Coeliac Disease and Diabetes

As this week seems to be a food and drink themed week of blogs, it seems appropriate for today's blog to be about coeliac disease. Coeliac by definition is an auto immune deficiency condition similarly to diabetes. And as a result of which people with diabetes are 6 times more likely to have the condition.

The way that coeliac manifests itself is that the sufferer becomes intolerant to gluten. Gluten is an ingredient used in many everyday foods, especially those containing wheat, rye and barley. The symptoms of the condition can vary from person to person but many people experience :

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Chronic or Occasional Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting
  • Weight loss 

My first experience of coeliac disease was when I attended my first research conference in London as a teenager. The conference involved 20 young people from around the country and their parents, who had been invited to discuss the issues facing young people with Type 1 diabetes. Out of the 20 young people who attended the conference, 6 of those had this condition I had never heard of called coeliac disease. I was amazed that this condition was effecting such a large percentage of us, but awareness of it inside the diabetes circle let alone outside it was so small. I remember thinking ironically how restrictive their diet was, especially considering the limitations that eating with diabetes can sometimes mean. In addition to the fact that prior to my learning to carbohydrate count, my insulin regime was centred around carbohydrate/ gluten based foods.

Little did I know that a few years later, I myself would start experiencing the symptoms of coeliac disease. For me it began with every time I ate gluten based foods, it would feel like there was a stone in the pit of my stomach. My stomach began to feel constantly bloated and enlarged after meals. Also after eating gluten I would instantly feel fatigued and uncomfortable and it would leave me unable to go to the toilet for days on end. Initially I thought the problem might of been IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), however upon seeking medical advice from my GP. He told me about coeliac disease and how common it was amongst people with Type 1 diabetes. The GP then advised that I eat gluten for the following month in order to have an endoscopic exploration to see if eating the gluten had inflamed my insides.

Whilst I appreciated the need to diagnose the condition officially, at the time the thought of eating more gluten for that amount of time left a bad taste in my mouth. So I made the decision to cut gluten out of my diet as much as possible. (I must stress that this was all my own decision making and would advise others in a similar position to seek medical advise prior to such a drastic diet change). I was at university at the time so cutting gluten out was a little easier as I ate my lunches and sometimes breakfast in the canteen. So the choice of food available was quite varied. I would eat fruit and yogurt for breakfast, something with rice such as curry or chilli con carne for lunch and then gluten free pasta for example for tea.

This went on for a couple of years until I was 20 and going onto an insulin pump. I'm not sure completely if the two were related but when my blood sugars started to improve again and my body got used to the pump. I found I was more able to tolerate foods with gluten again and after a few months re-introduced them into my diet. Well everything apart from white bread anyway! I know I was one of the lucky ones and that some people have an intolerance to gluten their whole lives. Thankfully however, there are now many great recipes for gluten free meals available and it's not unusual to be now be able to walk into a restaurant or cafe and order a gluten free alternative.


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Meet The Author

My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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