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Coeliac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, and What Can I Eat?

Coeliac Disease is a permanent intolerance to gluten, which is a combination of two proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. It is an autoimmune disease, which is not limited to gastrointestinal symptoms. The immune response elicited by the gluten causes inflammation to the intestinal wall and flattens the intestinal villi, reducing the surface area where we absorb many nutrients from our food. This also affects the ability to digest nutrients and can lead to nutrient depletion resulting in many deficiencies, and also inhibits the ability to produce enzymes essential for digestion, including lactase. This is why it is very common to have a dairy intolerance also when you have a gluten intolerance. Common gastrointestinal symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence, heartburn, and nausea. Coeliac Disease is also associated with fatigue, weight loss, skin disorders, bone, joint and muscle pain, mouth ulcers, loss of tooth enamel, asthma, sinusitis, and an increased risk of anaemia, osteoporosis, menstrual issues, thyroid conditions, and depression.

Coeliac Disease occurs more commonly in genetically predisposed patients. You have a 10% increased risk if you have a first degree relative affected. Incidence of coeliac disease & gluten intolerance is slightly higher in females than in males. It is also more common in those with Western European ancestry, and is rare in Asians and African populations.

Testing for Coeliac Disease can involve IgG, IgA, biopsy (done via endoscopy or colonoscopy) and gene testing.

Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity, or Gluten Intolerance, can have many of the same symptoms but does not involve the immune response.

Of utmost importance is to implement a Gluten Free Diet to eliminate symptoms. A treatment plan can also include supplementation with nutrients to address specific deficiencies, as well as nutrients and herbs to support the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract, digestive enzymes, and fibre rich food choices.

Foods to avoid are all wheat, rye, barley and oats. Oats don’t contain gluten but a protein called avenin which can elicit a similar response. They can also be contaminated if processed on the same machinery use to process gluten containing grains. All forms of wheat should be avoided which include semolina, durum wheat, spelt, kamut, and couscous. This involves the elimination of breads, cereals, biscuits, crackers, cakes, pasta, pancakes, noodles, and wraps, tortillas, soft tacos, pizza, pastries, pies, sausage rolls, crumbed foods like cutlets, crumbed or battered fish, etc. Gluten is also commonly contained as an ingredient in a lot of sauces, soy sauce, condiments, gravy, lollies (as glucose-from wheat), TVP, HVP, malt, as well as many binders, fillers and extenders. Avoiding dairy is also recommended. Always make sure you check the ingredients list for gluten.

There are plenty of foods you can still have. Rice, corn, buckwheat (no, it’s not related to wheat), quinoa, millet, beans, soy, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, tapioca, arrowroot. Look for gluten free breads (which are so much more palatable than they used to be), gluten free cereals, biscuits, cakes etc. Pastas made on quinoa, corn, rice, as well as rice thins, corn thins, rice crackers etc. Obviously, all fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free, so here’s a great opportunity to increase your intake of all those amazing nutrients, aiming for 2 serves of fruit, and 5 serves of veggies per day.

Give yourself time to adjust to your new diet, and enjoy the relief of symptoms and improved quality of life!

Carmen Lizasoain is a qualified Naturopath. Any information provided herein is general in nature and does not replace personalized advice from your health practitioner. You can follow Carmen on Facebook @Imagine-Natural Health and Happiness- Carmen Lizasoain, Naturopath, or on Instagram @carmenaturopath. Naturopath and Massage Appointments with Carmen can be booked online at, located at Redcliffe

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