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What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease (pronounced see-lee-ack) is a lifelong autoimmune condition which is triggered by an intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

If you have coeliac disease and eat gluten, damage is caused to the lining of your gut, specifically the villi (the small finger-like projections that line your small intestine). The villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. When the villi are damaged, your body cannot absorb all the nutrients that it needs. 

Healthy villi viewed under a microscope Damaged villi viewed under a microscope
Healthy villi viewed under a microscope Damaged villi viewed under a microscope

According to Coeliac UK, coeliac disease affects 1 in 100 people in the UK, with research suggesting around 500,000 people (in the UK) have not yet been diagnosed (coeliac.org.uk 2015).

Coeliac disease was once considered a childhood disease but Coeliac UK reports that 86% of newly diagnosed coeliacs were adults, many of them aged over 60 (coeliac.org.uk 2015).

 

What is gluten?

What is gluten?

Gluten is the protein found in certain cereals, such as wheat, emmer, kamut, spelt, rye, triticale and barley. The main function of gluten is to act as a binding agent, which gives baked goods their characteristic structure and texture.

Some people with coeliac disease may also not be able to tolerate ingredients such as gluten free wheat starch or oats, we advise that you ask your gastroenterologist or dietitian if you can include them in your diet.

Read about what are the symptoms of coeliac disease here

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