Australians living with coeliac disease will receive a 5 per cent discount on gluten-free products at Woolworths as the supermarket prepares for national Coeliac Awareness week.
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As many as 355,000 Australians have coeliac disease, which is a long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine and causes painful reactions upon eating gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
Woolworths said it will make “hundreds” of gluten-free products cheaper to make life more affordable for those living with coeliac disease.
According to a 2016 University of Wollongong study, a nutritionally balanced gluten-free diet costs around 17 per cent more than a non-gluten-free diet.
To qualify for the 5 per cent discount, shoppers need to be members of Coeliac Australia. They will then be issued a discount card which applies the savings to gluten-free products in-store and online.
The discount will extend long-term beyond just Coeliac Awareness Week (13-20 March).
“We want to make shopping as easy as possible for our customers regardless of their dietary requirement, which is why we’re proud to offer a great selection of gluten-free options in our stores nationwide,” Woolworths head of nutrition and health Stevie Wring said.
The supermarket has seen double-digit growth in demand for gluten-free products over the last three years, and has added more than 40 products to its gluten-free range.
Coeliac Australia chief executive Michelle Laforest said the expense of gluten-free food is a major consideration for those living with the condition.
“Over a year this discount will make a positive difference for our members,” Laforest said.
“Coeliac disease can be hard to spot. Our new awareness campaign highlights a range of symptoms beyond typical ‘gut’ issues and encourages people at risk to visit their GP for screening before commencing a gluten-free diet.”
In fact, while Coeliac Australia estimates around 355,000 people in Australia have the condition, it believes up to 270,000 people are living with the condition without knowing it.
As it stands, there is no cure for the condition with Coeliac Australia telling Australians a strict gluten-free diet can help manage it.
“A strict, lifelong gluten free diet is currently the only recognised medical treatment for coeliac disease,” its website says.
Coeliac disease symptoms
Affecting one in 70 Australians, coeliac disease can manifest in symptoms including joint pain, easy bruising, weight loss, iron deficiency and fatigue.
However, the most dominant symptoms are gastrointestinal and include diarrhoea, constipation, nausea and bloating.
“As coeliac disease is a serious medical condition with lifelong implications, a definitive diagnosis is essential,” Coeliac Australia says on its website.
“The gluten free diet is not a trivial undertaking and involves lifestyle changes and learning new skills such as reading and interpreting food labels. It should only be undertaken after the diagnosis of coeliac disease has been properly medically established.”
Coeliac Australia also warns against undertaking a gluten-free diet without having been diagnosed, as it can make future testing unreliable or result in false negatives.
“By obtaining a proper diagnosis, you can be assured that your symptoms are caused by coeliac disease (and should therefore improve once the gluten free diet is established) and not by another more sinister condition.”
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