Gluten Free Diet
Our Accredited Practising Dietitians are experienced in gluten free diets and can introduce you to the range of gluten free grains and products that are suitable for maintaining good health.
Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease, which means that the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues causing inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. It is extremely important that there is strict, lifelong avoidance of gluten.
Gluten is the collective term used to describe the elastic protein component of particular grains – wheat, barley, rye and oats. Our Food Standards Code requires food labels must clearly declare cereals which contain gluten and products can only be labelled as gluten free when there is no detectable gluten.
The classic symptoms of this chronic disease are weight loss, failure to thrive, abdominal cramping, bloating and diarrhoea. Today the signs seen in people are rarely extreme and it is a diagnostic challenge for doctors since constipation, fatigue, headaches, gut upsets, low blood iron, miscarriage or bone fractures might be the only clues to suggest somebody has coeliac disease.
Coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 people in Australia but 75% people don’t know they have it. Left undiagnosed, there is the possibility of severe consequences such as bowel cancer and osteoporosis. Blood tests (coeliac serology) are used to initially screen for coeliac disease and if the serology antibody tests return a positive result be prepared for a biopsy of the small intestine.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is a chronic skin condition associated with coeliac disease that is intensely itchy. The rash may be small lumps, like insect bites, some with tiny fluid filled blisters on top however it can also appear hive-like or even pink and scaly. Often there are no gastrointestinal symptoms suggestive of coeliac disease but small bowel biopsies show that the majority have some degree of gut damage.
People with coeliac disease remain sensitive to gluten throughout their life. Once gluten is removed from the diet the gut steadily repairs and the absorption of nutrients from food returns to normal. At the start of treatment it may be necessary to include supplements and some people may have a transient intolerance to lactose (the sugar found in milk).
Your diagnosis might seem daunting at first but our Accredited Practising Dietitians can help answer all your questions.