Living with a gluten intolerance

Whilst many of us will choose not to eat certain food groups due to either dietary choices, moral or ethical choices, of course, because we simply don’t like them, imagine not being able to eat foods due to an intolerance. For Coeliacs, that’s exactly the problem, and for many, it’s a big one.

Coeliac Disease is the name given to gluten intolerance. The reaction to gluten in food can vary from mild to severe for those who suffer with Coeliac Disease. Common symptoms can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating and wind, indigestion, constipation and vomiting.

Managing the disease generally means a life-long abstention from any product containing gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein, which is found in a number of common foods, such as breads, pasta, cereals and biscuits. The reaction to gluten takes place in the gut, where the digestion system has an autoimmune reaction to the protein and causes the symptoms and irritation.

It’s not actually known what causes Coeliac Disease; there are environmental factors as well as associated illnesses, such as type 1 diabetes or thyroid conditions, which can contribute to developing Coeliac Disease, but research suggests that the main cause is through genetic mutations, and the disease often runs through families too.

What can I do if I have Coeliac Disease?

The simple answer to this is to avoid foods containing the gluten protein. Of course, this is easier said than done and often means a lifetime of checking the ingredients of food packets and asking staff in restaurants and delis to check if the product you want to order contains gluten.

Of course, there are a number of products, including breads and cakes for example, which are now on the market and are gluten free, which is a help to Coeliac sufferers. There are also gluten free flours available for the keen baker who also suffers from Coeliac disease, although these can behave differently to other flours and may take some time to master.

There are also technological advances, which can assist those with a gluten intolerance. The Nima Sensor, for example, is a small portable device that can test your food for the gluten protein. Developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientists, the Nima can test any food and almost instantly provide an answer as to whether the food is safe or contains gluten.

What if I think I have Coeliac?

Coeliac is a complex and life changing disorder and, if you think you might be a sufferer, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible for testing and possible diagnosis.

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