Coeliac disease is a common disease of the digestive tract affecting at least 1 person in 100. It occurs in family groups and has a strong ability to be inherited.
It is caused by an abnormal reaction by your immune system to the protein gluten. Gluten is found in many grains such as wheat, barley, oats and rye. These are used to make breads, pastas and cereals. Hidden sources of gluten include many of the food additives such as starch, preservatives and stabilisers as well as some vitamins, medications and lip balms.
Someone with coeliac disease produces antibodies to gluten, which then cause inflammation in the digestive tract or gut. This damages the gut lining flattening the usual projections (villi or finger like in shape) involved in absorption of food and nutrients.
If undiagnosed, coeliac disease can cause ill health including osteoporosis, anaemia, infertility, miscarriages, depression, dental damage and some cancers (oesophageal and bowel).
The symptoms of coeliac disease can include: diarrhea or constipation, tiredness or lack of energy, weight loss, abdominal cramping or bloating, nausea and vomiting.
The diagnosis is made by a blood test and a bowel biopsy. People having these tests need to keep eating gluten foods until tests are complete.
The treatment is a gluten free diet, lifelong and with no exceptions.
Coeliac New Zealand is a support group for people with coeliac disease.
Please contact your local Doctor or Nurse if you think you may have coeliac disease.