Coeliac disease is a condition where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in foods such as: wheat, rye, barley and oats. If these foods containing gluten are consumed it can cause inflammation and damage to the lining of the small bowel.
Coeliac disease affects on average approximately 1 in 70 Australians. However, around 80% of this number remain undiagnosed. This means the vast majority of Australians who have coeliac disease don’t yet know it. – Coeliac Australia
When the small bowel is damaged, nutrients from our food aren’t absorbed properly into the body. Common symptoms can include: weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, anaemia.
What ingredients have gluten in it?
Gluten is found in large amounts in:
- Wheat (spelt, durum, atta)
Small amounts in:
- Oats – mainly from processing oats with other grains. Oats are naturally gluten free.
- Ingredients made from the above grains e.g. malted barley, wheat starch, maltodextrin.
What’s the treatment?
For now, the only effective treatment is to follow a strict gluten-free diet, avoiding the foods listed above, for the rest of your life. Eating even small amounts of gluten can cause damage to the intestine, such as, crumbs from gluten-containing breads in butter, spreads and toasters.
Even if you don’t feel unwell or experience any obvious symptoms, it can still cause damage to the small bowel.
Consequences of not following a strict gluten-free diet can include:
- Chronic systemic inflammation
- Malabsorption of important nutrients leading to anaemia, osteoporosis, weight loss
- Gastrointestinal Issues
- Altered mental state
- Skin conditions known as Dermatitis Herpetiformis .
Following a strict gluten-free diet, means the immune reaction stops, this will allow the small bowel to heal and symptoms to improve. As long as the gluten-free diet is strictly adhered to, problems arising from coeliac disease should not return.
What foods are Gluten Free?
Naturally gluten-free foods include: fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh/unprocessed meat, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, milk and cheese. You can also consume rice and products that are labelled Gluten Free. Although, processed products may have higher portions of sugar or fats, so this is something to be wary of.
It is essential that people with Coeliac disease understand where gluten can be found in foods and what to look for on a food label. An Accredited Practicing Dietitian at Hoys Allied Health + Wellness can assist you with understanding which foods to include in your diet and which you should be avoiding. They can also assist you with reading labels, provide tips for eating out and make sure you are eating a nutritionally balanced diet for optimal health.
For more information contact the Hoys Allied Health + Wellness Team on 02 6652 7355.