Gluten Free Diet for Coeliac Disease

CAROLINE SALISBURY
B.A., BSc., Grad. Dip. Nut. & Diet. (Syd.)
Accredited Practising Dietitian

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, rye, oats and barley. Patients with Coeliac disease are sensitive to gluten which damages the lining of the small bowel. This damage affects the absorption of food and can lead to symptoms including weight loss, diarrhoea, iron and folic acid deficiency. A gluten free diet is the only long term treatment for Coeliac disease. Complete removal of gluten from the diet allows the gut to recover to normal over a period of time. Even small amounts of gluten are enough to prevent recovery or cause further damage. Obvious symptoms or damage may not occur at the time of consumption.

It is important to include a wide variety of gluten free cereal products in a Gluten Free diet. This can be as simple as adding small amounts of soy, potato flour or rice bran to a dish. These are important sources of fibre, B group vitamins, zinc and increase the variety of the diet.

Food Labelling and Gluten

Foods may be gluten free either by ingredient - ie they contain only gluten free ingredients, or those foods which are labelled "gluten free". The Australian Standard of Gluten Free foods1 now requires that foods labelled as “Gluten Free” contain no detectable gluten using a sensitive assay. There are ingredients that are wheat derived but are considered gluten free because no gluten remains after processing and these wheat glucose syrup, and caramel. 

It is essential that all food labels be rechecked regularly since the composition may change.

References

  1. ANZFA and Aust. Food Council. (1997) Code of good manufacturing practice for the production of gluten free and low gluten foods.
  2. Selby W, Faulkner – Hogg K, Coeliac Disease. Current Therapeutics, June 1998; 31 – 37.
  3. Coeliac Disease – Kim F. Hogg, May 2000.

Which Food is Safe to Eat?

Click on each of the food groups below for specific information –

Remember

  • Read labels well and watch for hidden sources of gluten
  • Include a wide variety of gluten free cereals
  • Always check that medications and vitamins are Gluten free
  • For more detailed dietary information consult an Accredited Practising dietitian. Check with your local health centre or Hospital. Private Dietitians can be found in the yellow pages.

Additional Resources

The Coeliac Society of Australia provides useful information on gluten free diets for patients who have Coeliac Disease, Dermatitis Herpetiformis or medically required gluten free diet. See Gastronet patient support for contact details. There are also many local groups outside capital cities. Contact State offices for details.

An initial membership fee includes an extensive information pack, and a magazine 4 times a year which contains information on health issues, new products and recipes. The Coeliac Society also produces an Ingredient list as a guide to suitable and unsuitable ingredients. The 4th edition has recently been released.