Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease awareness week is coming up soon. Hence this story on the BBC website.

As it says, coeliac disease is a gut disease caused by gluten intolerance and the only treatment is a gluten free diet. So what? What is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. People with coeliac disease can't tolerate gluten - they may get diarrohea, bloating and weight loss . The presence of gluten causes an inflammatory reaction in the gut, leading to reduced absorption of nutrients and so the failure of a child to thrive may be due to coeliac disease.

But why is this a problem? Well, standard flour, as used in bread, cakes, pastries and so on is made from wheat. Therefore people with coeliac disease have to eat special gluten free products. Although some supermarkets carry a gluten free range they are more expensive than standard products, and so most coeliac patients get their foods on prescription. There is a wide range of gluten free foods available on prescription, ranging from long life breads to freshly baked breads. Pasta, biscuits, cake mixes and flours are also available on prescription.

Prescriptions for these products do occasionally cause problems. A typical prescription might read "Juvela gluten free wheat free white fibre loaf sliced". Juvela also do brown loaves, non-fibre loaves, non-sliced loaves, and so on. At least their products are long life though. Bigger problems arise when you order freshly baked products and are told they will arrive on a certain date. Of course you relay this information to the patient so they know when to collect their prescription. But then the bread does not turn up on the date you were given and you have to placate an irate patient...

Coeliac UK have a very useful website with lots of information on coeliac disease and gluten-free products and services.


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