Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten.

When people with Coeliac disease eat gluten, their immune system attacks their own tissues causing damage to the gut (small intestine) which in turn makes them unable to take in nutrients.

In the UK It is thought that coeliac disease affects at least 1 in every 100 people with many milder cases going undiagnosed.

Causes of Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten, which is a dietary protein found in 3 types of cereal:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye

Lots of foods contain gluten because wheat, barley and rye are used to produce foods such as:

  • pasta
  • cakes
  • breakfast cereals
  • most types of bread
  • certain types of sauces
  • some ready meals
  • most beers

It is not completely understood what causes the immune system to react to gluten in this way but it is likely to be a combination of genetics and the environment.

Symptoms of Coeliac Disease

Unfortunately, IBS can be a lifelong problem. This can be very frustrating to live with and can have a huge impact on everyday quality of life.

Sometimes a result of family history, there is no known cure, but diet changes and medicines can often help control IBS and allow for normal life to carry on.

Video support


Following a gluten-free diet should help control symptoms of Coeliac disease and prevent the long-term complications of the condition but there is currently no cure.

Even if you have mild symptoms, changing your diet is still recommended because continuing to eat gluten can lead to serious complications.

It’s important to ensure that your gluten-free diet is healthy and balanced.

What your Gp can do

Routine testing for coeliac disease is not recommended unless you have symptoms or an increased risk of developing them.

To test for coeliac disease you will need to have a blood test that looks for antibodies in the bloodstream.

If coeliac disease antibodies are found in your blood, your GP will refer you for a biopsy of your gut.

A biopsy will usually be carried out in a hospital by a gastroenterologist and will involve an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at one end) being inserted into your mouth and gently passed down to your small intestine to take a sample from the lining of the small intestine. The sample will then be examined for signs of coeliac disease.

Things to remember

Eating a gluten free diet is the only way to help control symptoms.

Lots more information, help and support can be found at Coeliac UK – a charity for people with coeliac disease.