Coeliac disease is a condition where the gluten found in food causes damage to the lining of the intestinal wall, preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed. According to the Coeliac Society, it affects approximately 1 in 70 Australians but around 80% remain undiagnosed.
The symptoms of coeliac disease vary widely and while some people have all or many of these symptoms, others may only have a few or none at all.
Typical symptoms include:
- Digestive symptoms including wind, bloating, stomach pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation
- fatigue, weakness and lethargy
- low iron levels or anaemia
- weight loss
- poor weight gain, delayed growth and delayed puberty in children
- recurrent mouth ulcers
- bone and joint pains
- easy bruising of the skin
Coeliac disease is treated with a life-long strict gluten-free diet. Gluten is the protein found in grain foods including wheat, rye, barley and oats. So a strict gluten-free diet means cutting out all products made from these grains, which includes most breads, cereals, biscuits, crackers, pasta and noodles as well as a range of processed foods which may contain small amounts of gluten.
When gluten is removed from the diet, the intestinal wall can heal so that nutrients can be absorbed, and symptoms will improve. If not diagnosed and treated, coeliac disease can affect a child’s growth and development and in adults it can lead to long-term health problems including osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, tooth decay and an increased risk of cancers of the digestive system.
If you have symptoms of coeliac disease it’s important to see your doctor to be tested. Don’t start a gluten-free diet before you see your doctor, as this makes the tests used to diagnose coeliac unreliable.
For more information:
You can find out more about Coeliac disease, including the symptoms, diagnosis and management, by visiting the Coeliac Society website or calling them on 1300 458 836.