It may sound familiar to many — even after you eat a little, your abdomen feels bloated and you have the urge to pass stools. Some people experience constipation or nausea and even vomit. If these symptoms were to last for a while one would be treated for amoebiasis, and if a trigger were to be found in the form of a particular food it would probably diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

But if under regular medication there is not much relief and the problem recurs and the individual loses weight despite eating well, he could be suffering from coeliac sprue.

In the genes

Coeliac sprue is usually a genetic disease running in families and involves irritability and allergic response of the small intestine to a substance called gluten. This is found in wheat, rye and barley and thereby a person with this response cannot eat grains, pasta, cereals and many processed foods.

The lining of the small intestine which contains fine protrusions called villi absorb the nutrients from the broken down foods and promptly transfer them to the blood stream to the appropriate places of body building and nutrition. But in persons with this condition the villi are damaged by an auto immune response wherein the metabolism wrongly identifies it as something deleterious and destroys it. This results in a lack of the particular nutrients in the body and over a period of time there is a nutritional disturbance.

Iron deficiency leads to unexplained weakness, fatigue, anaemia. Since calcium is not properly absorbed it leads to aching bones and thereby early arthritis or degeneration of the joints. The lack of vitamin B causes recurrent mouth sores, tingling and numbness of the feet and later, even depression and anxiety. Folic acid is not properly assimilated which causes missed menstrual periods, infertility and even miscarriage.

Considering the complications sprue can cause, it needs to be properly treated.

Sprue needs to be treated. To start with foods rich in gluten such as barley, rye and wheat should be avoided. Other wheat products such as flours should be avoided as also processed foods such as candies, potato chips, soups and sauces which contain this ingredient should be abstained from.

Even as the patient is under medication wheat alternatives in the form of rice, sago, potatoes, nuts, legumes, soy and seeds can be taken which will prevent any nutritional deficiency.

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