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Coeliac Disease and Bloating

Posted 6 years ago by Brendan

For many with ongoing digestive complaints, cutting back on gluten can often help to alleviate common digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and indigestion. For those with coeliac disease, avoiding gluten altogether is essential for maintaining their health.  

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where eating gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. In genetically susceptible individuals, the immune system recognises gluten as a dangerous invader (like it would a hostile bug rather than a food protein), triggering a defensive inflammatory response whenever gluten containing foods are eaten. This ‘battle’ produces a range of uncomfortable symptoms but is also so aggressive, that over time the intestinal lining or ‘battlefield’ becomes so damaged, that it can be difficult to digest and absorb nutrients properly - leading to malabsorption problems (malnutrition, anaemia, osteoporosis, etc). 

Common symptoms

  • Diarrhoea
  • Persistent indigestion, nausea or stomach cramps
  • Frequent bloating, gas, excessive wind or constipation
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nutritional deficiencies (frequently iron, B12 & folic acid)
  • Fatigue, lethargy or exercise intolerance
  • Irritability, depression, poor concentration or apathy  
  • Headaches 
  • Weight loss or failure to thrive 
  • Hair loss 
  • Skin rashes or irritation, slow wound healing 
  • Joint and bone problems

Gluten - chewy proteins

Gluten is a combination of proteins found naturally in a range of grass-related grains including wheat and the food products made from them. Rich sources of energy, grains (seed-like dry fruit) contain stored proteins like gluten to fuel their germination. In baking, the strong cross-linking structure of gluten gives elasticity and volume to doughs, helping them hold onto gas bubbles produced by yeasts or baking powder. This allows products like bread, muffins and bagels to rise and hold their shape, while giving the finished product a uniform and chewy texture. This quality is also used to help bulk and stabilise a wide range of processed foods including beer, ice cream, sauces, processed meats, salad dressing and soups. Even tooth paste, cosmetics and hair gel often have added gluten. 

Gluten containing foods:  

  • Wheat 
  • Barley and malt
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Bakery products
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Couscous
  • Semolina
  • Most processed and packaged food (unless marked as gluten-free)

A coeliac disease diagnosis is screened with blood tests but confirmed by a biopsy and improvement of symptoms with a gluten free diet. Avoiding gluten altogether is the most effective treatment for coeliac disease and with ongoing avoidance, the intestinal lining often repairs itself. Read Healing leaky gut for more on what can help. 


Gluten overload 

While gluten does not affect most people the way it does those with coeliac disease, cutting down on gluten can often benefit those with other digestive complaints. Its sturdy structure can be particularly difficult to digest, leading to a variety of problems. Even more so when the digestive system is already weakened by stress, a lack of digestive enzymes, gut flora imbalances or the burden of dealing with a poor diet. For more read Leaky Gut and Bloating and Food Intolerance and Bloating. 

Going without gluten can take some getting use to, but becoming more aware of gluten foods and cutting back on what are often easily fermentable - bloating triggering - highly refined carbohydrates, can be a surprisingly effective measure for helping to improve digestive complaints. Try just swapping your sandwich or pasta for less refined, whole foods for a while and see how you feel. Or talk to a health professional rather than jumping in the deep end and trying to eliminate all gluten foods without preperation. 


Is gluten a problem for you? Perhaps you've tried a gluten free or low diet? Let us know about it. 

About Brendan O'Loughlin

Brendan is a integrative naturopath, nutritionist and yoga teacher. He has completed training in Naturopathy, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Yoga, Iridology and Live Blood Analysis.

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