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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is coeliac disease different than gluten intolerance?

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  • Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    Coeliac disease (CD) occurs when there is an autoimmune-like response in the body from eating foods which contain gluten (a protein) which is found in wheat, barely, and oats (by cross contamination). This autoimmune-like response causes the “villi” (finger like projections) in the small intestine to become inflammed and flattened which leads to nutrient deficiencies as the small intestine can no longer absorb nutrients.

    Gluten intolerance occurs in people who cannot tolerate gluten well, who have no diagnosed coeliac disease. People with gluten intolerance will have symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome or fructose malabsorption.

    To rule out CD, you must visit your doctor and request a coeliac serology test to see if you have the antibodies, if positive, the only way to accurately diagnose CD is to have a small bowel biopsy. This procedure is often pain-free and can often be only a few hours procedure.

    If diagnosed with CD, you need to avoid all traces of gluten for life! By doing this you will be able to regenerate and heal your small intestine so that nutrients can be absorbed again. I recommend you visit an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who can help you to manage your CD and give you advice and education on what foods you can have, label reading, and a well balanced diet devoid of nutrient deficiencies :)

    If you aren't diagnosed with CD, you may consider a LOW FODMAPs diet. Once again an APD can help you to understand what's involved and how to manage your gluten intolerance. Visit www.daa.asn.au to find an APD near you :)

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