Coeliac disease is a relatively common autoimmune disease in which the sufferer is intolerant to gluten. In the past, the disease was believed to be quite rare. However, coeliac disease is now thought to affect 1 in 100 people in the UK.
Coeliac disease has a wide range of symptoms, including bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and malnutrition. People with the condition will each experience symptoms differently and to a different severity. Because of this, diagnosis of the disease can be difficult.
On average, it currently takes 13 years for a person to get diagnosed from the first experience of symptoms. It is estimated that 25% of those living with coeliac disease were previously misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Visit Coeliac UK for more information on coeliac disease awareness and the diagnosis process.
There is currently no known cure for coeliac disease. Treatment involves managing your diet and excluding any foods that contain gluten. While this may sound daunting, gluten-free produce is more available than ever before and contacting a nutritionist to help devise a nutrition plan can make managing the condition easier.
A nutritionist will try to help identify which foods are safe to eat and which are best avoided. A nutrition professional may also provide you with helpful information, including gluten-free recipes, which foods can be an alternative to gluten products and how to plan meals when eating out.
Because gluten is not an essential component of the human diet, it can be replaced with other foods. Meat, vegetables and rice are all gluten-free and will not cause any problems, but foods containing or derived from barley, rye and wheat should be avoided.
Unless they are labelled gluten-free, the following foods often contain gluten, so be sure to read the labels:
- beers, lagers and ales
- barley water drinks (for example, fruit and barley squash)
- cakes, pastries, biscuits
Managing your diet and learning which foods are best avoided will be a learning curve and can be difficult to adjust to. It will take time and you may make small mistakes along the way. Contacting a nutritionist can be the helping hand you need to adjust to this new diet and managing the symptoms associated with coeliac disease.