About 160,000 Australians have coeliac disease and don’t know it. Untreated it can lead to malnutrition, chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression, liver disease and some forms of cancer.
In people with coeliac disease, the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats) causing damage to the small bowel. The damaged bowel is unable to absorb certain nutrients.
People are born with a genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease and the condition affects about 1 in 100 Australians.
Could you have coeliac disease?
Some people have no symptoms at all while others have severe complaints including:
- Abdominal symptoms: diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain
- Weight loss, tiredness, easy bruising, skin rashes, irritability, bone and joint pains
- Iron deficiency, osteoporosis and unexplained infertility may also be warning signs.
Your doctor can do a simple blood test to screen for co eliac disease. The diagnosis is then confirmed by a gastroscopy – a brief day procedure done under a light anaesthetic.
Treatment of coeliac disease
There is no cure for coeliac disease, but a life-long gluten free diet lets the gut heal and the symptoms improve. Suitable foods are:
- Naturally gluten free foods e.g. fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meats, eggs, nuts, legumes, milk, fats and oils, rice and corn
- Products labelled ‘gluten free’
- Products with the ‘Crossed grain logo’. These are endorsed by Coeliac Australia
- Products that are gluten free by ingredient. Wheat, rye, barley or oats must be declared on the packaging
- Speak to your GP
- Visit www.coeliac.org.au
Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.