Coeliac disease (wheat allergy)

You must have often observed that a lot many people complain of not being able to tolerate wheat products in their diet and are better off avoiding such foods. Well, the fact is that there does exist a large proportion of our population especially from the Northern belt of our country, who suffer from this entity called wheat intolerance or allergy as is commonly described. In fact, his condition is called ‘celiac disease’, which involved intolerance to the ‘gluten’ fraction of wheat protein by the cilia of the gastro intestinal tract (GIT). The cilia is the brush border like structure which helps in absorption of the protein part of wheat and it is this normal structure which is flattened or deranged, leading to malabsorption of wheat protein. Thus the name ‘celiac disease’ (CD) or gluten intolerance.

This condition occurs due to an auto immune reaction of the body towards its own cells, rendering it dysfunctional. Although to date, there has been no cure identified for this disease, the encouraging part is that it can be easily controlled and managed by diet alone. No medicines, no surgery of any sort is involved.

 

Manifestation of symptoms in CD can vary from person to person but the common factor is that there is a problem of malabsorption of food ingested. In children it can manifest early in life, by the time they are weaned to complementary diets. They can have signs and symptoms like failure to gain weight, loose stools which can be large, bulky and foul smelling and also difficult to wash away. There may be associated anemia too with protruding bellies. In adults anemia and malabsorption of food may be the presenting symptoms. Most of these symptoms are initially treated as vague infections etc. on short term basis, which may provide only temporary relief, only to recur again.

 

Dietary management is the only answer. However, this is easier said than done. Excluding wheat products from ones diet completely, involves a huge dilemma for the parents of care givers and can be quite demoralizing to for the patient and the family both. This is where Diet for Life clinic chips in helping by providing multiple counseling sessions to the family as a whole, since it can have an impact on the eating pattern of the whole family as such. What foods should be avoided and what are the other alternatives that they can choose from are all dealt with in the counseling sessions. Recurrent follow ups and reassurance to the patients, helps them to lead a normal healthy life by avoiding the offending wheat based foods.