According to NHS figures, coeliac disease affects about 1 in 200 people in the UK.

In recent years, more and more people are suspecting they might be wheat- or gluten-intolerant or have an allergy/sensitivity to it.  Gluten is the substance found in most grains; it is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.

If reactions are severe, where you regularly experience diarrhoea or fatty stools,  it is possible that you have a condition called coeliac disease.

Symptoms

People who are wheat-, gluten- or grain-intolerant, or coeliac may suffer from an assortment of common symptoms after eating foods that contain even small traces of grain or gluten.

Symptoms include:

  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • flatulence
  • weight fluctuation
  • fatigue
  • numbness and tingling in hands and feet
  • vomiting
  • swelling of joints
  • irritability
  • confusion, distraction
  • skin rash

Identifying the causes

Mild cases of intolerance or coeliac disease may not cause particularly noticeable symptoms.  However, treatment is recommended as complications can occur.  Malabsorption may occur, resulting in an inflammatory  process occurring in the gut, and poor absorption of food can cause nutritional deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron.  This may lead to anaemia and other problems.  For coeliacs, it is known that they have difficulties absorbing other vital nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium.  This can cause osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and lead to fractures.

A common and effective way to test oneself is to go on an exclusion diet, eliminating all grains from the diet for at least 2 weeks and to see if the symptoms go away.  If the symptoms are eliminated, then it is probably best to adopt a lifelong grain-free diet.

However, it can be hard in mild cases to be certain all symptoms are relieved and it is best to know the true cause of the condition in order to treat it appropriately. At Breakspear Medical, we can perform investigations to help diagnose intolerances and coeliac disease. Pathology investigations such as comprehensive stool analysis, urinary organic acid analysis, and lactose breath test are often used. We may also use a blood test called a coeliac profile (gliadin antibodies, reticulin and endomysial).

Because coeliacs have an increased permeability of the small intestine, this often leads to them developing food sensitivities of other types. We specialise in treating food allergies and sensitivities using low-dose immunotherapy (LDI) to determine sensitivity levels and provide antigen vaccinations to reduce reactions. Frequently coeliacs require treatment for lactose intolerance and aphthous stomatitis (mouth sores). Some coeliacs have an increased risk of developing lymphoma, which is a tumour of the lymphatic system that often begins in the gut.

Treatment

Once it has been determined that one has a grain intolerance or coeliac disease, avoidance of gluten-containing foods will alleviate the symptoms.  For coeliacs, if gluten is eaten again, the symptoms will return.  We have a team of Nutritional Therapists who can help you to adjust to your new diet.

However, along with dietary changes, which will involve learning about hidden grains in processed foods and determining whether foods with similar DNA cause a reaction, nutritional supplementation to help with likely deficiencies may be recommended, as well as LDI, to manage other allergies/sensitivities.

Costs

Determining whether you have a wheat intolerance or allergy, a gluten-related sensitivity or coeliac disease is possible in our experienced hands and we can offer nutritional advice to help make lifestyle changes.  After your first appointment, you will be given a detailed estimate, with your recommended treatment programme in detail with all the costs, which will be explained to you by your Patient Liaison Officer.

On the day of your appointment or anytime afterward, if you have any specific questions regarding prices, estimates and treatment programmes, please contact a Patient Liaison Officer, by phone 01442 261 333 ext 293, or email: liaison@breakspearmedical.com

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