What is Coeliac disease? Is it a food allergy, food intolerance or neither?

According to Coeliac Australia, on average approximately 1 in 70 Australian’s are affected by coeliac disease and a large proportion of Australians remain undiagnosed at 80%. 1 Coeliac disease is not an allergy, instead it is an autoimmune disorder. 2 Affected individuals have an adverse reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats products, and their derivatives. 3 Through the release of autoantibodies, the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages its own lining of the small intestine. 4 This damage can lead to various gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal symptoms including bowel irregularity, iron deficiency anaemia, osteoporosis and weight loss. 3 Symptoms and the severity experienced are individualised, which can make diagnosis difficult.

Who and how does someone get coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease does not discriminate between male or female and can be developed at any age. If individuals carry a genetic predisposition of two particular genes, they have an increase chance of developing coeliac disease.

If you experience symptoms in line with coeliac disease, seek out medical evaluation and diagnosis from a health professional; a general practitioner and a gastroenterologist. Diagnosis may include a blood test and a biopsy through a gastroscopy. 3 Try to avoid self-diagnosis as this may lead to unnecessary food restrictions.

Four tips for management:

  1. A strict gluten free diet: Coeliac disease requires lifelong management, an accredited practising dietitian will be a helpful resource in providing advice and guidance on a gluten free diet whilst minimising complications.
  2. Cross contamination: Have specific gluten free kitchen equipment e.g. chopping knives and boards at home. Call ahead to restaurants and cafes to alert them of your dietary requirement to limit cross contamination with gluten containing foods.
  3. Food labelling:
    • Gluten free certified products have no gluten detected and will be listed on the packaging.
    • Be careful of wheat free products as they may still contain gluten.
  4. Aim for a well-balanced, healthy eating diet and lifestyle.

Yakult is gluten free. Probiotics like Yakult have been shown to assist in strengthening the gut wall, supportive of a gluten free diet and in reducing digestive symptoms (such as bloating, diarrhoea) often experienced with coeliac disease.


  1. Coeliac Australia. Coeliac Disease. Coeliac.org.au. Published 2021. https://www.coeliac.org.au/s/coeliac-disease
  2. Allergy and intolerance. NSW Food Authority. https://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumer/life-events-and-food/allergy-and-intolerance
  3. Better Health Channel. Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity. Vic.gov.au. Published 2012. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/coeliac-disease-and-gluten-sensitivity
  4. Yu X, Uhde M, Green P, Alaedini A. Autoantibodies in the Extraintestinal Manifestations of Celiac Disease. Nutrients. 2018;10(8):1123. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10081123