Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is a lifelong intolerance to the protein gluten, which is found in:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats

It affects both men and women, can be inherited, and can occur at any age.The majority of patients at diagnosis are aged between 9-36 months, or 30-45 years

The symptoms include:

  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Abdominal distension
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle/joint pain
  • Short stature
  • Infertility
  • Some individuals may not have any symptoms.

It is very important that diagnosis is made by a Gastroenterologist following a biopsy of the small bowel. Referrals should be received by letter citing all relevant medical history, current treatment, test results and medications. Suitable cases for referral include those in whom a formal diagnosis of coeliac disease has been made or is suspected.

The treatment of coeliac disease is a gluten free diet.

A consultation with a dietitian is essential, following a diagnosis of coeliac disease, to ensure that the diet is nutritionally adequate and balanced following the exclusion of gluten containing foods.
Coeliac disease cannot be treated with drugs. It is managed solely by dietary manipulation through the exclusion of all sources of gluten, both obvious and hidden. The dietitian plays a vital role in educating and supporting the coeliac patient:

  • In following a gluten-free diet for life
  • Helping patients to trace gluten contamination in their diet
  • Identifying and treating possible nutritional deficiencies
  • Providing a link between the patient, GP, and their consultant
  • Ensuring appropriate prescription for gluten-free products
  • Providing information on external specialist agencies eg Coeliac UK
  • Annual dietary review, blood tests and symptom review
  • Organisation of a DEXA bowel scan

Contact Coeliac UK for more information about coeliac disease and joining Coeliac UK.