What is Coeliac Disease?

What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the body’s immune system and digestive processes. Understanding its symptoms, triggers, and the impact of managing nutrition can help manage its effects on our overall health and well-being.

Coeliac Disease: An Immune Response

Coeliac disease is characterised by an abnormal immune response to gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye grains). In individuals with coeliac disease, the immune system perceives gluten as a threat. Upon consumption of gluten, the body launches an attack on the tissues in the small intestine. Over time, this leads to damage to the lining of the small intestine which impairs its ability to absorb nutrients from food effectively.


The Ramifications of Eating Gluten

The results of coeliac disease go far beyond the digestive system. Coeliac disease can cause a myriad of other health implications. As the small intestine becomes damaged from the reaction to gluten, nutrient absorption is affected, often resulting in deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies can then cause knock on effects in various ways, affecting overall health. 


Navigating the Symptoms of Coeliac Disease

Symptoms of coeliac disease can vary widely, ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to skin sensitivity. It’s important to always seek medical advice and diagnosis before trying to treat symptoms. 

Common symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and bloating. In rarer and more extreme cases, coeliac disease can present dermatological symptoms such as rashes. These typically appear on the elbows, knees, shoulders, buttocks and face, with red, raised patches often with blisters.


Gluten Contamination

For those with coeliac disease, even traces of gluten from cross-contamination can trigger a dangerous immune response. This highlights the importance of strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, as even tiny amounts of gluten can cause this response. Some sufferers of coeliac disease are also sensitive to oats, which may be produced in a factory that handles gluten.

Coeliac is not the same as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, where the body is intolerant to wheat/barley/rye products and whilst gastrointestinal symptoms may be similar, this is not dangerous and there is no lasting damage within the body. Cross-contamination does not need to be avoided in non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, also known as ‘gluten intolerance.’


Embracing a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Coeliac disease affects around 1 in 100 people, but it is estimated that around half a million people may not realise they have it and are suffering from unexplained symptoms. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for coeliac disease. The only treatment is embracing a lifelong gluten-free diet. By eliminating gluten-containing foods from their diet, individuals with coeliac disease can mitigate symptoms, promote intestinal healing, and prevent further damage to their digestive system. 



Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition, whereby the immune system responds to gluten intake by attacking the small intestine. As a condition that cannot be treated, recognising the symptoms, triggers, and implications can be key to managing the condition. Removing gluten from your diet is the only way to reduce symptoms and proactively heal the small intestine.


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