Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is a dietary disorder which affects the small intestine – the part of the digestive system responsible for absorbing nutrients. In a person with coeliac disease, the lining of the small intestine is damaged by gluten, which is a protein in wheat, rye, barley, triticale (a hybrid of rye and wheat) and oats. It also causes inflammation in other parts of the body.

Malnutrition, bloating, diarrhoea, osteoporosis, depression, infertility and a small increased risk of certain forms of cancer, such as lymphoma of the small bowel, are just some of the problems that can develop if coeliac disease is left untreated.

 The condition occurs in people sensitive to gluten. In children it may arise within a few months of consuming gluten containing solids, e.g. cereals and rusks. It may also only manifest later in adulthood.  

If Coeliac disease is diagnosed, the patient is to abstain from anything containing gluten. Extra vitamin and mineral supplements may be required at that stage. Thepatient’s health should improve within a few weeks of going gluten free.

Obvious foods that contain gluten include:
  • bread
  • breakfast cereals
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • pizza
  • pasta
  • foods crumbed or battered with wheaten breadcrumbs or batter
  • pastry
Sometimes the gluten content is not so obvious, e.g. flour based binders, fillers with modified starch, lemon barley water, malted milk drinks, etc. The patient needs to look out for and educate himself about gluten-free foods. Consult a dietician if necessary.

To replace harmful foods, eat plenty of potatoes, pulses, rice, corn and nuts. Use corn flour, rice flour, soya flour or chestnut flour to thicken sauces. Oats can be consumed if limited to 50g per day.
Balance the diet with fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese, poultry and fish.