Written by Heather McCaw
As it’s Coeliac Awareness Week, I wanted to talk about what coeliac disease is and how it impacts a person’s dietary habits. I then thought I would discuss how you guys might like to get involved with this year’s awareness campaign!
What is Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition whereby the small intestine is damaged following the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye (1). The damage to the intestine then means that the body cannot properly absorb the nutrients it needs to from food (2). Symptoms can vary according to the individual however some of the most common ones include bloating, tiredness, stomach pains and nutritional deficiencies (3). Research suggests that Coeliac Disease affects approximately 1 in 100 people within the UK (4).
How is Coeliac Disease treated?
Strict lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet is the only known treatment for the condition (5). Speaking as a coeliac myself, I believe that knowledge is a key part of maintaining that adherence. We know with coeliac disease that gluten is what causes the problem, so it is important to identify the foods in which gluten is present.
Foods that need to be avoided
It can sometimes be easy to identify gluten – containing foods however it should be noted that manufacturers will also use gluten in pre prepared products. It is therefore vital that if you have coeliac disease, you remain vigilant when it comes to checking packaging.
The more obvious sources of gluten include things like:
Biscuits & Crackers
Cakes & Pastries (6)
But as I’ve just mentioned gluten can also be hidden. Sources include:
Processed meats (sausages and burgers)
Sauces (soy sauce and bread sauce) (7)
Foods that can be consumed
Whilst the foods that are unsuitable may make the diet sound quite restrictive, there is a fair amount you can eat when you know what to look for. To start with, you have foods which are naturally gluten free and are therefore suitable for someone with the condition. Here are just a few examples:
Fruits and Vegetables
Plain meat and fish (8)
As well as the naturally gluten free foods, you can also find products that have been specially manufactured. These products will usually state “gluten free” on the packet and can be found in most of the big supermarkets. Unfortunately though the term “gluten free” is not something that manufacturers have to declare. Their only legal obligation is to tell you which of the 14 allergens are in a product (9).
How can I get involved with awareness week?
Today, Coeliac UK have launched their 2021 awareness campaign entitled #ShineALightOnCoeliac. This year focusses on children and young people with Coeliac Disease. As well as daily competitions from gluten free brands, the charity are encouraging individuals to share gluten free recipes and experiences, as well as tips to avoid cross contamination. Additionally, the charity would like to raise £50,000 to continue providing support and information to the gluten free community. Should you wish to get involved with what is going on this week, head to https://www.coeliac.org.uk/get-involved/shine-a-light/ to find out what you can do!
Harris, M, M. and Meyer, N. (2013) ‘GO GLUTEN-FREE Diets for Athletes and Active People’, ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 17 (1), pp. 22-26.
Coeliac UK (2021) Coeliac Disease Symptoms. Available at: https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/coeliac-disease/about-coeliac-disease/what-are-coeliac-disease-symptoms/
Kumar,P. (2014) ‘ROLE OF GLUTEN PROTEIN IN THE FOOD PRODUCTS OF LIVING BEINGS AND ITS EFFECT ON THEIR BODY BOTH PHYSICOCHEMICAL AND METABOLICALLY REACTIONS’ , International Research Journal of Commerce , Arts and Science, 5 (3), pp. 69 – 87.
NICE (2016) Coeliac Disease. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs134/chapter/introduction
Czaja-Bulsa, G. and Bulsa, M. (2018) ‘Adherence to Gluten-Free Diet in Children with Celiac Disease’, Nutrients, 10 (10), p.1424.
NHS (2021) Treatment Coeliac Disease. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coeliac-disease/treatment/
Biesiekierski,J,R. (2017) ‘What is gluten?’, Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology , 32 (1), pp. 78-81
Coeliac UK (2021) The gluten free diet. Available at: https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/living-gluten-free/the-gluten-free-diet/
Food Standards Agency (2021). Available at: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/allergen-guidance-for-food-businesses