A life without bread – What is a gluten intolerance?
Some of us don’t like certain foods, some of us choose not to eat meat or fish for religious, moral or ethical grounds, and some of us choose not to eat certain food for health and weight goals. But for those who suffer with Coeliac Disease, foods containing gluten can, in severe cases, cause a dangerous autoimmune reaction, meaning a lifelong management of the condition and an abstention from gluten products.
Those who suffer from Coeliac Disease, which is the name given to gluten intolerance, can often experience diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating and wind, indigestion, constipation and vomiting. The reaction can vary among suffers from mild to severe and can depend on the amount of gluten you have consumed.
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, this is known as Coeliac Disease. Gluten is a protein, which is found in a number of common foods, such as breads, pasta, cereals and biscuits.
Whilst we don’t know exactly what causes Coeliac Disease, research suggests that genetic mutations and family history are a large factor. There are, however, a number of environmental factors as well as pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, which can put you at greater risk of developing Coeliac Disease.
Managing Coeliac Disease
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Coeliac Disease and the best form of management is to try to avoid the protein altogether. With food products coming from all over the world to our tables, however, this is not always an easy task and does include a lifetime of reading ingredients packets and asking in restaurants, shops and delis, for example, if their products contain gluten.
There are also ranges of ‘free-from’ products which are now stocked at supermarkets, which don’t contain gluten, which makes life a little easier.
Scientific and technological advances are also improving the lives, and the digestive systems of Coeliac Sufferers too. Boffins from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for example, have developed the Nima Sensor. This is a portable little device that can go anywhere and test your food in real time for traces of gluten, giving you peace of mind that the food you are eating is safe to eat.
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.