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What IS Coeliac Disease Anyway?

Coeliac (or celiac) disease is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the small intestine. It is caused by a reaction to gluten, resulting in an abnormal immune response. In the small bowel, this causes an inflammatory reaction and may produce shortening of the villi lining the small intestine. This affects the absorption of nutrients, frequently leading to anaemia and malabsorption, resulting in malnourishment and other autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto's disease and psoriasis, for example.


Symptoms of this disease include chronic diarrhoea, abdominal distention, loss of appetite and weight loss or failure to gain weight, fatigue, abdominal pain, cramping, bloating with abdominal distension, and mouth ulcers. As the bowel becomes more damaged, lactose intolerance may also develop, along with anaemia, iron deficiency, as well as folic acid and vitamin B12 malabsorption. Additionally, calcium and vitamin D malabsorption may cause osteoporosis.


All these deficiencies can lead to other autoimmune disorders.....


Phew!


In layman's terms, it's a disease whereby eating gluten (or in fact, ANY absorption of gluten, even through the skin) can cause severe discomfort and pain for several days. The villi are damaged in the intestine, and can only heal if the sufferer adheres to a strict gluten-free way of life. It is restricting, debilitating, painful and chronic, and there is no cure.


Diagnosis is made through blood tests or a biopsy. The sad news is that it is often misdiagnosed, and many people can suffer for a long time without being diagnosed, leading to other chronic autoimmune disorders. And even sadder still, most doctors wont assist you with a lifestyle change - this is completely necessary in controlling this disease.


I am relieved to say that I now have mine mostly under control. I will write more about my personal experience with this disease in another blog, because living with celiac is something that needs to come out of the closet.



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