Gluten Free Foods and Coeliac Disease
Gluten free foods are becoming increasingly popular in Australia and other western countries like America and the UK.
In many instances, gluten free food choices are made for lifestyle reasons rather than the result of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, hence the growing number of gluten free options in cafes and restaurants, and the growing popularity of gluten free recipes.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Gluten intolerance is known as coeliac disease (spelt celiac in the USA and pronounced ‘seel-ee-ak’).
The symptoms of coeliac disease vary greatly. Some people experience severe symptoms while others are have no obvious symptoms at all.
According to Coeliac Australia, although symptoms can vary considerably in coeliac disease, everybody with the condition is at risk of potentially serious health complications if they do not adhere strictly to treatment with a gluten free diet.
So what are the symptoms and how do you get diagnosed?
The symptoms of coeliac disease can include:
- Stomach Cramping
- Abdominal pain
- Poor concentration
- iron deficiency anaemia
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Delayed puberty in children
- Weight loss or Weight gain
- Bone and joint pains
- Mouth ulcers
- Swelling of mouth or tongue
- Skin rashes
As you can see, some of these symptoms are fairly broad and can be caused by a variety of things.
This being the case, and with the growing amount of medical related information available online, there is a growing tendency towards self diagnosis, which as we all know, can be a very dangerous thing.
Obtaining a proper medical diagnosis is the only sure way to determine if any symptoms that you think may be a result of coeliac disease are, or are caused by another condition or factors.
The tests for coeliac disease are simple.
Typically, doctors use blood tests for initial celiac disease screening. Children under the age of four may need to have multiple tests months apart because these tests are less reliable for them.
Following a positive blood test a small bowel biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. In addition to this test doctors also have access to gene tests that they may administer in addition to the biopsy.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) advise against the use of other common but less scientifically validated tests used to diagnose coeliac disease, such as hair analysis, iridology and stool-based tests.
If you do suspect that you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity and plan on being tested, remember that it is important to keep eating food with gluten in it until after your diagnosis has been confirmed. Modifying your diet to be gluten free before you get tested will bias the tests and affect the reliability of the results.
If your tests are negative to coeliac disease, your doctor should be able to explore other possible causes of your symptoms with you.
It is estimated that coeliac disease affects around 1% of the population in Australia, but that approximately 75% of those people don’t know they have the disease.
A number of serious health consequences can result if this condition is not diagnosed and treated properly.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has gluten intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, make sure you/they are medically diagnosed with this condition before modifying your diet significantly.
Of course, if you want to restrict or eliminate gluten from your diet for lifestyle rather than medical reasons, which around 5% of the population do, that choice is yours.
If you have made that choice, you may be interested in consulting with a dietitian or trying our range of gluten free recipes.
For more information on coeliac disease, you may find these websites useful:
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
Celiac Disease Foundation
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This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
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