Also sometimes known as non-tropical sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, Coeliac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.
Coeliac sufferers cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, found in cereals such as oats, wheat, barley, rye and spelt. The body responds to the gluten as if it was a foreign invader and launches an immune response. This damages the small intestine, causing its delicate lining to swell and impairing the body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients. This malabsorption can become a serious problem.
Coeliac disease is a genetic disease, meaning it runs in families. It can be triggered or become active for the first time after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress.
Coeliac disease affects people differently. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body.
Sometimes Coeliac disease presents without any symptoms whatsoever, but since all sufferers are at risk from complications including malnutrition, early identification is key. Those who do experience symptoms may suffer from one or more of the following:
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool
- Weight loss/weight gain
- Unexplained anaemia
- Bone or joint pain
- Behavioural changes
- Tingling or numbness in the legs
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Delayed childhood growth or failure to thrive
- Pale sores inside the mouth
- Tooth discolouration or loss of enamel
- Itchy skin rash
Testing for Coeliac disease
The body’s immune system reacts to the gluten by producing special substances called antibodies. Identifying high levels of various gluten-associated antibodies is an important first step in the diagnosis and correction of coeliac disease. This can be done via a Coeliac Test.
Diet: once diagnosed, a completely gluten free diet is indicated – all foods containing gluten must be excluded. This can be a daunting task as there are many sources of hidden gluten such as soy sauce and flavourings. Gluten can also even be present in some of the products we use every day, such as stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines and vitamins.
A Smart Nutrition Consultation can make the transition to a gluten free diet a much less stressful experience! We can advise you on products to avoid as well as introduce you to a whole range of healthy alternatives and exciting new recipes to ensure your diet remains balanced.
Correcting nutritional deficiencies: the majority of nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine. Since Coeliac disease damages this delicate absorption surface, sufferers are very prone to developing nutrient deficiencies.
A comprehensive nutrient check can highlight vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Smart Nutrition can then design a specific diet and supplement programme for you to rebalance nutrient levels and optimise longterm health.
Digestive health: Coeliac disease can be greatly aggravated by the presence of improperly digested food in the gut or imbalances in the levels of friendly bacteria. Restoring digestive health is an important step in overall treatment and in helping the lining of the small intestine to recover.
Changes in friendly bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Test.
Leaky gut: a normal healthy gut lining allows certain molecules to pass across into the bloodstream such as vitamins, minerals and digested foods. It also acts as a barrier to prevent entry of larger damaging molecules, foreign particles and bacteria.
A damaged intestinal lining such as in Coeliac disease can allow larger particles, such as undigested or partially digested foods and bacteria, to enter the bloodstream where they are attacked by the immune system. This leads to further inflammation, irritation and sensitivity reactions.
Lactose intolerance: lactose is a sugar which is found in milk products. In a healthy gut, lactose is broken down by enzymes made in the cells of the small intestine. A damaged small intestinal wall can impair the production of lactose-digesting enzymes, resulting in lactose intolerance. Undigested lactose remains in the digestive system, fermenting and producing gas, which often leads to other digestive symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. Since lactose intolerance symptoms mirror those of Coeliac disease, testing is vital to uncover the root cause. This can be done using a breath test.
Osteoporosis: rates of osteoporosis are higher in sufferers of Coeliac disease, thought to be due to malabsorption of key bone nutrients. This risk is increased for people who have a family history of the disease, eat a poor diet, lead a sedentary lifestyle, are underweight or chronically stressed or have a history of hormonal problems.
Changes in bone density can be identified using the Osteoporosis Risk Profile. A simple urine test measures the excretion of substances produced during the breakdown of bone. Because bone loss is often asymptomatic until a large percentage of bone matter has been lost, early identification is critical.
Thyroid health: Coeliac disease sometimes includes an immune reaction that causes the body to attack its own thyroid gland. Compromised thyroid function can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Because the thyroid gland controls the body’s metabolism, it has a huge influence on how energised we feel. Hypothyroidism slows down many of the body’s processes. This can result in constipation, cold hands and feet, weight gain and depression.
If you think hypothyroidism may be a factor in your symptom picture, a Thyroid Test can measure your levels. Smart Nutrition can use the results to design a personalised protocol to boost thyroid functioning as well as treating Coeliac disease.