What is Coeliac Disease and how is it diagnosed?
Coeliac disease is a condition in which the lining of your small intestine becomes damaged due to an immune reaction from your body to a small protein known as gluten. Gluten is found in certain grain foods (wheat, rye, triticale and barley), and in much smaller amounts in oats (as a contaminant). Of course, many processed foods contain these grains as ingredients, and that’s when things get tricky.
The first step is finding out whether or not you have coeliac disease is to go to your doctor to discuss your symptoms, and you and your family`s history. Your doctor will arrange a blood test for you:
-Have some of the symptoms of coeliac disease
- Have a family history of coeliac disease, and/or
-Are at higher risk because of having type 1 Diabetes
The test looks raised levels of antigliadin, antiendomysial and/or transglutaminase antibodies in your blood. The blood test itself does not diagnose coeliac disease. It merely suggests that further testing, in the form of a small bowel biopsy is required.
Coeliac disease can only be diagnosed correctly when a small bowel biopsy shows that the villi in your small intestine have been damaged. The villi are very small and dense “finger-like” projections that line the small intestine. You must be eating gluten-containing foods for a few months before the biopsy or you may not get true results.
In a person with coeliac disease, the villi become flattened and reduced in number when exposed to gluten. These damaged villi can no longer absorb the nutrients from food, and this is usually results in a broad range of nutritional deficiencies. These nutritional deficiencies are responsible for many of the common symptoms of coeliac disease.