How to support a loved one with coeliac disease

Coeliac UK’s Awareness Week 2022: May 9 – May 15.

Coeliac disease, also known as gluten intolerance or gluten allergy, is an autoimmune disease triggered by consuming gluten.

1 in 100 people in the UK are affected by coeliac disease

It is also known as celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The disease causes your body to react to gluten, which is found in almost any foods made from wheat or its derivatives such as barley, rye or malt. In other words, it is a very strict diet with a lot of restrictions. This article will help you support your loved one with coeliac disease.

Learn about coeliac disease

Coeliac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a serious autoimmune disorder. It is an intestinal issue that causes your body to react to gluten, a protein found in a large number of foods. It is an issue that mainly affects the small intestine, but it can also affect the thyroid, pancreas, liver, adrenal glands and skin. 

When gluten is consumed, the immune system reacts by attacking the lining of the intestine. This leads to damage to the intestine, which makes it hard for sufferers to digest certain foods. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. 

If you have concerns about your loved one’s health, then it is important to talk to them and get a diagnosis. The symptoms of this disease are similar to other conditions, so it is easy to miss them. If you suspect that your loved one has coeliac disease, then you should support them to see the doctor to get evaluated.

Explain the disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to react to gluten, which is found in a large number of foods, including wheat. The most common symptoms are flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. There are two types of coeliac disease: 

  • Type A: This is the most common form of coeliac disease. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 10 and 30 years old, but can also present at an older age
  • Type B: This type is less common and occurs most often in children and young adults. Symptoms usually appear after eating foods containing gluten

Understand the symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain: This is the most common symptom, especially after eating gluten
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating: A sense of fullness in the abdomen or bloating similar to gas is also very common
  • Fatigue: This can be caused by the effort of expending energy to digest gluten
  • Weight changes: This is due to low stomach acid and the inability to digest certain nutrients from the food

Help out where you can

If your loved one is suffering with symptoms, then the best thing you can do is to support them as much as you can. This could be as simple as offering them some space, listening to them, and offering your love. Offer to help around the house and with errands. If possible, avoid giving them any food that contains gluten because this could make their condition worse. You can also offer specific diet tips, such as avoiding bread, pasta and beer. Instead, you can give them a list of healthy foods that they can eat instead. It is also important to note that gluten can be hidden in many different products. Be sure to read food labels before purchasing anything for your loved one.

Help with meal planning

Preparing meals for a person with coeliac disease can be quite difficult. However, you can use the dietary guidelines that you have read about. You can also make some changes to make them gluten-free, such as using rice instead of pasta or bread. When cooking, you should be extra careful when it comes to the seasoning. Gluten is often added to sauces and seasonings to make them taste better. You can try adding more spices to the meals to help them taste better.

Offer specific diet tips like these:

  • Avoid bread, pasta, crackers and any products made from these ingredients. These are all common sources of gluten
  • Drink water and non-caffeine beverages, such as water, herbal tea and unsweetened apple juice. Even though these drinks do not contain gluten, they can make it difficult for your body to digest the food
  • Avoid fatty and fried foods because these can also be difficult for your body to digest
  • Replace sugary drinks with unsweetened ones
  • Replace red meats with fish and chicken
  • Replace dairy products with soy or almond milk
  • Replace condiments and sauces with quantities of salt and pepper

Help with big changes

Another important thing that you can do to support someone with coeliac disease is to try to understand their concerns and fears. This will help you communicate better and it will also help your loved one to feel more supported. You can also try to help them make small changes to their diet, like drinking more water. This can help to reduce the amount of symptoms that your loved one is experiencing, as well as reduce the risk of complications for the future.

Help with research

You can also help your loved one with their research by offering to do the legwork for them. This could mean doing the grocery shopping, looking up ingredients in the food that they are trying to avoid, or doing the cooking. This will help to keep you both on track with the diet and it will also allow your loved one to focus on the meal without worrying about getting it ready.

Conclusion

Coeliac disease impacts over 1 in 100 people in the UK and it is one of the most under-diagnosed autoimmune disorders. Because it is not well-known, coeliac disease is often misdiagnosed, resulting in missed symptoms. It is important to pay attention to your loved one’s symptoms and to seek medical attention if they are experiencing any pain or discomfort. With proper treatment and a gluten-free diet, a person with coeliac disease can lead a healthy life.

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