Coeliac Awareness Week May 2009

Today marks the beginning of coeliac awareness week. Are you aware of what coeliac disease is? Do you know if you will catch it or not?

Only messing – of course you cannot actually catch coeliac disease. Coeliac disease (celiac disease for those in the US) is the intolerance or allergy to gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. There is also barley in strains of wheat like spelt and kamut so be careful of these more unusual grains.

What is coeliac disease?

The intolerance is to the protein found in these grains. The gluten affects the villi that line our guts. These villi are like strands of seaweed waving around in our guts, which have the effect of increasing the surface area of our guts to maximise our ability to absorb the goodness from our food. For those with a gluten intolerance or allergy these villi become inflames or flattened which is not only painful in itself but results in sufferers not being able to absorb the nutrition from their foods – a sort of malnutrition.

Symptoms of coeliac disease

Those who suffer from coeliac disease in the short term may experience stomach and bowel problems, tiredness, anaemia, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, vomiting and mouth ulcers. In the long term those with coeliac disease are prone to osteoporosis, infertility and cancer of the gut.

Is there any cure for coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is a life long condition and is best controlled by elimination of gluten from your diet. Avoid wheat, rye, oats, barley, spelt and kamut from your diet.

What is a gluten free diet?

So what does a coeliac eat?  The basic need is to replace foods usually made from those grains containing gluten.  Bread is the big challenge but these days there is a fantastic selection of gluten free breads of all types.  Alternatively you can make your own bread using a gluten free all purpose flour or bread mix.  Adding a little Xanthan gum helps replace the texture lost by removing the gluten and gives the bread a ‘sponginess’ otherwise difficult to attain.

Breakfast cereals are another area dominated by wheat and oats, but there is a great variety of gluten free cereals too, both for children and adults.

In every food group there are now so many alternatives to choose from.  Here is a full range of foods that are suitable for coeliac disease. If you would like to ask questions about the diseaseor recieve a full catalogue of gluten free foods please give us a ring on 0871 8716611.

Resources for those wanting to avoid gluten

The Coeliac Society

24Dr.com

Gluten free shopping

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