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What is Coeliac disease?

 

NHS website:

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the immune system (the body's defence against infection) mistakes substances found inside gluten as a threat to the body and attacks them. This damages the surface of the small intestine, disrupting the body's ability to take in nutrients. It's not entirely clear what causes the immune system to act this way, but a combination of genetics and the environment appear to play a part.

 

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Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and bloating. Coeliac disease is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten, which is a dietary protein found in 3 main types of cereal: wheat, barley, and rye.

Coeliac disease affects at least 1 in every 100 people in the UK. But some experts think this may be underestimated because milder cases may go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed as other digestive conditions. There's no cure for coeliac disease but following a gluten-free diet is the only treatment, and it helps most people control symptoms and prevent the long-term complications of the condition.[1]

 

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Why might someone with Coeliac disease need vitamins and mineral supplements?

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed by the body. They perform a range of functions, including enabling the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances needed for normal growth and development. Their impact on the body’s health are vital, and a deficiency of them can cause severe symptoms and contribute to the development of medical conditions.

 

Micronutrient deficiencies are common in people with coeliac disease. They can occur due to damage to the lining of the gut that reduces the absorption of nutrients.

 

Following a gluten free diet can also lead to restricting food choices and cause people to lack certain micronutrients.

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Damaged villi

Healthy villi

Nutrients

Nutrients

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How would I know if I'm nutrient deficient?

Some symptoms of nutrient deficiencies may include:

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How would I know if I'm nutrient deficient?

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General: Fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, muscle pains and cramps, depression, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, recurrent mouth ulcers, a sore and red tongue, problems with vision.

Hair, Skin & Nails: Hair loss, brittle or flaking nails, dry skin, itchy skin, pale skin.

 

Gastrointestinal: Diarrhoea and constipation.

 

Neurological: Peripheral neuropathy – numbness, tingling, disordered sensation, pain and or weakness in the hands or feet.

Ataxia – poor balance, loss of coordination.

 

Nutrient deficiencies and conditions linked to coeliac disease can include: Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, iron deficiency anaemia, vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia or folate deficiency, as well as deficiencies of other vitamins and minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, and selenium.

 

If you think you could be deficient you should seek advice from a medical professional.

References

[1] Information from the NHS website (31/03/2023), Coeliac Disease [online], Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/ (08/01/2024) Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/

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