I thought it might be worth while to share my experience with our symptoms and diagnosis of Coeliac Disease during Coeliac Week. We often pass off sore stomachs as a variety of things, whether it be something we’ve eaten, change of weather, gastro etc. But when you start writing it all down and seeing a continued pattern, it might alert you and encourage a doctors visit.
What is Coeliac Disease…
Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the lining of part of the small intestine. The lining of the small intestine contains millions of tiny tube-shaped structures called Villi, these help food and nutrients to be digested more effectively into our bodies. People who suffer from Coeliac Disease will have their villi become flattened as a result of the inflammation caused by the autoimmune disease which result in nutrients not being absorbed into our body.
The immune system is our bodies natural defence for fighting disease. It produces white blood cells (lymphocytes) & antibodies to protect against foreign objects such as bacteria, viruses and other germs. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system identifies parts of the body as foreign and begins to attack itself.
What to look for…
Symptoms of Coeliac Disease can include many of the following
- diarrhoea &/or constipation
- bloating & flatulence (particularly the ‘clear a room’ kind)
- stomach cramps
- nausea & vomiting
- fatigue, weakness & lethargy
- anaemia or low iron
- joint pain
- bulky foul smelling bowel movements
- weight loss or poor weight gain in older children
- delayed growth or delayed puberty
- tiredness & irritability
- joint pain (knees is common)
How to get diagnosed…
The first step to getting a diagnosis is to continue to eat a Gluten diet. If you start eating gluten free food before you start the screening it will make the test unreliable.
If you have already adapted to the gluten free diet a normal diet must be maintained for atleast 6 weeks prior to testing (commonly known as the gluten challenge)
The second step is to visit your GP for the screening test (blood test). Coeliac serology measures the antibody (tTG-IgA) levels in the blood as they are generally quite high for people who have untreated coeliac disease. If you have a child under the age of 4 this testing can be unreliable as their antibodies naturally fluctuate so it is common for the same test to be run a few times months apart to ensure accuracy.
The third step is to book in for a gastroscopy of the small bowel. It is believed that a small biopsy of the bowel is the only way to diagnose Coeliac Disease in an individual. A gastroscopy is a simple procedure performed under a light anaesthetic where tiny samples/biopsies are taken from the small bowel and examined under a microscope for the presence of villous atrophy (as pictured above)