In the condition coeliac disease, the body will react to part of a protein found in gluten called gliadin. Gluten is found in foods like cereals, pasta and bread. When a person has coeliac disease their reaction to gluten will damage the lining of their small bowel. It is not always easy to diagnose coeliac disease because the symptoms can be varied. People can contract this condition at any age and there will be many people who have had it for many years without even realising. In the UK, coeliac disease is seen in around one in 100 people and if you’re diagnosed with coeliac disease then you will need to follow a gluten free diet for life. Following a gluten free diet will stop symptoms being problematic for most coeliac sufferers
Having coeliac disease is not the same as being allergic or sensitive to certain foods. Coeliac is an autoimmune condition and will result in your body’s immune system mistakenly attacking its own healthy tissue. In the case of coeliac disease your immune system will mistake gluten that is found in food with rye, barley or wheat in it, for something that is harmful.
When your immune system launches an attack on gluten, it will damage the lining of your small bow or intestine. Within your small bowel are villi which are small digit-like projections. If you do suffer from coeliac disease and you eat food that has gluten in it, these villi will be flattened and permanently damaged. This in turn will decrease the surface area available in the gut lining and stop the small bowel from absorbing essential nutrients within your food.
Medical professionals are not sure exactly what causes coeliac disease. It could be that there is a familial link, it has been found in studies that as many as one in 10 people suffering from coeliac disease have a close relative – parent, brother or sister who also suffers from coeliac disease. If you do have someone in your immediate family suffering from coeliac disease and you feel you have symptoms you can be tested to see if you also have the disease, but it should be noted that just because a relative is a coeliac does not mean that you will get this condition too.
Some other factors have been thought to have a possible link to coeliac disease include having suffered from an infection of the digestive system in the past or suffering from another disease of the immune system, such as type one diabetes.
Part of the reason that coeliac disease is hard to diagnose is because symptoms can vary between patients. Some of the symptoms experienced will be because of damage to the bowel while others arise because nutrients are not being absorbed properly. It is also possible to have no symptoms at all and some people only discover they have coeliac disease when they’re tested for something else.
Some of the most common symptoms may include:
If your food is not being absorbed correctly you will soon start to have problems because you are not taking in enough minerals and vitamins. This can lead to symptoms of osteoporosis and anaemia as an example.
When young children have coeliac disease the first thing noticed may be that they are not gaining weight well and are growing more slowly. There may also appear to be more irritable.
Even if you have the symptoms mentioned here, that will not mean that you are suffering from coeliac disease. If your child, or you yourself have any of the symptoms however, it is best to speak to your doctor.
The symptoms from coeliac disease are very similar to the symptoms experienced in irritable bowel syndrome which is another reason why the condition can be tricky to diagnose. It is possible that you might have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome before you were diagnosed with coeliac disease. It is also quite likely that if the doctor diagnoses you with irritable bowel syndrome he or she may also want to test you for coeliac disease.
Select the test that you would like to undergo
Go to the Harley Street clinic for your blood draw and pay for your test in person
As soon as the results are ready, the will be sent to you by your chosen method