How do I spot if my child has . . . coeliac disease?

A coeliac diagnosis is more serious than a gluten intolerance; it causes internal damage

Coeliac (or celiac in the US) disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an adverse reaction in the gut, damaging the small intestine. Photograph: iStock

Coeliac (or celiac in the US) disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an adverse reaction in the gut, damaging the small intestine. Photograph: iStock

What is coeliac disease?

It is an autoimmune disease that causes an adverse reaction in the gut when an affected child eats gluten, damaging the small intestine. This should not be confused with gluten-intolerance, where an individual has a problem digesting gluten and may experience some similar external symptoms but will not have the same internal harm going on.

Wheat, barley and rye all contain gluten so, as you can imagine, it occurs in many common foods such as bread, pasta, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cakes, pizza, etc. But what you might not realise is that gluten can crop up in all sorts of other less obvious, processed foods, such as soups, sauces and chocolate bars.

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