Storage proteins in wheat are collectively referred to as gluten, but gluten is actually an aggregate formed from two major types of protein: gliadin and glutenin. In coeliac disease the immune system builds antibodies against these proteins, causing damage to the villi, which cover the surface of the intestine. Villi increase the surface area of your intestine and help it to digest food more effectively. Subsequently, the intestine is no longer able to absorb nutrients from food, and in the long term this can cause malnutrition. The most common sign of coeliac disease in adults is iron deficiency anaemia. This is due to long term decreased iron absorption which is common with untreated coeliac disease due to damage in the small intestine where iron, folate and vitamin B12 are absorbed (Thompson, Dennis, Higgins, Lee, & Sharrett, 2005). Studies show in newly diagnosed coeliac patients that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are highly prevalent (Wierdsma, van Bokhorst-de van der Schuereu, Berkenpas, Mulder, C, & van Bodegraven, 2013).
“Coeliac disease is the only autoimmune disorder where the trigger is known.” (UCCDC, 2013). Currently the only treatment for coeliac disease involves giving up all sources of gluten for life because eating foods that contain gluten will cause the symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue to return as well as cause long term damage to health (Comino, Moreno, Real, Rodriguez-Herrera, Barro & Sousa, 2013).
Although conceptually simple, the diet changes are significant which can have a profound effect on a person’s life. Research has shown that when diagnosed early with coeliac disease intestinal healing increases progressively although not always completely (Lanzini, Lanzarotto, Villanicci, Mora, Bertolazzi, Turini, Carella, Malagoli, Ferrantes, Cesana, & Ricci, 2009).
Being diagnosed with coeliac disease and following a gluten free diet does not mean a person will be deprived of delicious and nutritionally complete food. However it takes time and practice to feel confident in the knowledge of what foods are safe to eat.
If you have recently been diagnosed with Coeliac disease, or even if you have been living with it for years I can guide and support you on your gluten-free journey.
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