What Is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac Disease (pronounced see-lee-yak) is an autoimmune disease which causes some adults and children to react adversely to gluten in food. Gluten is the protein in wheat, barley and rye. These grains are common ingredients in foods such as bread, cakes, pasta, beer, pizza and other manufactured foods.
About Coeliac Disease
Gluten can sometimes be contained within ingredients of foods, e.g. soups, sauces, gravy, crisps, chocolate, sweets and ready-meals. In these cases, it can be hard to tell if the food is safe to eat for coeliacs.
If a person with coeliac disease eats gluten, their intestine becomes damaged. This reduces their ability to absorb nutrients from food. This can lead to various symptoms and complications, if undiagnosed.
Some people with coeliac disease are also sensitive to the protein found in oats. Even a grain of gluten can cause harm such as diarrhoea, or other symptoms which can last for several days. To help our members choose gluten-free foods safely, the Coeliac Society of Ireland produce an annual food list of items that are verified as 100% gluten-free.
Do You Think You Have Coeliac Disease?
Arrange a consultation with our in-house dietitian.
The gluten-free diet means avoiding foods that contain wheat, barley, rye and oats. There’s plenty of information available to help you to choose food successfully.
- The Food List – All the food you can eat in one easy booklet.
- Ingredients – Learn which ingredients are gluten-free and which are not.
- Food Labelling – Understand the rules on labelling.
- Non-Edible Items – Discover if gluten is used in tea bags, envelopes, stamps and cosmetics.
- Shopping – Find out where to shop and read some shopping tips.
Last but not least when dealing with foods there are three golden rules:
- Always check the Food List
- Always read the label
- If in doubt, leave it out.
Causes Of Coeliac Disease
There is clear evidence of a genetic component to coeliac disease. As well as the genetic component, coeliac disease only occurs if it is triggered. These factors lead to coeliac disease in 1 in 100 people, but many cases go undiagnosed.
A clear link exists between coeliac disease and certain tissue types, e.g. HLA DQ2. This means coeliac disease runs in families. HLA markers are found on white blood cells (an important part of the immune system) and have similarities to other markers found on red blood cells which are used to distinguish between blood groups. So far research has not identified a specific gene responsible for susceptibility to coeliac disease.
If coeliac disease exists in a family there’s about a one in ten chance for other members the family to develop coeliac disease. It’s important that all family members get tested even if they have no symptoms. It is possible to have coeliac disease without symptoms and it is damaging to your health if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. Other family members should not go on to a gluten-free diet without a proper diagnosis.
Several types of event have been implicated with the onset of coeliac disease:
- viral infections
- introduction of gluten during weaning (too much or too early).
The scientific community does not yet fully understand the processes that lead to coeliac disease.
It is felt that in most Caucasian populations the prevalence is nearer 1 in 100.
Many cases of coeliac disease go undiagnosed.