Information for newbies

Coeliac disease Q&A sections

When you’re looking for information on coeliac disease it’s easy to get bogged down with technical jargon. This page is written in easy to understand sections so you don’t have to rush for a dictionary.


Please contact me if you’ve got any questions/thoughts. It’d be great to hear from you!

Coeliac statistics provided by Coeliac UK

Facts & stats for newbies

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is when the digestive system is affected by gluten. It basically means you can’t eat certain foods.

What foods?

Common foods it can be found in are bread, pasta, pizza, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals, pies and other pastries.

Is there anything left to eat?

Thankfully, yes! Meat, fish, potatoes, rice, sweetcorn, vegetables, fruit, dairy, eggs and beans are all gluten-free as long as they’ve not had anything added to them.

What do you mean by “added to them”?

Examples of food that has something added to it include:

  • battered cod

  • breaded chicken

  • cauliflower cheese

  • burger (beware of breadcrumbs)

  • Flavoured packet rice

In other words, if you choose a gluten-free food in its pure form (like catching a fish or pulling a potato from the ground) then it’s okay to eat it (cooked, of course – raw potato’s not to be recommended!).

What is gluten?

It’s a protein found in wheat, barley & rye.

Is it easy to spot whether gluten is in food?

Sadly, no. It can be hidden (e.g. in sweets) and is frequently used as a way to thicken sauces or coat food (e.g. floured roast potatoes).

Is gluten only in food?

Nope. It can be found in drinks such as beer, ale and barley water. It’s also in non-edibles like play-doh and certain types of glue.

What soft drinks are safe?

Tea, coffee, freshly squeezed juices, milk, most squashes (but check the allergens on the back to be sure) and 100% fruit smoothies (to name but a few).

What alcoholic drinks are gluten-free?

Wine, cider and pure spirits (including ones like whisky where the distillation process eliminates the gluten).

Symptoms: how do I know if I have coeliac disease?

There are sooooo many different symptoms. It’s easy to understand why it’s sometimes not diagnosed quickly. While one person might have (ahem) chronic diarrhoea, another could just feel tired all the time. Below are just some of the symptoms you might experience.

  • bloating

  • stomach pains

  • feeling tired

  • dizziness

  • depression

  • feeling (or being) sick

  • diarrhoea

  • weight loss

  • constipation

  • mouth ulcers


Annoyingly, none of the symptoms prove you have coeliac disease, which is why it’s important to get tested.

I’ve only had symptoms for a short time. Does this mean I’ve always had coeliac disease or did I catch it?

Coeliac disease is not contagious! But it can be activated in people, which is why some people don’t experience symptoms until their sixties.


How do I get diagnosed?

In the UK the process is as follows:

  • Make an appointment with your doctor for a blood test;

  • If the blood test is positive then you’ll be sent for an endoscopy; and

  • If the endoscopy is positive then welcome to the club!

What’s an endoscopy?

It’s a rather unpleasant (but mercifully quick) procedure where a tiny part of your stomach lining is taken for analysis.

How common is coeliac disease?

Around 1 in 100 people are estimated to have coeliac disease (worldwide, not just in the UK).

What did I do to get coeliac disease?

First of all, there’s no evidence to suggest it’s your fault. It may be in your family but there’s also the possibility an external factor is to blame. It’s believed certain experiences can trigger coeliac disease, such as childbirth, extreme stress, an accident (e.g. breaking a bone) and so on. More research is needed, though.


Is my family at risk of getting coeliac disease?

If you have coeliac disease there’s a 10% chance you will pass it on if you have children. It’s therefore important for your family members to be tested. The good news is there’s a 90% chance they won’t have it.

Copyright © 2020 Ali Walsh

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