Coeliac disease is a permanent autoimmune-based inflammatory disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals. It is caused by the ingestion of gluten, which leads to atrophy of the villi in the small intestine, making it difficult to absorb nutrients from food.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in cereals such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale… and mainly in the endosperm of the seed.
Coeliac disease affects about 1% of the population, being more frequent in women. However, 75% of people with a predisposition are undiagnosed as coeliac disease is only associated with the classical form of clinical presentation.
The most frequent symptoms are: weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating, nutritional deficits, tiredness, headache, mood disorders, anaemia.
The usual diagnostic process consists of a careful clinical examination, a blood test, including serological markers for coeliac disease, and an intestinal biopsy, where a tissue sample is taken from the upper small intestine to check whether it is damaged or not. Even if coeliac disease is suspected, it is important not to stop consuming gluten during the diagnosis in order for the tests to be valid.