Coeliac illness primarily affects the part of the gut known as the small intestine and is caused by a negative response to gluten. Gluten is usually found in foods made from barley, wheat, or rye. Various symptoms can occur in sufferers as a result of exposure to gluten, including abdominal pains, fatigue, or weight loss. The symptoms do not appear unless an affected person eats a food that contains gluten in its ingredients. It is possible to develop the condition at any age.
An Autoimmune Disease
Coeliac illness is not, as some people believe, an allergy to a food. Nor is it considered a food intolerance. Instead, the condition is classified as an autoimmune disease. The immune system manufactures white blood cells (also known as lymphocytes) as well as antibodies to safeguard against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders. When the immune system misidentifies a foreign object, an immune system disease may be the result.
As indicated, coeliac illness is caused by a sensitivity to gluten. People who have coeliac illness then produce antibodies against gluten. Antibodies are defined as proteins in the immune system that regularly attack viruses, bacteria and other germs. So, in effect, the gut mistakes gluten to be a harmful body, thereby reacting to it as if it were a germ. The small intestines become inflamed as the result of this kind of response.
The lining of the small intestine features millions of tiny tube-shaped structures called villi, which help with the digestion of food and nutrients. However, when people suffer from coeliac disease,the villi become flat. As a result, food and nutrients are not easily digested and absorbed by the body.
Who Is at Increased Risk?
The disease often runs in families. So, the close relatives of someone who has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease have an increased chance of developing the illness too. People are also more likely to succumb to the condition if they have a different autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, or a thyroid ailment.
Coeliac illness affects about one out of every 100 people in the UK. While the condition once was primarily associated with young children, that is no longer the case. Now, the condition is more frequently diagnosed in the adult population. Usually, diagnoses turn up among people from 50 to 69 years of age. About one in four of new coeliac cases are diagnosed in people over 60 years old.
The disease is also known to occur in infants. Older children and adults also may become sensitive to gluten at any point in their lives and develop the illness. Scientists, so far, do not know or understand why the immune system suddenly becomes sensitised to gluten. They do know that diet plays a major role in alleviating the symptoms that are related to a gluten intolerance and coeliac illness; thus, alterations to the diet can improve the overall health of those who suffer from these conditions.