The development of coeliac disease (pronounced ‘seel-ee-ak’) is influenced by genetic disposition and environmental influences. Coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 70 Australians, but approximately 80% currently remain undiagnosed. This means that approximately 330,000 Australians have coeliac disease but don’t yet know it.
In people with coeliac disease, the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage. The tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel (villi) become inflamed and flattened. This affects the surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption, which can lead to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms.
Healthy Villi Damaged Villi
The long term consequences of untreated coeliac disease are related to chronic systemic inflammation, poor nutrition and malabsorption of nutrients. Fortunately, timely diagnosis of coeliac disease and treatment with a gluten free diet can prevent or reverse many of the associated health conditions. For further information on coeliac disease visit Coeliac Australia.Reference: http://www.coeliac.org.au/coeliac-disease/