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About Coeliac Disease and wheat allergy or wheat intolerance
by Hub-UK

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is found in people who are sensitive to gluten. Gluten is found in wheat and other cereals. What this means for sufferers is that gluten causes damage to the lining of the small intestine which then leads to problems absorbing the nutrients and vitamins from food. The treatment for the disease is quite simple . . . remove all sources of gluten from the diet.

Most doctors believe that Coeliac disease is genetic and therefore there is nothing you can do to avoid it if it is in your family genes. The treatment for the disease is to avoid eating any food which contains gluten because it is the gluten which causes the problem. If you suspect you may have Coeliac disease you should consult your doctor who will, if his diagnosis confirms your fears, recommend sticking to a gluten-free diet. If you need help he will also recommend you to a dietitian who can advise you about which foods contain gluten and how to maintain a balanced diet without wheat and the other cereals you must avoid.

Gluten is a protein that is found in flour made from wheat and is also present in rye and barley. Gluten is the reason flour can be formed into dough and then rises during baking. Because flour is used in so many food manufacturing processes (some which would probably surprise you) gluten can be found in many foods although the most obvious are bread and pastry. For example flour is used as a thickener in many food products.

If you follow a gluten-free diet you will feel healthier and more energetic, as well as reducing the risk of developing future problems. Your Coeliac disease will never go away so sticking to a gluten free diet is important for your health. Finding wheat and gluten free products has never been easy and although many food manufacturers now make alternative products for people with Coeliac disease many of them are fairly bland and tasteless. To enable you to stick to a controlled diet you need to find alternative foods which are both tasty as well as nourishing.

Wheat allergy or wheat Intolerance?

There is a lot of confusion about the terms food allergy and intolerance. This has led many people to think, wrongly, that they are allergic to certain foods including wheat. True wheat allergy is extremely rare.

People often confuse the terms food allergy and food intolerance as being the same. They are of course not the same.

A food allergy is described as an abnormal response to a food brought about by the body's immune system and, without going into great biological detail, causes the release of histamine which is responsible for inflammation and the other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Food intolerance will not trigger such a response but it may cause symptoms such as migraines, bloating or skin rashes, and in some cases can worsen the effects of conditions such as asthma, eczema or migraines.

True food allergies, such as an allergy to wheat, often produce quite violent reactions, from swelling of the lips and tongue or a red rash to the worst case scenario where the reaction can be fatal.

Numerous studies have shown that around 1% to 2% of the population suffer from a food intolerance (excluding those who suffer from Coeliac disease). This equates to between 650,000 and 1,300,000 people.

If you think you have a wheat allergy you should consult your doctor.

Published 05 September 2005

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