A coeliac cannot eat gluten; the protein found in grains like Wheat, Barley and Rye (among others).

What happens when a coeliac ingests gluten?

Well, it's not pretty.

In the small intestine there are small protrusions called villi - the job of the villi is to help increase the surface area of the small intestine so that nutrients from your food can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

When gluten comes into contact with the villi of a coeliac: they flatten out, this then results in a decreased surface area and as such means that nutrients aren't absorbed as easily.
If a coeliac continues to eat gluten it can wear down the intestine which in extreme cases can then lead to malnutrition.

Reactions to ingesting gluten can vary - if you're at all concerned then please go visit your doctor.

That sounds pretty bad - is there a cure?

Unfortunately not. The only real way to tackle being a coeliac is to follow a life long gluten-free diet.

Where can I find out more information?

Take a look at the Coeliac UK website →