Coeliac disease is a condition where your immune system attacks and damages the tissues in your gut when you eat gluten. When you have this condition you are unable to take in nutrients. Coeliac disease can cause a range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating. Gluten is a type of protein found in everyday foods, like wheat and barley. People who live with coeliac disease experience it as a life-altering disease. It changes the way you eat and may also impact your social life.
People living with coeliac disease commonly fare better when they eat a healthy diet free of gluten. In many people, getting rid of all the gluten sources in their foods may take a while, but using a food diary can help you become free of disease flare-ups faster.
Coeliac disease flare-ups usually do not happen when you eat a single meal containing gluten. Instead, it commonly occurs due to an accumulation of the protein in your body. This causes a response that affects your gut (small intestines), causing diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating. In serious cases, coeliac disease may cause itching of the skin, extreme weight loss, malnutrition and loss of bones mass.
Anxiety, depression and fatigue are common among people living with coeliac disease. Getting mental health support from their healthcare provider can help you live better and stick to your gluten free diet.
Eating a gluten free diet means that you cut out foods such as bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies and sauces. You may be able to buy gluten free alternatives to these foods or you may make these foods with gluten free flour yourself. Finding gluten free flour in Nigeria may be hard, especially outside of the big cities. Foods that are naturally free of gluten include fruits and vegetables, most dairy products, meat and fish and rice.
How to prevent flare-ups
The best way to prevent flare-ups is eat a gluten-free diet. You need to eliminate gluten from your diet by avoiding the following foods:
- Bread, cakes, biscuits, pastries and pies.
- Oats and other cereals.
- Baked or other processed beans.
- Beers and stouts.
When eating a diet free of gluten, you should make healthy choices. Vegetables and fruits should make up half of your meals. Proteins and starchy foods in equal portions should make up the remaining half.
- Fruits and Vegetables. Include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables in your meals every day.
- Proteins. You can get proteins from foods such as beans, milk, eggs, meat, fish and nuts (e.g. groundnut and walnut).
- Carbohydrates, fats and oils.
Many typical food items do not contain gluten. They include:
- Yam and yam flour (amala).
- Maize and maize flour (tuwo).
- Potatoes (sweet and irish potatoes).
- Cassava and processed cassava (garri, cassava chips).
- Plantains and plantain flour.
- Native soups like egusi, pepper soup and afang.
With Coeliac disease you need to change your diet and also watch what you replace it with. You will need the support of your friends and family and you may want to join a support group of people with similar changes. Your healthcare provider can put you in touch with such groups. You can live a life free of flare-ups by sticking to a gluten free diet. It will require adjustment to the foodstuffs that you and your family members buy, cook and eat.