When a person has Coeliac disease, they are suffering from an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue within the intestine (by mistake).
The body’s immune system reads foods containing gluten as a threat to the body, and attacks the proteins (gluten) to get rid of them. As a result, the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and prevents the person from properly absorbing nutrients from their food.
Coeliac disease is caused by both a person’s genes and/or their environment. It should not be confused with an intolerance or allergy to gluten.
Unfortunately, there is currently no effective cure for Coeliac disease. Switching to a gluten-free diet is however an effective way to deal with the uncomfortable symptoms. It should also help to prevent any long-term complications that can occur.
Continuing to eat gluten with Coeliac disease can aggravate the condition and seriously damage the bowel. Thankfully, there is more awareness of Coeliac disease in the present day, with a wide range of gluten-free foods available for sufferers. People who choose to continue eating gluten can suffer the following long-term health complications as a result:
- Weak bones and osteoporosis
- Anaemia and general weakness
- Iron deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Problems getting pregnant (in women)
- Low weight babies (when giving birth)
- Bowel cancer