Diabetes and coeliac disease

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to sensitivity to a protein in food called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats and triticale.

In Australia, coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in every 100 people although many are not aware they have it.

Can you have diabetes and coeliac disease?

People with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing coeliac disease than those in the general population. Coeliac disease affects about 5-10 per cent of people with type 1 diabetes. Some people with type 2 diabetes may develop coeliac disease but the conditions are not associated.

What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?

The following symptoms may indicate the presence of coeliac disease:

  • Diarrhoea, constipation
  • Steatorrhoea (floating, fatty stools)
  • Loss of weight, poor weight gain
  • Abdominal bloating, distention, cramping
  • Flatulence
  • Fatigue, weakness and lethargy.

It is important to know that people with type 1 diabetes may have coeliac disease without any symptoms. Screening can help detect its presence. Talk to your diabetes team for more information or advice.

Why is it important not to eat gluten?

If coeliac disease is left untreated, your chance of developing other medical problems increases. Even if you are eating gluten and not experiencing symptoms, damage to your intestine can still occur.

Untreated or inadequately treated coeliac disease can lead to your body not being able to properly absorb essential nutrients from food such as iron and calcium. It can also lead to difficulty in controlling your diabetes.

What can you eat if you have diabetes and coeliac disease?

Living with diabetes and coeliac disease means watching what you eat, however you can still enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods. It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that will help you feel better, give you energy, keep your brain active and keep your bones strong.

If you have been diagnosed with both diabetes and coeliac disease it is important that you make an appointment with a dietitian with experience in this area. They will help you develop an appropriate healthy eating plan.

If you have diabetes and coeliac disease, healthy eating includes:

•    Regular meals and snacks containing gluten-free carbohydrates
•    Foods that are low in saturated fat
•    Foods that are rich in calcium, iron and fibre
•    Plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Further information about diabetes and coeliac disease

This article is intended as an introduction to diabetes and coeliac disease only. More information is available at: