What is coeliac disease?
Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease in which gluten in some grains triggers inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine. This affects the body's ability to absorb nutrients.
Coeliac disease is a serious medical condition affecting around 1 in 100 Australians and a gluten-free diet is the only treatment available. Eating even the tiniest amount of gluten damages the lining of a small intestine, even if a person has none of the usual symptoms such as stomach pain and diarrhoea. If left untreated, coeliac disease can lead to weight loss, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals such as iron and folate, and increased risk of some cancers.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, rye, oats and barley. It helps make bread and cakes light and springy gives pasta its chewy 'al dente' texture. Gluten is present in many everyday foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, biscuits and breakfast cereals. Wheat flour contains gluten and is used as a thickener in cooking and many packaged foods. Gluten-free varieties have a denser texture.
Can gluten be a problem for people without coeliac disease?
Some people do not have coeliac disease but feel better limiting gluten in their diet. You can be intolerant to gluten without having coeliac disease just like a person can be intolerant to milk without being allergic. People with gluten intolerance do not need to completely avoid gluten, but cut back to a level that helps manage symptoms. In practice, this might mean avoiding wheat-bread and pasta but eating rice dishes with flour-thickened sauces or the odd biscuit. Individuals can vary in their tolerance levels.
Are gluten-free foods are better for you?
Gluten-free foods are only better for people with medically diagnosed coeliac disease or gluten-intolerance. For everyone else, gluten-containing grains like wheat and oats are nutritious foods, especially eaten in their wholegrain form such as wholegrain bread, crispbread and wholemeal pasta and rolled oats.
The gluten-free diet
People with coeliac disease can be well on a gluten-free diet but it is more challenging to eat a balanced diet. It is important to replace gluten-containing grains with a wide variety of gluten-free alternatives such as rice, corn (and polenta), potato, soy and quinoa. Check with restaurants and cafes before you arrive to ensure gluten-free options are available and read food labels carefully when shopping to avoid gluten. All food products containing gluten must highlight this in the ingredients list on the label.

Some people adopt a gluten-free diet without a medical reason by choice but this may not be a good thing because many gluten-free packaged foods are low in fibre and have a higher GI (Glycaemic Index). Research has found gluten-free diets tend to be higher in sugar and lower in fibre and essential nutrients such as magnesium, iron and zinc. It's not the kind of diet you would want to follow unless you had to.

Foods to avoid in a gluten-free diet and suitable alternatives
Avoid Gluten-free alternative- check all labels to be certain
bread gluten-free bread
pasta rice, rice noodles, sweet corn, potato
crackers, crisp bread rice crackers and rice crisp bread
muesli gluten-free muesli
wheat breakfast cereal corn flakes, rice cereal
Regular wheat flour 100% corn flour, rice flour, soy flour (gluten-free flour mix)
Pretzels Potato crisps
Cooking gluten-free
Cooking everything from scratch is safest so you know what's in it.
• Plain fresh meat, chicken, pork and fish are gluten-free. A roast or meat-and-three veg will work well, as will a stir-fry with rice but check any sauces and stock powders and make your own gravy using 100% cornflour rather than gravy mix.
• All vegetables (including potato) and legumes are gluten-free. Salads are good but check labels of prepared dressings (and no croutons!)
• Eggs are gluten-free so frittata is safe (provided you don't add any gluten-containing ingredients)
• Fruit and dairy based desserts are good but check the labels of any prepared ingredients such as custard powder, syrups and sauces
• Flour-less cakes made with almond meal are a good option

Coeliac awareness week is held every year in mid-March by The Coeliac Society of Australia. You can find out more at www.coeliacsociety.com.au
Taste.com.au - April 2011

Author's Bio: 

Julie Doherty N.D Biography

Julie Doherty is a Fully Accredited Naturopathic Practitioner with the Australian Traditional Medicine Society Ltd.
Having completed Professional Qualifications in Naturopathic Medicine: Herbal Medicine: Homoeopathic Medicine: Nutritional Medicine: Holistic Massage Therapy: Body Work: & Natural Beauty Therapy. This has enabled Julie to follow her dream of helping thousands of people overcome their health issues & heal their body with the use of a combination of Naturopathic Health Medicines & treatments.
Julie’s vision and passion has been to assist each person to become well with the least invasive & most effective treatments.
Whilst building a practice with like minded people.
Over the past 25 years, Julie Doherty has successfully treated & assisted people with various areas of ill health and disease from the common cold, skin ailments through to cancer.
Julie’s approach is to enable each person to have the best “Quality of life possible” whilst making your treatments effective, affordable and manageable.
Julie is a sought-after public speaker and has been a lectured for WEA Education services, Noarlunga Health Services, Onkaparinga Council providing community talks and courses for better health options.
Julie has been recognized by the Stanford Who's Who and the Continental Who's Who for her dedication and recognition of excellence as a Health Care Practitioner, Executive, Entrepreneur and Professional standards of ethics.
What makes the work of Julie Doherty stand out? The successful testimonials of her clients becoming well both-young and old, from a wide range of disease and signs of ill health: It has been commented about her humanness, her humour, her willingness to reveal so much of herself, her belief and commitment to her industry and clients, and the easy-to-understand style of her communicating and her simplistic way of explaining treatments and programs to become well.
To compliment our healthy treatment programs Julie has formulated a Skin, Hair & Body Care Range that is good for you “Just For You”, not only will it have your skin looking great, healthy & vibrant. Your skin needs to be fed good healthy nutrients the same as your body.