I want to start off by saying that I am obviously no expert when it comes to Coeliac disease; I am a diagnosed Coeliac and have done enough research to have an understanding of the disease when I was first diagnosed and have an interest when an article is released about advancements in medical research but that’s it. At the end of this article I will provide you with the sources of my research. If you have any further questions about Coeliac disease or if some of what I have written sounds like symptoms you are living with, please seek advice from your GP.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease that stops the body from being able to process the protein in wheat, rye, barley and oats, otherwise know as gluten. It can cause a whole range of “gut issues” such as malnourishment, inflammation or bloating, as well as difficulty falling pregnant, depression, diabetes and if untreated, increase the risk of osteoporosis and bowel cancer.
Coeliac disease affects on average approximately 1 in 70 Australians. However, around 80% of this number remains undiagnosed. This means the vast majority of Australians who have coeliac disease don’t yet know it.
You cannot catch Coeliac disease however not everyone who is diagnosed with Coeliac disease has it from birth; I myself wasn’t diagnosed until I was around 22 years of age. From my understanding, Coeliac is triggered by stress; for me the big change of moving away from home, my friends and starting University was my trigger. I have known of someone to have their Coeliac be triggered after labour and another who was diagnosed after she had her first solids as a baby. Coeliac disease affects all genders and ages. However, to be susceptible to Coeliac you will have one or both HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 genes.
To be diagnosed as a Coeliac there is a testing process; a screening blood test that measures the antibodies in the blood that are produced in response to gluten; this is an easy blood test that can be completed by a General Practitioner. However, a complete diagnosis is complete without a biopsy of the small intestine lining to see if the villi (the small shag carpeting like lining of your small bowel) to see if it is damaged. If this biopsy comes back with signs of damage, a final DNA mapping blood test is completed to check that one or both of the above noted genes are present.
Once diagnosed, my diet changed dramatically; it took me two years to not salivate every time I smelt normal toast cooking and even now the smell of a freshly opened box of Weetbix has me craving them. My point is wheat tastes good. The amount of starch that is put together to create gluten free flour vastly outweighs that of wheat flour. So the fad diets that recommends removing gluten from your diet doesn’t have enough scientific evidence to prove any dietary benefits for those not suffering from Coeliac disease. A study completed by Professor Pete Gibson and his team at Monash University found that people who maintained a gluten free diet due to bloating and gut pain but were not diagnosed Coeliac were able to reduce their symptoms by following a low FODMAP diet (removing the fermentable sugars in their diet) rather than a gluten free diet.
I have two things I urge people to do if they feel like they may be getting a gut reaction to wheat;
- Get tested! Coeliac Australia has very good, up to date information about the disease and list symptoms you might be suffering that relate to Coeliac disease but no one will know better than a General Practitioner. It’s better to speak to them, get tested and have an answer than trying to diagnose yourself.
- Don’t stop eating gluten! This may sound silly but by changing to a gluten free diet before seeking medical advice and having the appropriate testing completed, the results will not be conclusive. You may walk away being on a diet that isn’t necessary and still continue to be in pain.
Written by Lauren Henry
Coeliac Australia: https://www.coeliac.org.au/
Health Direct – Coeliac Disease diagnosis process: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coeliac-disease-diagnosis
Gluten for Punishment: Challenging Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/nhmrc-in-focus/awards/gluten-punishment-challenging-non-coeliac-gluten-sensitivity
For non-coeliacs, a gluten free diet is a waste of time – and money:
Foods, FODMAP and IBS: What to eat and what to avoid: