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What is Coeliac Disease?

Words by Abi Scaife

What is Coeliac Disease?

Let’s get it out of the way first of all - it’s pronounced ‘see-liac’ - hope that helps!

Anyway, if you’ve been wondering about coeliac disease for a while, well, you’re not alone. While gluten has become a bit of a buzzword on social media, coeliac disease is a little more complex than a simple intolerance.

In honour of Coeliac Awareness Month, we, including your resident gluten intolerant journalist, are hoping to explain a little bit about coeliac disease, how it works, and what you can do to make your coeliac friends’ lives a little easier.

What is coeliac disease?

A staggering 1 in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, yet so many people don’t understand how it works.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition - meaning that the immune system is overactive, causing it to attack one’s own body. Other autoimmune conditions include Crohn’s disease and Hashimotos Thyroiditis. 

In coeliac disease, it is a reaction to gluten that causes the autoimmune response, resulting in a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, as the immune system responds by damaging the small intestine.

According to Coeliac UK’s website: “In a healthy small intestine, there are small, finger like projections (villi) that allow the body to absorb nutrients from food into the blood. If you have coeliac disease, these villi become flat and you have difficulty absorbing nutrients.”

Symptoms of coeliac disease.

If you think you, or someone you know, might be suffering with coeliac disease, here are just some of the symptoms that you might see. It’s important to reconise that coeliac disease manifests differently with everyone, and you might see different combinations in different people.

According to Coeliac UK: 

  • severe or occasional diarrhoea, excessive wind and/or constipation 
  • persistent or unexplained nausea and vomiting 
  • recurrent stomach pain, cramping or bloating 
  • any combination of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency 
  • anaemia 
  • tiredness 
  • sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases) 
  • mouth ulcers 
  • skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis) 
  • tooth enamel problems 
  • liver abnormalities 

What can be done.

There isn’t exactly a way to reverse coeliac disease; but there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate its effects.

The first, is going to a gluten free diet. There are lots of reasons someone might opt for a gluten free diet outside of coeliac disease and, great news, gluten free food has come a long way in the last few years!

There’s a gluten free substitute for most things, now; the trick is learning about foods like rice and cornflour that are naturally gluten free, and can be substituted for gluten containing ingredients.

If you have a friend with coeliac disease, you can help them by researching what foods and snacks are gluten free and safe to eat when you’re hanging out together. Coeliac UK has a whole host of resources about that, and even accredits restaurants that fit their coeliac friendly standards!

To learn more about coeliac disease, and how Coeliac UK is helping to support those who are struggling with the condition, you can visit the Coeliac UK website here.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.   

The InDependent Diabetes Trust. IDDT is a charity for people living with diabetes. We raise awareness of issues for people with diabetes and provide information in non-medical language. Support them.

Grow to Give. This charity connects local farmers and hobby growers to donate surplus fresh produce to food banks. Find out how to support them here.

The Felix Project. They collect fresh, nutritious food that cannot be sold and delivers this surplus food to charities and schools. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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