Diet & Nutrition

New online tool tells you if you should be gluten-free

Now there’s a simple way to find out if you might be at risk for coeliac disease, without having to go to the doctor.

Coeliac New Zealand have launched a new way to tell if you should eliminate gluten from your diet.

Dana Alexander from Coeliac new Zealand explains that the new online tool guides people through a simple questionnaire which then informs them if they are in fact at risk of having coeliac disease.

“It is estimated that 65,000 New Zealanders have coeliac disease, but 80 per cent are unaware that they do, so we are helping people join the dots and consider that coeliac disease may be the cause of their overall unwellness,” says Dana.

“Without a diagnosis of what could seem like an unconnected series of symptoms – including nausea and vomiting, lethargy, diarrhoea, irritability and weight loss or gain – people may potentially suffer long term health issues from something that is completely manageable.”

Those at risk are then provided a referral letter to take to their GP for further testing.

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disorder that causes a reaction to dietary gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.

It causes damage and inflammation in the small intestine meaning key nutrients cannot be absorbed properly.

While the disease is permanent, according to Dana by eliminating gluten from your diet, your small intestine can return to full function, but the key is early diagnosis early to prevent other health issues arising from being deprived of these essential nutrients.

High Performance Sport New Zealand nutritionist, Kath Fouhy, who is also on the Coeliac New Zealand medical advisory board, says the online tool is a great first step towards diagnosis.

“Before removing gluten from the diet, I encourage people that may be experiencing the symptoms of undiagnosed coeliac disease to take the test with the new online assessment tool as it may assist in the pathway to a confirmed diagnosis,” she says.

Dr Simon Chin, Clinical Director of Paediatric Gastroenterology/Hepatology and Nutrition Service at Starship Hospital, agrees:

“This new exciting online tool is patient-friendly and is very easy to follow. Hopefully it will make it easier for patients to recognise some of the symptoms that could be linked to coeliac disease and provide a pathway to access the medical practitioner in a timely fashion.”

Dana says people who suspect they have coeliac disease need to stay on a normal gluten-containing diet – a gluten free diet should not be started as it will interfere with establishing the correct diagnosis, which is notoriously difficult, but can be achieved initially through doing a blood test and then having confirmation with a small bowel biopsy.

Loading the player...

“The only treatment for coeliac disease is to follow a life-long strict gluten free diet, and providing all gluten has been removed from the diet, most people with coeliac disease return to normal health over a period of months, although it can take up to a year,” she says.

Coeliac Awareness Week runs from May 15 – 21 and Coeliac New Zealand and its partners are running a number of events over the week that aim to get potential coeliacs themselves and health professionals to consider coeliac disease as the underlying cause of persistent ill health.

Related stories