Coeliac (or celiac) disease is a lifelong autoimmune disorder of the small intestine and is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye). According to coeliac UK, 1 in 100 people have the condition. Symptoms can include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, sudden or unexpected weight loss hair loss and anaemia.
Upon exposure to gliadin, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the small-bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction (thank you Wikipedia). This interferes with the absorption of nutrients because the intestinal villi are responsible for absorption.
Once you are diagnosed, it is advised that you stick to your gluten free diet for life.
Coeliac disease can run in families but none of my family appear to have coeliac disease. Clearly my body just couldn’t take any more helpings of moussaka! (the pasta bit, not the meat).
A lot of people confuse IBS with coeliac disease as the symptoms can be quite similar. If you do have symptoms like I did, go see a doctor. To find out more about my ongoing coeliac journey and the regular tests I have, pop over to My Coeliac Journey.
As a coeliac I have regular testing each year. I see a nutrionist at the hospital once a year to check all is well. I am asked about my food intake and my seven day food diary gets a thorough check. I am then asked about my bowel movements (yikes!) and shown a chart of various bowel shapes in which I have to point to the picture that is most similar to my own (yes this can be a bit embarrassing but you get used to it!). My weight gets checked and I have a blood test prior to the hospital appointment to make sure that I am getting all the nutrients I need from my gluten free diet.
Due to the body being starved of vitamins and minerals from the diet, bones will become weaker raising the risk of osteoporosis. I had a DEXA scan which proved this, and I take a daily vitamin D supplement to help my poor bones grow stronger. My back still clicks quite a lot but I have put it to good use and now perform the ‘Back Clicking Party Routine’ whenever I’m out.
When I first became diagnosed with coeliac disease, I had to continue to eat gluten for the test. My anti TTG (Anti-tissue Transglutaminase Antibody level) was incredibly high showing the level of more than 200!
The IgA (TTG) is usually the first choice test for us in the UK. When you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease and have been on a gluten-free diet for a period of time, autoantibody concentrations should decrease. Over the years my levels have decreased dramatically. In 2013, a year after following my strict gluten free diet, my IgA showed 81, in 2014 my IgA showed 29 and in June 2015 my IgA shot down to 10 and was even lower in 2016.
Phew! This shows that my gluten free diet is working and should continue to fall to around the level of 1 or 2.
For more information on coeliac testing, check out this useful site:
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