Coeliac Disease

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Also known as: Coeliac Sprue, Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy, non-tropical sprue

What is it?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease. Gluten, a protein found in products made from wheat, barley, rye and oats reacts with the lining of the gut in this condition, causing damage and preventing normal absorption of food. In mild cases, it may be difficult to diagnose, but when severe can cause evidence of malnutrition (weight loss in adults, growth delay and failure to gain weight in children) and malabsorption (diarrhoea and foul smelling bowel motions that float and have a greasy appearance).

Found throughout the world, coeliac disease is most prevalent in those of European descent. It occurs in about 1 of every 100 individuals in Europe and can affect anyone at any age, but is more common in infants and in those in their 30s and 40s. In infants, coeliac disease may become apparent when the child moves from milk to solid feeds. It is more common in women than men. The development of coeliac disease is thought to be due to an inherited tendency that is triggered by an environmental, emotional, or physical event – although the exact mechanism is not fully understood.

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