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Coeliac disease diagnosis: Now what?

By Anna Sayburn
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease, you probably have lots of questions. You may feel relieved that you finally know the cause of your symptoms, or surprised that this is your diagnosis. But you’ll need to learn to eat a completely gluten-free diet, which is not always easy.

We spoke to a dietitian and coeliac disease specialist, to find out where you go from here.

What causes coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease occurs when your immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, and also reacts to similar proteins in rye and barley. It is not the same as having a food allergy or being sensitive to particular foods. For some of those with coeliac disease, oats may also be a problem. The immune reaction damages the lining of your gut, which makes it hard to absorb your digested food properly.

The only treatment for coeliac disease is to cut gluten out of your diet completely for the rest of your life. 

Symptoms of untreated coeliac disease may include diarrhoea and bloating, stomach pain, unplanned weight loss, and feeling 'tired all the time' due to iron deficiency anaemia. In children, untreated coeliac disease may cause malnutrition from being unable to absorb sufficient nutrients, and tends to slow the natural rate of weight and height changes plotted on children’s growth tables in the 'red book' by your health visitor.

Once you’re diagnosed, the most important thing is to learn how to cut gluten out of your diet. This might sound daunting, but there are many foods that you can eat instead. You will also find that many supermarkets now sell gluten-free ranges, where foods that usually contain gluten are made to a different recipe. There’s plenty of advice on hand to help you and your family adjust to your new diet.

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