Gluten and coeliac disease

Glute is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, or in their cross-bred varieties.

Gluten causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes in the small intestine and damage to the microvilli of the intestinal lining in people who are gluten intolerant, i.e. suffer from the coeliac disease. As a result of this, the absorption of nutrients is impaired in the body.

The symptoms of the coeliac disease vary a lot and are very individual to each patient. Typical symptoms include various stomach and intestinal disorders, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence. The coeliac disease may also be almost or completely free from symptoms. In the skin manifestation of the coeliac disease (dermatitis herpetiformis), typical symptoms include an itchy rash with small blisters.

The coeliac disease can be diagnosed at any age, but most patients are diagnosed at adulthood. The only treatment for the coeliac disease is a lifelong, strict diet regime. All cereals that contain gluten are eliminated from the diet: wheat, barley and rye. Most coeliac sufferers will tolerate oats, provided they have not been contaminated with a gluten-containing cereal at any point of the production process.

The coeliac disease cannot be cured, although careful dietary treatment can ensure a symptom-free life. For this reason, patients must follow the strict diet regime for the rest of their life. This will also prevent additional diseases, such as osteoporosis, that can be caused by the coeliac disease if left untreated.

The coeliac disease is not the same as a cereal allergy. The body of a person allergic to cereals produces antibodies to the proteins contained in one or several cereals. The treatment is based on avoiding the cereal or cereals that cause symptoms. In many cases cereal allergy disappears with age.