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Gluten and Celiac/Coeliac Disease

What is Gluten ?

Gluten is essentially a plant protein. It is most commonly found in wheat, oats, barley and rye and it's elasticity binds the structure of the grain together. The word gluten is French and is derived from the Latin word for ‘glue’.It gives foods such as bread and cakes their bouncy spongy texture and helps prevent other foods such pastries and pies crumbling or disintegrating.

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What is Celiac Disease ? ( Also spelt Coeliac )

Our intestines have small hair like structures called villi which help us pass food along our small colon and absorb nutrients into our bodies. When someone with celiac disease eats food that contains gluten, the villi break down and flatten resulting in them no longer being able to absorb food and nutrients properly (sometimes even water). The body's immune system reacts by breaking down its own tissue causing chronic digestive problems and other unpleasant symptoms..

When a person's body reacts negatively to gluten, it is an autoimmune disorder and not an allergy.

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How do you develop Celiac Disease ?

Usually people are not born celiac Those who develop it have a genetic predisposition which is usually triggered by a shock or a traumatic event eg major surgery, child birth, divorce, car crash, or bereavement. Whether the stress or shock is emotionally or physically induced, both can trigger its onset. It is also possible to have a genetic pre-disposition to become celiac, but never contract the disease. People who don't eat gluten in the first place cannot become celiac either. *This could explain the very low numbers of celiacs in countries such as Thailand and India, where most of the food is naturally free of gluten, though with the recent introduction of Western foods into their diets, new cases are now now on the increase.

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What are the symptoms of Celiac Disease ?

Symptoms of celiac disease vary and are very diverse. They can include fatigue and weakness, bloating, fainting ,wind , flatulence, very loose stools or diarrhoea , headaches and migraines, fuzzy brain or inability to concentrate, dizziness, Infertility , water retention , depression weight gain ,weight loss, dermititus herpetiformis , bruising easily, night blindness, early onset of osteoporosis, anaemia, vitamin deficiencies and rhumertoid arthritis. Other symptoms could include bone and muscle pain abdominal pain, nerve damage, thyrod disorders, mouth ulcers,
lactose intolerance, hair loss, rosacea , skin rash (commonly on the buttocks), intertility and recurrent miscarriage.

*Untreated celiac disease can lead to serious conditions such as bowel cancer, Type 1 diabetes and lymphoma.

*Celiacs do not necessarily develop all the symptoms and the disease can affect different people in different ways with varying degrees of severity.

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How is Celiac Disease diagnosed ?

Celiac disease can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. However, these are not always 100% accurate. eg. a positive blood test result will mean that you are celiac, whereas a negative result might not necessarly mean that you are not. If you have been diagnosed negative, but continue to have the symptoms of a celiac who eats gluten, there could be something else wrong causing some similar health symptoms so its important to see your geneneral practitioner establish if this is the case. Otherwise, a referral for a simple biopsy would give an accurate and conclusive answer to establish if you have celiac disease.

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  Is there a cure for Celiac Disease ?

There is NO known cure for celiac disease. If you are celiac , eating gluten is toxic to your body and stops you absorbing essential nutrients found in foods.

No matter how the symptoms manifest as intolerance to gluten, the ONLY way to stop them and decrease the risks of developing other more serious diseases, such as bowel cancer, diabetes Type 1, or lymphoma is to permanently follow a strict gluten free diet.

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 I am Celiac ; What happens if i continue to eat Gluten ?

If you continue to eat food which contains gluten when you have celiac disease, it will be toxic to your body.
You will continue to have chronic side affects from doing so and increase your chances of developing other autoimmune diseases such as hyperthyroidism, lactose intolerance and Type 1 diabetes.
Your risks of developing bowel cancer will increase between 40 and 100 times that of a person who is not celiac and you will have an estimated 15% increased risk of developing lymphona. It is therefore essential that gluten is permanently cut out from your diet immediately.

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 I am Celiac ; Does this mean my children will contract Celiac Disease too ?

No not necessarily , although it is widely known that celiac disease runs in families Children of a parent who has celiac disease will be born with a genetic predisposition to acquire the illness and one in ten to one in fifteen of them might eventually develop it. However there is also an increased risk of other autoimmune diseases, which may occur alongside it such as lactose intolerance, thryoid disorders and Type 1 diabetes. If someone has either celiac disease or Type 1 diabetes, they are more likely to develop the other condition (as are their children), than those who have had neither.

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