Coeliac disease affects around 1 in 100 people in the UK. The disease is caused by intolerance to gluten which can be found in wheat, rye and barley and affects the bowel. The immune system, of sufferers, mistakenly attacks the gluten in the digestive system, presuming it is harmful, this causes symptoms of diarrhoea, weight loss and stomach pain. It can affect people of any age, although it is most common in 40 to 50 year olds.
In babies, further symptoms can be found; a swollen stomach, bulky pale poo, and failure to grow and gain weight. In children, watch out for poor growth, oily poo that is difficult to flush away, and tiredness and breathlessness caused by anaemia. Gluten intolerance damages the gut, which stops vitamins and minerals, like iron, from being absorbed, which triggers anaemia.
If you suspect your child may have Coeliac disease see a GP, do not attempt to cut out gluten without a proper diagnosis. This is done through a blood test and, if needed, a gut biopsy.
Although there is no cure for Coeliac disease, the symptoms can be managed through a strict gluten-free diet. Foods to avoid are: bread, pasta, cake and biscuits, crackers, cereals, pies and pastries, oats, gravy and sauces. However, gluten-free bread, pasta and other products are readily available at supermarkets, so keeping control is fairly easy.
If a gluten-free diet is not maintained some quite serious complications can occur; such as Osteoporosis (brittle bones disease), malnutrition, other intolerances like Lactose (milk) intolerance could develop and an increased risk of bowel cancer.
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