Skip to content

Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten intolerance Australia: Identify common symptoms and naturally treat gluten reactions

Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten intolerance Australia: Identify common symptoms and naturally treat gluten reactions

Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten intolerance Australia: Identify common symptoms and naturally treat gluten reactions

The ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is linked to several clinical disorders including wheat allergy, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and severe gluten intolerance in Australia.

Evidence states that one in 70 Australians have celiac disease with four out of five people remaining undiagnosed. 1 The rates of gluten sensitivity are much higher than this.

Clinically in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, we find that the prevalence of Gluten intolerance in Australia is much higher than this and most patients do better with small amounts of gluten or no gluten at all. 

Over the last few decades, rates of celiac disease have grown to the point where it is now considered a major public health problem worldwide. 2

foods containing wheat

What is the difference between gluten intolerance, sensitivity, and allergy?

Gluten intolerance can cause similar symptoms to celiac disease, but it is a different issue with different long-term effects. The symptoms of gluten intolerance may also resemble those of a wheat allergy or intestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. 

Those with a wheat allergy must avoid all wheat products, as consuming any could be immediately life threatening.

Gluten intolerance can lead to discomfort, but it is unlikely to cause severe symptoms that require emergency care. People may also have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a milder form of gluten intolerance that can still cause problems.

Celiac disease, or coeliac disease, is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. It is a serious genetic autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten is ingested. 

How does gluten increase intestinal permeability?

Gluten has been found to negatively impact the lining of the gut, creating ‘leaky gut’ or intestinal permeability, even in those who do not have celiac disease. 

The lining of the gut is supposed to be strong and tight, keeping food, waste, and microbes inside the digestive tract. Gluten can cause the release of an inflammatory protein called zonulin, which opens up the junctions in the lining of the gut and causes gaps, allowing particles to leak into the bloodstream (where they don’t belong) and creating an immune response. This sets the stage for systemic inflammation. 3

symptoms of gluten intolerance

Symptoms of gluten intolerance Australia

Gluten intolerance can affect nearly every tissue in the body, including the brain, skin, endocrine system, liver, blood vessels, smooth muscles (found in hollow organs such as the intestines), and stomach. 4 This can result in a myriad of symptoms including gastrointestinal distress, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, anaemia, nutritional deficiencies, and reproductive health issues. 

Symptoms vary from person to person, and some may experience no symptoms at all. Time between initial exposure to gluten and onset of symptoms can vary from hours to days.  With repeated ongoing exposure in undiagnosed Celiac’s or those with gluten intolerance, it may take months before the symptoms are felt from the chronic internal damage caused to the microvilli of the intestinal tract.  

The below listed common symptoms often start to creep into a person’s life before getting much more frequent and intense over time.

Here are the 14 main signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance.

Bloating

Bloating is when you feel as if your belly is swollen or full of gas after you’ve eaten. 

Although bloating is very common and can have many explanations, it may also be a sign of gluten intolerance.

In fact, feeling bloated is one of the most common complaints of people who are sensitive or intolerant to gluten.

Diarrhea, constipation and smelly faeces

People with celiac disease experience inflammation in the small intestine after eating gluten.

This damages the gut lining and leads to poor nutrient absorption, resulting in significant digestive discomfort and frequent diarrhea or constipation. People with celiac disease may experience pale and foul-smelling faeces due to poor nutrient absorption.

Gluten may also cause digestive symptoms in some people who don’t have celiac disease.

Frequent diarrhea can cause some major health concerns, such as loss of electrolytes, dehydration and fatigue.

Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain and discomfort is very common and can have numerous explanations but it is the single most common symptom of an intolerance to gluten.

Headaches

Many people experience headaches or migraines occasionally, but studies have shown that gluten-intolerant individuals may be more prone to migraines than others.

If you have regular headaches or migraines without any apparent cause, you could be sensitive to gluten.

Tiredness

Feeling tired is very common and usually not linked to any disease. However, if you constantly feel very tired, then you should explore the possibility of an underlying cause.

Gluten-intolerant individuals are very prone to fatigue and tiredness, especially after eating foods that contain gluten.

Furthermore, gluten intolerance can also cause iron-deficiency anaemia, which in turn will cause more tiredness and lack of energy.

Skin Problems

Gluten intolerance can also affect your skin.

A blistering skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis is the skin manifestation of celiac disease.

Furthermore, several other skin diseases have shown improvement while on a gluten-free diet. These include: 

  • Psoriasis: An inflammatory disease of the skin characterized by scaling and reddening of the skin.
  • Alopecia areata: An autoimmune disease that appears as non-scarring hair loss.
  • Chronic urticaria: A skin condition characterized by recurrent, itchy, pink or red lesions with pale centres.

Gluten sensitive individuals also often find small raised bumps on the back of their upper arms.

Depression

Compared to healthy individuals, people with digestive issues seem to be more prone to both anxiety and depression. This is especially common among people who have celiac disease. 

There are a few theories about how gluten intolerance can drive depression. These include: 

  • Abnormal serotonin levels: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that allows cells to communicate. It is commonly known as one of the “happiness” hormones. Decreased amounts of it have been linked with depression 
  • Gluten exorphins: These peptides are formed during the digestion of some of the gluten proteins. They may interfere with the central nervous system, which may raise the risk of depression.
  • Changes in the gut microbiota: Increased amounts of harmful bacteria and decreased amounts of beneficial bacteria may affect the central nervous system, increasing the risk of depression.

