Coeliac Disease
Coeliac Disease

This year, Coeliac Awareness Week is running from 13th-20th March and is putting a spotlight on the connection between iron deficiency and coeliac disease.

Iron Deficiency

Did you know that iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in Australia? It is estimated that one in three women of child-bearing age experience iron deficiency. Iron is a necessary component of heamoglobin contained in red blood cells and is required for the transport of oxygen around the body. Therefore, iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia can have significant health implications, including symptoms such as;

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling cold easily
  • Inability to concentrate

Whilst iron deficiency is commonly attributed to inadequate dietary iron intake, issues of poor iron absorption (e.g. coeliac disease) are often overlooked.

Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the intestinal lining when exposed to gluten. This results in chronic damage to the walls of the small intestine, whereby the villi (small finger-like projections on the intestine wall) become flattened and can no longer effectively absorb nutrients (such as iron, B12 and calcium). Coeliac disease is estimated to account for approximately 1 in 20 cases of iron deficiency, however, many individuals are not aware of the connection between iron deficiency and coeliac disease. Healthcare providers do not always undertake further investigations, meaning that ceoliac disease continues to be under-diagnosed.

What to do if you think you have Coeliac Disease?

It is estimated that 4 in every 5 individuals with coeliac disease in Australia are undiagnosed, which can severely impact quality of life and heightens the risk of long-term complications such as infertility and osteoporosis. It is for this reason, that iron deficiency should ALWAYS be investigated further by your GP or other healthcare provider, as it can be an important warning sign of coeliac disease. We encourage all patients to advocate for their own health and prompt further investigation by healthcare professionals if you are experiencing chronic iron deficiency with no other apparent cause. This is particularly important if you have additional symptoms of coeliac disease such as;

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Unintentional weight loss 
  • Fatigue
  • Brain ‘fog’ 

How can your healthcare provider help?

If you or your healthcare provider has reason to suspect that coeliac disease may be present, the following testing can be undertaken; 

  • Coeliac serology: Blood test is performed to test for the presence of ceoliac antibodies which suggest an active autoimmune response. Note: coeliac disease should not be diagnosed on serology alone. A small bowel biopsy should subsequently be done to confirm the diagnosis. 
  • Small bowel biopsy: gastroscopy is performed in which tiny samples (biopsies) of the small intestine are taken and tested for signs of damage to the villi caused by coeliac disease. 

If presence of coeliac disease is confirmed, dietary management involves complete removal of ALL gluten containing foods and beverages from the diet to prevent continued immune activation. This includes avoiding any risk of gluten contamination when eating out or sharing utentils (e.g. toasters). A dietitian can help provide guidance regarding how to adjust to dietary changes, including label reading and avoidance of cross-contamination. Once gluten is removed from the diet, the gut lining will begin to repair, allowing for a return to normal gut function and nutrient absorption with symptom resolution.

So this Coeliac Awareness Week (13-20th March 2022), we encourage everyone to spread the word about iron deficiency and coeliac disease and advocate for your own health if you are concerned about chronic iron deficiency. If you are someone who has been diagnosed with coeliac disease, we also encourage you to speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for personalised support with dietary management.

Heart Disease
Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects over four million Australian’s and unfortunately, over three quarters of Aussies are at risk of CVD. However, the good news is most of these risk factors are treatable!

With today being ‘Wear Red’ Day (February 14th) it is the perfect time to put the spotlight on CVD and raise awareness for this condition. We thought we’d talk about some factors that affect our heart health and ways to prevent CVD!

Common risk factors of CVD:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Being overweight/obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Diet 


Eating habits alone can impact four of the seven risk factors listed (amongst other factors like genetics). With diet having such a strong link to heart health, we have listed our top nutrition tips to help you stay heart healthy.  


Did you know only seven per cent of Australian’s are eating the recommended five serves of vegetables daily? Research shows us that eating all five serves per day can reduce your risk of CVD by up to sixteen per cent! That’s powerful stuff. We know it’s dry information but vegetables don’t have to be boring! By including one cup of salad at lunch, whether it be in a sandwich, wrap, or on its own, along with two cups of cooked vegetables at dinner (e.g. one roasted potato, half cup pumpkin, one cup mixed broccoli and cauliflower) can easily bring you to the five serves per day.

Mixing up your protein sources

You’ve probably heard that red meat isn’t the best for a healthy heart but that really doesn’t stop us, does it? (And to be honest we don’t blame you). So rather than removing red meat entirely, just focus on including a variety of different protein options. For example, fish! Oily fish in particular, is an excellent source of Omega-3’s which are incredibly good for our heart health. In fact, just three serves of oily fish per week gives us enough omega-3’s to have a cardio-protective effect.

You could also consider boosting your intake of plant-based proteins (and we aren’t meaning the fake meat range). This could include options such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, nuts and seeds. For example, using black beans for your taco filling, having baked beans on toast, adding marinated tofu to a stir-fry or cooking up some lentil soup!

