Coeliac disease, which is also known as celiac disease, is an autoimmune disorder. It affects the small intestine of who are genetically disposed to the disease. In some parts of the world, it is known by other names including celiac spruce, endemic spruce, gluten enteropathy, celiac spruce and endemic spruce.
It is usually caused by gluten intolerance. That is to say an inability to digest gliadin, which is a gluten protein.
This protein is found in the grains produced by the Triticeae grasses, which includes wheat, barley and rye.
The main symptoms of coeliac disease are as follows:
Cramp and general digestive discomfort
How the symptoms of celiac disease manifest themselves
Some people experience all of these symptoms. However, most people only have one or two of the symptoms to start with. The problem is that many of these symptoms are typical of a range of other diseases. This fact and a lack of awareness of the disease means that many people are not diagnosed at an early stage.
Given that this is a progressive disease that gets worse the longer it is untreated late diagnosis means that be the time most people are diagnosed with celiac they are quite ill. Often it takes symptoms like extreme fatigue or anemia to develop before the disease is considered and a diagnosis is made. Fortunately, awareness among the medical profession and the general populace is on the rise, so early diagnosis is taking place more often.
One of the reasons I decided to write this article was to raise awareness of the disease among my readers. My reasoning is that the more people are aware of the disease and understand the symptoms the more likely it is that they will go to the doctors early and get a proper diagnosis.
The allergic mechanism
When someone who is allergic to gluten or intolerant of the substance eats a food containing the prolamine gliadin their body’s immune system is over-stimulated. This is because the body’s immune system sees the gluten as potentially dangerous, so it produces antibodies to fight off the danger.
Wikipedia explains the exact mechanism very well. Here is what the site’s article on celiac says about what happens when someone who is wheat or gluten intolerant eats that substance:
“Upon exposure to gliadin, and specifically to three peptides found in prolamins, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the small bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction.”
This reaction causes villus atrophy, which damages the villi lining of the small intestine. In time, the damage caused leads to the body being unable to absorb nutrients properly, which is why vitamin and mineral deficiencies are often found in those who suffer from the coeliac spruce.
Screening for Coeliac
It is estimated that one in every 170 people have the disease. In some countries one in every 40 people has the disease, in others, the rate is as low as 1 in every 300.
Fortunately, it is now possible to screen for the disease. Given the fact the disease can be prevented simply by eating a gluten-free diet many countries are encouraging people to be screened, so they can take the necessary steps to stay healthy.
Given that gluten allergies are so widespread I cover the subject in more detail elsewhere on the site and am adding new information about gluten enteropathy on a monthly basis. You will find articles about the disease under the diagnosis/testing tab, as well as the food intolerance tab. In addition, there are gluten free recipe books and food products available in the shop section. You can also find out the basics of living gluten free by reading my short, but comprehensive article on the subject. All you need to do is to click the link.