Gluten Free FAQ
1. What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.
2. Which products contain gluten?
There are obvious foods which contain gluten, for example: breads, cakes, pastries and pastas. There are also a whole range of ingredients within prepared and commercial products which can come from a gluten source. The Australian Food Standards Code requires that gluten free foods be labelled accurately, but knowledge of ingredients is also essential for those on a gluten free diet.
3. What is the difference between gluten intolerance and Coeliac Disease?
The symptoms of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance can be similar. Coeliac disease is an immune based medical condition that results in small bowel damage and long term health complications if left untreated. Specific medical tests are used to diagnose coeliac disease. Gluten intolerance does not cause physical damage to the bowel and there is no valid test available for diagnosis. Those with coeliac disease must adhere to a strict gluten free diet, no matter how mild or severe their symptoms are. Those with gluten intolerance may be able to consume some gluten (depending on symptom severity) as there is no concern regarding damage or long term complications. It is important that testing for coeliac disease occur prior to eliminating gluten from the diet. Testing for coeliac disease involves a blood screening test followed by a small bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
4. How many people in Australia have Coeliac Disease?
At lease 1 in 100 people in Australia are estimated to have coeliac disease, however only 1 in 4 of these people have been diagnosed. This means that currently, around 170,000 people in Australia are unaware that they have coeliac disease.
5. What are the symptoms of Coeliac Disease?
The symptoms of coeliac disease vary and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms of coeliac disease include bloating, wind, diarrhoea and constipation. Other symptoms include anaemia, lethargy, cramping and nausea. The symptoms can be similar to other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and stress. To accurately diagnose coeliac disease, a blood test followed by a gastroscopy is required to show that the bowel lining has been damaged by gluten. If you think you may be at risk of having coeliac cisease, it is important to seek medical confirmation.
6. What are the risks of undiagnosed Coeliac Disease?
The malabsorption of nutrients caused by gluten among coeliac sufferers can have many long term effects including osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression and an increased risk of lymphoma. Undiagnosed, children face the risk of poor development, short stature and behavioural problems. A timely diagnosis of coeliac disease can prevent and reverse these risks.
7. Is Coeliac Disease hereditary?
Yes, you must be born with certain genes to be able to develop coeliac disease. 1 in 30 people with the genes will get coeliac disease, which can develop at any stage in life. Immediate relatives of someone with coeliac disease should also be screened for the condition.
8. Should children eat gluten?
Gluten should be introduced into a child’s diet as normal. Only those medically diagnosed as requiring a gluten free diet should avoid it.
9. Is there a cure for Coeliac Disease?
Coeliac disease is a lifelong condition. Those with coeliac disease remain sensitive to gluten throughout their life, so in this sense they are never cured. However, research is continuing into a ‘coeliac vaccine’ – if trials are successful it is hoped that the vaccine would replace the need for a gluten free diet in those with coeliac disease.
The 2011 Gluten Free Expo will be held at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park on ?August 26 & 27. For more information visit www.glutenfreeexpo.com.au.
Look out for our gluten free recipes coming up next week!