Several studies have shown that depressed individuals with self-reported gluten intolerance want to continue a gluten-free diet because they feel better, even though their digestive symptoms may not be resolved.

That suggests that gluten exposure on its own may induce feelings of depression, irrespective to digestive symptoms.

Unexplained weight loss

An unexpected weight change is often a cause for concern. Although it can stem from various reasons, unexplained weight loss is a common side effect of undiagnosed celiac disease.

The weight loss may be explained by a variety of digestive symptoms, coupled with poor nutrient absorption.

Iron-deficiency Anaemia

Iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, causing symptoms such as low blood volume, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, pale skin, and weakness.

In celiac disease, nutrient absorption in the small intestine is impaired, resulting in a reduced amount of iron being absorbed from food.

Anxiety

Individuals with gluten intolerance seem to be more prone to anxiety and panic disorders than healthy individuals.

Autoimmune disorders

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your digestive tract after you consume gluten.

Having this autoimmune disease makes you more prone to other autoimmune diseases, such as autoimmune thyroid disease. Furthermore, autoimmune thyroid disorders may be a risk factor for developing emotional and depressive disorders.

Celiac disease is also more common in people that have other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

Joint and muscle pain

There are many reasons why people experience joint and muscle pain.

There is a theory that those with celiac disease have a genetically determined over-sensitive or over-excitable nervous system. Therefore, they may have a lower threshold to activate sensory neurons that cause pain in muscles and joints.

Moreover, gluten exposure may cause inflammation in gluten-sensitive individuals. The inflammation may result in widespread pain, including in joints and muscles.  Most patients with these symptoms that modify their diet to avoid gluten and other reactive foods start to improve.

Leg or arm numbness

Another surprising symptom of gluten intolerance is neuropathy, which involves numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. This condition is common in individuals with diabetes and vitamin B12 deficiency. It can also be caused by toxicity and alcohol consumption.

However, individuals with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity seem to be at a higher risk of experiencing arm and leg numbness, compared to healthy control groups.

While the exact cause is not known, some have linked this symptom to the presence of certain antibodies related to gluten intolerance.

Brain fog

Brain fog refers to the feeling of being unable to think clearly. People have described it as being forgetful, having difficulty thinking, feeling cloudy and having mental fatigue. Having a foggy mind is a common symptom of gluten intolerance, possibly caused by a reaction to certain antibodies in gluten, but the exact reason is unknown.

Managing a gluten-free diet for gluten intolerance

As a lifestyle change, eliminating gluten helps many patients recover from longstanding health issues. Functional Medicine provides the patients with the tools they need to manage any potential nutritional issue that may arise from following a gluten-free diet.

foods containing gluten

Foods that contain gluten

Avoid all foods and drinks containing the following:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale — a cross between wheat and rye
  • Oats, in some cases (While oats are naturally gluten-free, they may be contaminated during production with wheat, barley or rye. Oats and oat products labelled gluten-free have not been cross-contaminated. Some people with celiac disease, however, cannot tolerate the gluten-free-labelled oats.)  Clinically we find people that are gluten sensitive do better when they remove oats from their diet.

Processed foods that often contain gluten

In addition to foods in which wheat, barley and rye are likely ingredients, these grains are standard ingredients in a number of other products. Also, wheat or wheat gluten is added as a thickening or binding agent, flavouring, or colouring. It’s important to read labels of processed foods to determine if they contain wheat, as well as barley and rye.

In general, avoid the following foods unless they’re labelled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:

  • Beer, ale, porter, stout (usually contain barley)
  • Breads
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meat or seafood
  • Malt, malt flavouring and other malt products (barley)
  • Pastas
  • Hot dogs and processed lunch meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce (wheat)
  • Seasoned rice mixes
  • Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups, bouillon or soup mixes
  • Vegetables in sauce 5

Testing for gluten intolerance Australia

The best way to determine if you have an issue with gluten is with an elimination diet. This means you remove gluten from your diet for at least 30 days and then reintroduce it.

Another way to determine if you are gluten sensitive is to undergo the following tests:

  • IgA anti-gliadin antibodies (these are found in about 80% of people with Celiac disease)
  • IgG anti-gliadin antibodies
  • IgA anti-endomysial antibodies
  • Tissue Transglutaminase antibodies
  • Total IgA antibodies
  • Genetic testing (HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8)
  • Intestinal biopsy (for celiacs) 6

How we can help with gluten intolerance in Australia

Left undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance can lead to further complications, such as

  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • and the onset of other autoimmune diseases and some cancers. 7

At Advanced Functional Medicine, our qualified, experienced practitioners will ascertain if you have a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease with appropriate testing and help guide you through the complexities of a gluten-free diet, tailoring a diet plan to suit your needs.

We are all different, so there is no one-size-fits-all rule about gluten or any other food, but when it comes to gluten intolerance in Australia, comprehensive testing with functional medicine is the best way to know for sure whether gluten is a problem for you. 8

Claim your free 10-minute phone consultation by calling us today or get in touch by completing the form below.

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

Leave a Comment