Opt for healthy fats and reduced fat dairy options  

There are two main types of healthy fats (mono and polyunsaturated). These work by not only lowering bad cholesterol, but also raising good cholesterol! Great ways to boost your healthy fat intake include cooking with olive oil, swapping butter for margarine, adding avocado to salads, snacking on a handful of nuts, or simply enjoying some free-range eggs.  

Choosing low fat dairy will also help to reduce saturated fat intake. This is important as high saturated fat typically increases LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. You could also try a range of calcium fortified non-dairy alternatives such as almond or soy milk for something different!  

Limit discretionary foods  

Discretionary foods are those ‘extras’ that are (unfortunately) a lot of the yummy foods like chocolate, ice cream, crisps, chips, pastries and deep-fried foods. Keep in mind, the key message here is LIMIT not completely remove these foods. Whilst these foods aren’t great for our health, particularly heart health, they still play a fundamental role in enjoying food. A good rule of thumb is to save them as occasional foods rather than everyday staples (for example limiting them to 1-2 times per week).  

Seeing a dietitian  

If you have been identified by your doctor as being at risk of heart disease, seeing a dietitian is a great way to get personalised advice on what dietary changes you can make to better support your heart health.  

It’s the start of a new year and with the school term approaching, it’s back to packing lunches! For many parents, having the time and resources to prepare nutritious and delicious lunches every morning is a daunting task. This is particularly challenging here in the Top End, where the heat and humidity makes keeping food fresh a very difficult feat. So we have put together our top dietitian tips to help take the guess work out of lunch box preparation! Ditch the guilt and go stress-free with our lunchbox guide below.

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Balance Diet Centre: Is Processed Food Really The Enemy?
Balance Diet Centre: Is Processed Food Really The Enemy?

With the rise of ‘clean eating’, the narrative around ‘processed foods’ has become one of fear and avoidance. This is due to the fact that we are constantly bombarded with information telling us that processed food causes cancer, chronic disease and weight gain. However, whilst there are elements of truth in this message, the reality is not so black and white.

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Did you know food and nutrition play a huge role in our mental health? With World Mental Health Day in October just past and particularly given the ordeal we all have been through over the past two years (thanks COVID), we thought we’d start the month with some nutrition tips to help improve our mental health management! 

There are so many ways nutrition can play a role in mental health, so let’s take a dive into which nutrients play a specific role in mental health and how you can incorporate these foods to improve your wellbeing.


Numerous studies show that a higher omega-3 intake is positively associated with improvements to mood disorders. Omega-3 plays a role in regulating the new growth of brain cells that are responsible for cognition and emotions. 

There are a number of different types of omega-3 chains, however focusing on the longer chain (marine based) omega-3’s, there are three different types: EPA, DPA, DHA. While the exact amounts we need to have a positive effect on disorders like depression is unknow, we do know that EPA and DHA has the biggest impact. 

Currently the Australian guidelines suggest aiming for 400-600mg of long chain omega-3’s per day for general health, while some research suggests bumping this up to 2000mg per day for mental health benefits. In food talk, this looks like: 

  • 2-3 servings of oily fish per week (e.g. salmon with skin on, canned fish in olive oil blend, rainbow trout, mussels and mackerel)
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs 
  • Fish oil supplements 


Zinc is an essential trace mineral we need in our diets as it plays an important role in our immune health and wound healing, however increasing research indicates it also plays a role in managing depression. A number of studies show people who suffer with depression also have low serum (blood) zinc levels. There isn’t enough research to say exactly how much zinc is needed to combat depression, however current guidelines suggest aiming for 8-11mg per day for general health and not to go over the upper limit of 40mg per day. With this said, some studies have found aiming for 25mg in combination with prescription medication can help improve symptoms of depression. Food sources of zinc include: 

  • Oysters 
  • Lean meats (beef, pork and chicken)
  • Legumes (baked bens, black beans, chickpeas) 
  • Nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds) 
  • Low fat dairy (milk, yoghurt and cheese) 
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (e.g. Kellog’s Special K and Uncle Toby’s Iron plus)


Folate (or folic acid) is a part of the B-group vitamin complex and is essential for red blood cell development and health cell growth and function. Similar to zinc, there are many studies that show serum (blood) folate levels are low in people with depression and more and more research is coming out suggesting that supplementation in combination with prescription medication can help reduce symptoms of depression. A good starting point is aiming for at least 400mcg as per the Australian guidelines, but try not to go over 1000mcg. If you’re trying to increase your folate intake, aim to have more: 

  • Dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, cabbage, kale, spring onions)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and brussel sprouts)
  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans)
  • Orange colored fruits (oranges and mangoes)
  • Fortified cereals (e.g. Kellog’s Special K and Sanitarium Weet-bix)