Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an immune disorder in which genetically pre-disposed individuals cannot tolerate gluten because it damages the inner lining of their small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients. This is where the immune system – the body's defence against infection – mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and occasionally in some products such as vitamin and nutrient supplements, lip balms, and certain medications. Gluten is found in any food that contains the above cereals, including:

  • pasta
  • cakes
  • breakfast cereals
  • most types of bread
  • certain types of sauces
  • some types of ready meals
  • most beers are made from barley.

Coeliac disease is a common condition that affects approximately 1 in every 100 people in the UK. However, some experts think this may be an underestimate because milder cases may go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed as other digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).



In 2009, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued guidance on the recognition and assessment of coeliac disease. The guidance recommended testing for adults or children with the following signs or symptoms:

  • long-term diarrhoea or repeated and regular episodes of diarrhoea
  • persistent or unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as feeling sick and being sick
  • feeling tired all the time
  • recurring abdominal pain
  • cramping or bloating
  • sudden or unexplained weight loss
  • unexplained anaemia  
  • failure to thrive in infants and toddlers

Testing is also recommended if you have a close relative (parent, sibling or child) with coeliac disease or if you have the following conditions:

  • type 1 diabetes 
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid glands
  • dermatitis herpetiformis (a skin condition that causes blistering)

In some circumstances, testing may also be recommended if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Addison's disease – a condition where the immune system attacks certain glands in the body
  • Down's syndrome – a genetic condition that causes abnormal physical and mental development
  • epilepsy
  • lymphoma – a type of cancer
  • bone diseases, such as rickets – a condition that causes softening and weakening of the bones
  • persistent or unexplained constipation
  • repeated miscarriages
  • Sjogren's syndrome – a condition where the immune system attacks the tear and saliva glands
  • Turner syndrome – a genetic condition that only affects women and causes infertility and delayed growth
  • unexplained infertility


  • Blood tests – A blood test can show the presence of antibodies that are common in celiac disease. You should not be avoiding gluten in your diet when the blood test is done as this could lead to an inaccurate result.
  • Biopsy – to confirm the diagnosis 


There is no cure for coeliac disease but most people with coeliac disease have as significant improvement in symptoms when they follow a gluten free diet.


Resources on the web

Coeliac UK: Coeliac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten. 1 in 100 people have the condition. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, sudden or unexpected weight loss (but not in all cases), hair loss and anaemia. Click here to read

NHS UK: Coeliac disease is a common digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten. Eating foods containing gluten can trigger a range of symptoms, Click hereto read more

Mayo Clinic: Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Click hereto read more....

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