What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac and spelled celiac in other countries) is an autoimmune disease, not an intolerance as is often assumed.

This means that the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, through the production of antibodies. In the case of coeliac disease, this reaction is triggered by gluten.

Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and related cereals, including barley and rye. If eaten by coeliacs, it inflames and damages the lining of the small intestine.

The primary functions of the small intestine are to breakdown and absorb the nutrients in food. In untreated coeliac disease, the cells lining the small intestine become flat and inflamed and their surface area significantly reduced. This results in a reduction in the absorption of nutrients from food and can lead to malnutrition and deficiencies in vitamins, iron, folic acid and calcium. Sugars, proteins and fats are often poorly absorbed as well.

Coeliac disease is closely related to dermatitis herpetiformis, which is an autoimmune blistering disorder associated with a gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

What causes coeliac disease?

The precise cause, or causes, of coeliac disease are not yet known. However, it is believed that there are three primary factors that underlie its development. These include:

  • an environmental trigger (in this case gluten)
  • a genetic susceptibility
  • an unusually permeable gut.

Occasionally, the stress of an operation, accident, intestinal infection or pregnancy can trigger the onset of the condition.

How is coeliac disease diagnosed?

Research shows that coeliac disease affects around 1 in 100 people in the UK, making it much more common than previously thought. Under-diagnosis is also significant problem, with it being estimated that around 500,000 people have not yet been diagnosed.

Coeliac disease can be diagnosed at any age. For example, even babies can be diagnosed – after weaning, when cereals containing gluten are first introduced into their diet. However, the most common age of diagnosis is currently between 40 and 60 years old.

What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?

The physical signs of coeliac disease vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe – it affects people differently.

Symptoms may present in the digestive tract, or in other parts of the body. For example, one person might have diarrhoea and abdominal pain, while another person may be irritable or depressed. In fact, irritability is one of the more common symptoms in children.

Some of the most common symptoms generally include: tiredness, anaemia, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, vomiting and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, some people present no symptoms at all. While this may sound like a good thing, such people are still at risk of the complications associated with the disease. The longer a person goes undiagnosed and untreated, the greater the chance of developing malnutrition and other complications. Anaemia, delayed growth and weight loss are signs of malnutrition, because the body is just not getting enough nutrients.

In addition, increased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune thyroid disease, sarcoidosis, vasculitis, pulmonary fibrosis, osteoporosis, infertility and other diseases of the gut have been reported in coeliac patients.

How is coeliac disease treated?

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for coeliac disease. However, the primary treatment, which is usually very successful, is to remove all sources of gluten from the diet. This approach is also effective in cases of dermatitis herpetiformis.

Concern has surrounded oats containing gluten (as some people with coeliac disease are also sensitive to oats), but studies have shown that consumption of a moderate amount of oats does not worsen dermatitis herpetiformis or celiac disease.

A gluten-free diet is a lifelong commitment, and adherence to a strict diet is difficult to achieve; gluten is present in various foods that are consumed on an everyday basis. Improvement of symptoms can also take several months and requires patience and staying-power. Having said that, a well-planned diet can deliver excellent results.

Nutritional supplementation, in conjunction with a well-balanced diet, is also recommended for patients on a strict gluten-free diet. This will help to ensure that they are receiving the broad spectrum of nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) that they need. In particular, nutrients-fortified gluten-free meal shakes can be a safe, easy and effective way to achieve this.

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How to alkalise your body

Is your body acidic?

If your diet is high in alcohol, caffeine, meat, sugary foods, processed foods, dairy products and/or nicotine (all highly acid-forming), chances are your body will be acidic.

Some signs of over-acidity include irritability, sensitivity, fatigue, joint aches and pains (inflammation), headaches, trouble sleeping and indigestion.

These symptoms are also often accompanied by cravings (brought on by nutrient deficiencies), digestive system problems, hair loss, skin outbreaks, body odour, bad breath, fungal or yeast infections and liver spots – all potential signs of contamination, high acidity and toxin build-up.

It is therefore fair to say that high acidity impacts both health and beauty.

How your health is affected

A chronically acidic blood pH can adversely affect your health, as it is associated with being more prone to illnesses. Harmful amounts of acids and toxins can accumulate in our bodies as a result of modern living and eating habits, including everything from drinking, smoking and lack of exercise, to a high intake of processed and concentrated foods packed with harmful chemicals and other ‘nasties’.

The result, over time, can be:

  • structural damage (including cell deterioration and inflammation)
  • accumulation of impurities and a high toxic load (including strain on the detoxification organs and systems of the body, such as the liver)
  • skin problems (including body odour, sweating and acne)
  • and yeast and fungal overgrowth (fungi and yeasts are sometimes referrred to as “acid and toxin eaters”).

Staying healthy

A slightly alkaline blood pH has become the benchmark for health and vitality. As seen above, a wide range of factors affect the acid / alkaline balance of the body, but diet is the primary factor.

When foods are metabolised, acids are produced – chlorine, phosphorus, sulphur and nitrogen. These then need to be neutralised by the alkaline mineral salts – calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Our intake of these alkalising salts through our diet therefore has a direct impact on the acid / alkaline balance in the body.

The 3 most important “rules” to follow if you are hoping to alkalise your body are:

1. Avoid unhealthy things.
2. Eat, drink and do beneficial things.
3. Eliminate harmful things.

Alkalising foods   

Low levels of acids can be enjoyed if they are balanced out with a greater intake of alkalising foods. In other words, moderation is key.

Eat a diet that is high in fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses to balance out every acidic pleasure with alkaline-generating foods.

It is essential to provide your body with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, natural enzymes, healthy fats and other essential nutrients on a daily basis to support an alkaline blood pH. As a broad rule of thumb, your diet should comprise 80% alkalising foods / drinks, versus 20% acid-forming foods / drinks.

While this can be partially achieved through a well-balanced diet, that is unfortunately not the whole story.

Dietary supplementation

We are led to believe that, as long as we eat a balanced diet, we will get all of the nutrients we need. Unfortunately, research shows that this is simply not the case and that even those who are health-conscious fail to get anything like the ideal intake of vitamins, minerals, essential fats and complex carbohydrates. Why?

Modern living has a lot to answer for:

  • Food production is linked to profit, which has led to an increase in the manufacture of ’empty’ foods that are made to last, but are nutrient-poor.
  • The food industry has conditioned Western palates to enjoy high fat, high sugar and highly salted foods.
  • Artificial food colourings and flavourings are used to attract consumers’ attention and satisfy their palates.
  • As our lives speed up, there is less time to prepare fresh meals and so we become ever more reliant on convenience foods and ready-meals, packed with saturated fat and simple carbohydrates.
  • Modern farming techniques have led to a decrease in soil quality, which has had an impact on the nutritional value of fresh produce – opt for organic whenever you can.
  • The vast majority of the foods in our diet are stored, refrigerated and then cooked before eating, leading to a loss of essential nutrients and enzymes.

All of these factors make it important that you carefully supplement your diet to support optimum nutrient intake and regularly undertake full body cleanse and detox programmes.

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