Coeliac Disease

Allergy Info


Coeliac (Celiac) disease is usually a condition of early childhood and may continue into adult life. Research has proved that gluten, the major protein in wheat, rye, barley and oats is the offending nutrient in this allergy syndrom. Celiac disease develops after gluten (eg. breakfast cereals) is introduced in the diet.

Common symptoms of coeliac disease are diarrhoea, steatorrhea (presence of an excess of fat in the stools), malabsorption and anaemia. Children may have a distended abdomen, fail to grow normally, show delayed development and are often generally miserable.


Although coeliac disease can be diagnosed at a very early age, it is often diagnosed in babies after weaning, but symptoms are all too often so subtle that the conditions can go undiagnosed for many years. Coeliac disease can affect a person at any age.

Coeliac disease is a condition affecting the bowel (small intestine), and is a lifelong affliction. Gluten, which is contained in wheat, barley, and rye, causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the lining of the bowel. This in turn affects a coeliac's ability to absorb the vitamins and nutrients of the food they eat.

Coeliac disease can lead to bone disease and anaemia, and possibly even cancer if left untreated. The only answer for coeliacs is to avoid any food or drinks that contain gluten.


The symptoms of coeliac disease are varied and differ between young children and adults. They can include poor appetite, inability to gain weight, irritability, swollen stomach, pale stools, vomiting and diarrhoea in children. Adult symptoms include constipation, abdominal bloating, weight loss and offensive diarrhoea.

Many adults not showing those bowel symotoms have been disgnosed after complaining of such symptoms as depression, over-tiredness, mouth ulcers, skin rashes or bone pains.


Following blood tests for anaemia and the antibodies associated with coeliac disease, a GP will arrange for an endoscopy test and biopsy. This involves a tiny camera on the end of a tube being guided down the oesophagus and into the bowel via the stomach. A small sample of the bowel lining is removed for testing.

The sample will be examined for any damage to the villi - minute finger-like projections that help absorb vitamins and nutrients.


Coeliac disease is not a condi?tion that can be removed, but the damage caused by gluten can be reversed by adhering to a strict gluten free diet. Any body diagnosedd as coeliac should consult an expert dietician for advice.

It may also be neccessary to supplement your diet with iron tablets, calcium and folic acid. More severe conditions may also be treated with the use of steroids, although this is quite rare.

As a gluten free diet is low in fibre, it is recommended that plenty of fruit and vegetables are eaten to counteract this.

Gluten free diet

Avoid foods such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes and pastries unless they are specifically labelled ?as gluten free. The same goes for some tinned sauces and soups as well as mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce and malt vinegar.

Many snack foods and fried foods (including the oil they are cooked in) may also contain gluten. Spirits and beers made from grain can also contain gluten, although wine and cider are usually gluten free.

Some oats may also contain a small amount of gluten or have been cross-contaminated by other grains, and so are best avoided.


Safe foods include fruit, vegetables, salads, rice, maize and nuts as well as chicken, red meats, fish, eggs and dairy products.

There is also a growing number of specialis food suppliers providing a wide range of gluten free food and drinks that are completely safe. A gluten free diet can still be full of flavour.