are:
- Illness due to improper nutrients which include iron deficiency, other minerals or vitamins
- Less growth and delay in puberty among children
- Osteoporosis, where the bones are weak and may probably break
- Increased risk of developing certain cancers of the digestive tract and some types of lymphoma
- Decrease the rate of fertility in men and women
- Skin concern is known as dermatitis herpetiformis where itchy blisters occur on the skin
Thus, you need to ask your doctor about the cost of a private coeliac test in UK at the time of conducting it to know your present health condition