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Think you’re Coeliac – here’s how to find out

If you have been experiencing some unusual symptoms for a while you will probably have already done what quite a few of us would, and that is turn to Google, and this might have thrown up the possibility of Coeliac disease as the answer to your symptoms. Remember, Google is not a doctor, so although it might be helpful for you to pinpoint what might be wrong, it is not an accurate diagnostic tool.  So, what should you do now that you think you know what is wrong?

The symptoms

Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, or even the same severity of symptoms, which can vary significantly from person to person. Eating foods that contain gluten can result in the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea (severe or occasional)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and passing wind
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss

Of course, there are other symptoms associated with Coeliac, and these are just the main ones. There are also several more general symptoms that can be the result of being Coeliac:

  • Suffering from fatigue due to not getting sufficient nutrients from your diet (malnutrition)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • An itchy rash
  • Fertility issues, specifically those relating to getting pregnant

It is important to remember that Coeliac disease is not in fact a simple food allergy, as so many people think, but rather an autoimmune disease. When gluten is digested, it causes an autoimmune reaction; the body literally attacks itself.

What should you do first?

The first thing you should do if you have symptoms that lead you to believe you may have Coeliac disease, and this is incredibly important is continue eating gluten. Even if you are convinced that gluten is what is causing your ill-health it is very important not to remove it from your diet until you have been given a diagnosis by your GP. Make an appointment to go and discuss your symptoms and concerns with your GP and they will decide the best course of action to take.

The road to diagnosis

One of the first things your GP will do is take a sample of blood. This is to check for antibodies which can be an indicator of coeliac disease, however, this is not conclusive as it is possible for the results to be negative. If the blood test is positive or if your GP suspects that you do have coeliac disease based on the symptoms you have, then you will be referred to a gastroenterologist for a gut biopsy. Again, it is very important that you keep eating gluten until after you have had the biopsy.

At the moment, this is the only way to get a medical diagnosis, and the support and medical follow up needed, so no matter how hard it is to keep eating the gluten you believe is causing your issues it is better to do so until advised to stop by a medical professional. Once your diagnosis has been confirmed, you can then look at removing gluten from your diet. Don’t panic though, there are plenty of tasty gluten free alternatives to your favourite food, so these days, people with Coeliac have a much better choice of how and what they eat than ever before.

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