I come from a long line of people who are either coeliac or wheat intolerant. It travels in my families bloodline and can be traced back to my Great Grandfather on my Mother’s side. My Great Grandfather had coeliac disease, my Mum has it, my cousin has it, my brother has it and I have it. My children will probably have it and it will probably forever continue down my bloodline. However, wheat and gluten is in practically everything so what is a person meant to do? When my Mother was diagnosed with ceoliac disease there were no resources for her, no supermarket products, nothing. She had to cope. Now there is more information and it is more accessible, but people have to go hunting all over the place to find the information in one place. So this series is all about wheat intolerances and coeliac diseases. It is all about providing all the information I know and have in one place and hopefully helping people come to terms with their disease and helping them cope with it.
The Boring Bit
So what is it that you’re actually dealing with? A wheat intolerance and coeliac disease are two very different beasts but what is the difference? In simple laymens terms, coeliac disease is an autoimmune/digestive disorder that results in damage to the lining of the stomach when foods containing gluten are eaten. A gluten or wheat intolerance is an allergy. It is your body reacting to a substance that acts like an irritant to a persons system. See they’re different!.
Coeliac disease is all related to the body’s immune system. The body’s immune system is like a giant defence system that protects the body from foreign things that invade the body. It is supposed to act as a protector. However, when people with coeliac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system forms antibodies to gluten that proceed to attack the stomach lining. A food allergy, in this case being wheat intolerant, occurs when the body’s immune system reacts badly to specific foods.
The symptoms of body issues with wheat are varied and very unique from person to person. General symptoms can include things like;
-Digestive issues (abdominal pains and bloating, gas, weight loss and diarrhea)
-Dermatitis or skin rashes
-Growth problems in children
-Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain)
-With women, menstrual issues.
All in all the symptoms don’t sound very pleasant or fun. My general suggestion would always be that if you’re suffering any of these symptoms to visit a Doctor, however if it is a suspected gluten/wheat problem, you still have diagnosis to go through.
To Diagnose or not to Diagnose…
With dietary issues the diagnoses is a blood test after a prolonged exposure to the substance that they are suspected to be allergic too. It is all very unpleasant and clinical sounding when the Doctors are describing it but the reality of completing the course of exposure is worse. The symptoms of wheat allergies, intolerances and disorders can make a person feel terrible, and so exposing yourself to it for the sake of a test can severely put people off. What you have to decide is the cause and effect of your actions. If you decide you want to have a trial run sans wheat and gluten that’s great (and better if you identify your problems). But when you return to the Doctor with your findings they’re going to insist on exposing yourself to the problem foods and again make you feel horrible. The true weighing up comes from the question- is it worth it for a prescription of some imitation, rubbery tasting products that you can actually live without?
Look out for part II of being Coeliac/Wheat Intolerant where I discuss prescription foods, where and why wheat is used and what to identify on ingredient lists to avoid triggering your allergy.