News, recipes, information and helpful tips for living gluten free

News, recipes, information and helpful tips for living gluten free

Coeliac Disease

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten. The reaction causes damage to the small intestine, the part of the digestive system where nutrients are absorbed.

The small intestine is lined with tiny finger-like fronds (villi) that help absorb nutrients from foods. In coeliacs, gluten containing foods cause the villi to shrink and become flattened so they can no longer process nutrients.

This leads to symptoms that result in a number of serious health issues if coeliac disease is not diagnosed and treated. The most recent scientific research estimates 1 in 70 Australians has coeliac disease, although it remains under-diagnosed. It cannot be cured, but can be managed effectively by following a gluten free diet.


One of the reasons that coeliac disease is under-diagnosed is that the symptoms can vary from one person to another and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

Gastrointestinal symptoms e.g. abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating

  • Fatigue, weakness and lethargy
  • Recurrent mouth ulcers and/or swelling of mouth or tongue
  • Skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Altered mental alertness and irritability
  • Bone and joint pains
  • Failure to thrive in children
  • Delayed growth or delayed puberty in children
  • Iron deficiency anaemia and/or other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight loss (although some people may gain weight)

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suspect coeliac disease, it is very important not to start a gluten free diet without a medical diagnosis first. Your doctor can organise a blood test and referral to a gastroenterologist who can confirm coeliac disease. It is essential to keep eating foods containing gluten prior to being tested otherwise you could get a false negative result.

Removing gluten from your diet

In coeliacs, removing all gluten from the diet is essential for good health. Even a tiny amount of gluten, for example, particles of flour or bread crumbs contaminating a work surface, utensils or food item, is enough to cause problems.


Join the coeliac organisation in your state or territory for help and support adjusting to gluten free living.

Australia – Coeliac Australia -

UK – Coeliac UK -

US – Celiac Disease Foundation -

US – Celiac Support Association –

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