• Sonia McNaughton Naturopath & Medical Herbalist

Favourite Aussie meals causing problems for many.

Vegemite toast, chicken schnitzel and even Grandma’s porridge could be the reason for pain and suffering for thousands of Australians.

Around 1 in 70 Australians have coeliac disease, an immune disorder where the body reacts to a component in foods called gluten, which is found in wheat, oats, rye and barley. The immune response to gluten causes damage in the digestive tract which means painful tummies, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation, fatigue and in some, skin rashes.

Currently, it is thought about 160,000 Australians have the disease but aren’t aware of it. Whilst eating foods containing gluten generally makes someone with coeliac very sick, the symptoms are similar to many other health issues making it hard to spot. Plus some people don’t experience the obvious abdominal indications.

Treatment for coeliac disease is following a strict gluten free diet, so permanently off the shopping list are flour-based bread, pasta and pastries. Trickier to unearth are the foods where gluten is used in manufacturing to improve the texture including pre-made sauces and ice-cream. And chocolate, yes chocolate, commonly has gluten in it!

The sad story for the majority of people with coeliac disease is that it typically takes 3 or more years before diagnosis according to Coeliac Australia. Unfortunately, the longer someone with coeliac disease eats gluten containing foods, the higher their risk for some pretty serious conditions including: loss of fertility, migraine headaches and a greater chance of developing arthritis, thinning bones and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid conditions.

The good news is early diagnosis and treatment greatly reduces the chances of these complications so don’t ignore these common warning signs your body is sending you.

The growth of manufactured gluten free foods reflects the dramatic increase in incidents of coeliac disease in the past 50 years in Australia. Unfortunately, scientists are not yet clear on the reason for this disturbing trend.

The 13th - 20th of March is Coeliac Awareness Week and a great reminder to chat with your GP, naturopath or dietician about reoccurring, painful tummies, bloating, diarrhoea/ constipation and any skin rashes you might be experiencing.

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