Coeliac Awareness Week
An average of 1 in 70 Australians live with coeliac disease with the majority of these cases undiagnosed (people living with the disease and not knowing or unaware what is causing their symptoms).
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition, whereby the immune system has an abnormal reaction to gluten (a protein found in wheat and some other grain products) when eaten, which results in changes to cells in the small bowel and prevents absorption of nutrients. Even 1/100th of a slice of bread can cause negative effects.
For some people, a diagnosis of coeliac disease is a relief as it may rule out other conditions weighing on their mind (e.g. cancer). For many others, it is a heavy burden and has a number of impacts on everyday life and health.
Impacts of untreated Coeliac disease:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as of iron, calcium, phosphate, vit D, zinc, vitamin B12 and/or folate.
- Chronic inflammation
- Decreased bone mineral density (increasing risk of osteoporosis)
- Negative impacts on kidney, thyroid and/or liver function
- Higher risk of other autoimmune diseases
Lifestyle impacts once diagnosed:
- A strict gluten-free diet that restricts wheat products and other hidden sources of gluten
- Frequent blood tests
- Ingredients list checking and label reading when shopping or eating out
- Kitchen storage rearranging (putting gluten-free foods at the top of the fridge/pantry to avoid cross-contamination!)
- Impact on fibre intake: initially, people with coeliac disease often avoid a lot of grain products, which provide a significant amount of fibre in our diets. Learning which products are safe is important to improve variety and fibre content in the diet.
There is no cure currently available to treat coeliac disease; this means a diet strictly free from gluten is the only solution to avoiding the impacts of the disease.
How can a Dietitian help?
A Dietitian can help you to manage living with coeliac disease including;
- Provide information about gluten-free foods that are available
- Suggest relevant alternatives for gluten-containing foods individualised to your situation and other conditions you may have
- Ensure your diet is adequate in nutrients to compensate for eliminating gluten-containing foods
- Help you to interpret food labels and gain confidence in asking about foods when eating out
- Monitor blood tests and correct nutrient deficiencies with improvements in diet or supplementation
If you have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease or want more information about food allergies or intolerances, book in to see a dietitian!