There once was a baby hippopotamus named Charlotte who lived in swamp in sub-Saharan Africa with her family. Charlotte was a very hungry hippo; she would devour the wheat, barley and rye crops to the contempt of the local farmers.
Even though Charlotte ate a lot more food than her siblings, and she had a very healthy appetite indeed, her parents noticed that she wasn’t growing like the other baby hippos. Charlotte was often low in energy and didn’t feel like playing with her siblings.
“Charlotte, why don’t you want to play with Charlie and Charles?” Her mum enquired?
“My tummy is upset mum, I feel all full and my poops have been looking a little funny…”
“Oh dear, how about we go to the zoo and see if we can get you some help sweety”.
Charlotte and her mum trotted through the gates of the local zoo, cheeky monkeys and roaring lions greeted them. They made their way to the medical center where a lovely ranger met them.
“Hello hippos! What brings you here today?”
“I am worried about my baby Charlotte, she hasn’t been growing like her siblings and she says her tummy has been upset”.
“Have you been eating anything funny lately Charlotte?” the ranger asked.
“Usually I just eat mushy vegetables but recently, I have discovered the most delicious crops in a field near by, I am sick of eating yucky baby food!”
“I think I know what this might be Charlotte, you may have coeliac disease. It is quite common and you often don’t know you have it until you start eating wheat crops as you have been lately.
Coeliac disease is a problem in your digestive system – this system starts in your mouth and goes all the way to your bottom! How cool! The role of your digestive system is to eat food, break it into little bits, and absorb it into your body to give you energy.
An important part of your digestive system is your small intestine, which is lined by millions of little finger like projections that absorb the nutrients.
In hippos with coeliac disease, your body reacts to gluten. Gluten is a small protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains – like the crops you’ve been eating. When you eat gluten, your body reacts to it and damages the little finger projections in your intestine. This means you can’t absorb food very well and you wont grow big and strong like your siblings, it can also make you feel bloated and make your poops look funny.
Don’t worry though Charlotte, this is very common and there is nothing you did wrong for this to happen! Your body doesn’t like gluten just like your brother body doesn’t like broccoli.
Although there is no cure, coeliac disease can be completely fixed by avoiding gluten in your diet!! I would suggest that you avoid eating those crops again Charlotte.”
Charlotte and her mum felt much better that they knew what had been happening!
The next day Charlotte went exploring with her siblings. “I was told by the ranger that I shouldn’t eat these crops anymore, I think the farmers will be happy! Lets keep exploring!
They explored beyond the farmers crops and stumbled across a beautiful oasis. Charlotte and her siblings feasted on delicious berries and fruits and bathed under the waterfalls.
Charlotte never ate the crops again and she grew big and strong like her siblings.
For more information about Coeliac disease:
Coeliac UK are the oldest and largest coeliac disease charity in the world and we have been working for people with coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis since 1968.
Coeliac Australia is a national federated not-for-profit body comprising five state organisations supporting people with coeliac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis and those medically diagnosed as requiring a gluten free diet.