FAQ’s re Coeliac Disease and Gluten…….

Q. What is Coeliac Disease?

A. Coeliac disease is an immune-mediated intestinal disease, triggered in susceptible individuals by the ingestion of gluten. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual and characterised by a time lag of months or even years after gluten introduction. Doctors diagnose gluten sensitivity when both allergic (wheat allergy) and autoimmune mechanisms (coeliac disease) have been ruled out through diagnosis by exclusion criteria, individuals who experience distress when ingesting gluten may be considered as having gluten sensitivity.

There are many symptoms linked to Coeliac Disease but some of the common symptoms include: Fatigue, Anaemia, Diarrhoea, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Depression, Bloating,Weight Loss, Vomiting, Family history in Coeliac, Bone and Joint pain, Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies. There are some symptoms that are less common and can sometimes make it harder to diagnose or recognize as Coeliac disease these include: Growth deficiencies (Common amongst Children with Coeliac disease), Osteoporosis and Infertility. However there are many people out there that have no symptoms at all. If you or you know of anyone close to you experiencing any of the above problems they should seek medical advice.

Q. What is Gluten?

A. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains, such as Rye, Barley and Oats. A university food experiment kneaded bread dough under flowing water to slowly wash the starch away, what was left was a rubbery type mass which was the gluten, the protein in wheat that gives bread its structure.

When Coeliacs eat Gluten, it reacts abnormally in their small intestine causing damage and inflammation. In most people the lining of the small intestine is not smooth it is covered with a wall of villi (tiny finger like projections), the villi provides an increased area for the absorption of nutrients in the body. In Coeliacs who cannot digest Gluten, this damages the lining of the small intestine (the villi) and therefore there is less area for the body to absorb nutrients. If a person with Coeliac Disease does not take gluten from their diet they will continue to damage the intestinal wall and will not be able to absorb nutrients leading to many health issues along with vitamin and mineral deficiencies

What are the symptoms of Coeliac Disease

Q. What whole grains are naturally Gluten-free? These include brown rice, whole corn, gluten-free oats, millet, teff, sorghum, wild rice, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa.

NB: Before switching over to a gluten-free diet, it is essential that you are examined by a gastroenterologist because once you eliminate gluten, it is virtually impossible to diagnose coeliac disease, and the diagnosis of this extremely serious autoimmune disorder should be your primary concern. Anyone giving gluten-free dietary advice should be a registered dietician.

For anyone who has just been diagnosed with Coeliac disease, we recommend you contact Coeliac Australia at www.coeliac.org.au who can offer support and information on the disease along with help in adopting a Gluten Free Diet.

Q. What are the risks of not being correctly diagnosed with Coeliac Disease

A. We strongly encourage anyone who feels they have these symptoms or they know someone with these symptoms to seek medical advice immediately. The risk of not treating this disease can lead to an array of health issues including: Osteoporosis, Infertility, miscarriage, depression, liver disease, poor dentition, increase risk of autoimmune disease and some forms of cancer. However once diagnosed correctly and adhering to a strict gluten-free diet can ensure that you heal the small intestine, resolve the symptoms and reduce the long term risk to your health

Q. What is wheat sensitivity eating wheat makes me ill, am I a Coeliac ?

A. Some people suffer from Wheat sensitivity or intolerance and experience some of the similar symptoms to those who are intolerant to Gluten but are not in fact a Coeliac. They have an aversion to wheat but not to other grains, they will also have to follow a wheat free diet or certainly look at reducing their wheat intake. If you feel that you are suffering from any of the above mentioned symptoms seek medical advice to determine the cause of your problems.

Q. Is going Gluten Free just another fad diet?

A. It’s all the rage right now, in fact, you may be thinking of going on a gluten free diet yourself but before you do, here are some things to think about. Originally, gluten-free diets were designed to combat coeliac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that virtually destroys the intestinal tract. But the danger of self-diagnosing and taking gluten out of your diet prematurely is that you would never be able to get an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms. An intestinal biopsy is the only way to definitively detect coeliac.

People try gluten-free diets in response to feeling tired, bloated or depressed, and find reducing gluten correlates with feeling better or losing weight. But that outcome is more likely because they’ve cut out the excess calories found in many flour-based snack foods, and they mistakenly attribute feeling better to taking out the gluten. So, before you rush into a gluten-free diet, why not try something simple, why not try some raw food like an apple or take some exercise?

If you take the following steps and find you do need a gluten-free diet, it can still fill all your nutritional requirements, but only if done carefully.

Q .How to check if you need a gluten-free diet

A 1. Have a complete check-up with your family physician.

2. Consult with appropriate specialists, such as an allergist for wheat allergy and a gastroenterologist for coeliac or another gastrointestinal disease. If you have a wheat allergy, you must avoid wheat, but you do not have to avoid gluten from other grains. If you have coeliac disease, you must avoid gluten — even the tiniest amounts. (But remember, you must be eating gluten for the diagnosis to be made).

3. If you do not have a wheat allergy or coeliac disease, visit a registered dietitian to verify that you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of naturally fibre and nutrient rich foods and that you are physically active. A healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce negative gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammation helping boost your immune system, improve brain functionality plus reduce depression and anxiety. If you are overweight, you may need to lose some weight as body fat can be toxic. It produces hormones and pro-inflammatory chemicals that regulate metabolism, the immune system, inflammation and the progression of artery hardening. When you have less body fat, you receive many biological benefits and feel better.