Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition caused by gluten, a food protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Coeliac disease often causes digestive symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. It can also cause anaemia, low iron levels and excessive tiredness. It is also associated with osteoporosis, other autoimmune disease, infection and some types of cancer.
Research has revealed that one in 60 women and one in 80 men in Australia have coeliac disease but 80 per cent remain undiagnosed.
Both genetic and environmental factors are important for coeliac disease to develop. More than half of the Australian population has the main coeliac risk genes HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8.
It is not understood why only some genetically susceptible people develop coeliac disease but a range of environmental factors is likely to contribute.
Treatment of coeliac disease involves a strict and lifelong gluten-free diet. This is a challenging and costly treatment that has a significant impact on people’s lifestyles. Even on a gluten-free diet, people with coeliac disease may still experience the condition’s short-term symptoms and long-term complications.
Coeliac Australia provides information and support for people with coeliac disease.