Celiac Disease: Eating a Gluten-Free Diet
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Celiac disease is a problem some people have with foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a type of protein found in the grains wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a wheat-rye cross). When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, it triggers an immune response that is not normal. This damages the small intestine.
Symptoms of celiac disease can include gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, and vomiting. Stools may be bulky, loose, and more frequent. The damage to the intestine also makes it hard for your body to absorb vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This can lead to anemia or osteoporosis or both.
This information can help you learn more about how to eat so you can manage your symptoms, prevent long-term problems, and still get the nutrition you need.
If you have questions about following a gluten-free eating plan for celiac disease, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
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Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a wheat-rye cross). Common foods that contain gluten include:
Some foods are labeled wheat-free, but this doesn't mean that they are gluten-free. For example, some food labels list hydrolyzed vegetable protein. This sounds harmless, but this protein is often made from wheat and can contain a lot of gluten.
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It is okay for people with celiac disease to eat foods that are labeled wheat-free.
By following a gluten-free eating plan:
After you go on a gluten-free diet, symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea usually bother you less or go away within 2 or 3 weeks. Also, your body begins to absorb nutrients normally, and the small intestine gradually heals.
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By eating foods that are free of gluten, you avoid damaging your intestines.
Do not eat any foods that contain gluten. These include foods made with wheat, barley, rye, or triticale (a wheat-rye cross).
Avoid all beer products unless they say they are gluten-free. Beers with and without alcohol, including lagers, ales, and stouts, contain gluten unless they specifically say they are gluten-free.
Avoid oats, at least at first. Oats may cause symptoms in some people, perhaps as a result of contamination with wheat, barley, or rye during processing. But many people who have celiac disease can eat moderate amounts of oats without having symptoms. Health professionals vary in their long-term recommendations regarding eating foods with oats. But most agree it is best that people newly diagnosed with celiac disease not eat oats until the condition is well controlled with a gluten-free diet.
Carefully read food labels. Look for wheat or wheat products added to foods such as ice cream, salad dressing, candy, canned and frozen soups and vegetables, and other processed foods.
When you eat out, look for restaurants that serve gluten-free food. You might ask if the chef is familiar with cooking without any gluten. Also look for grocery stores that sell gluten-free pizza and other foods. The Internet can be another source of information on gluten-free foods.
On a gluten-free eating plan, you can still have:
Eating a gluten-free diet isn't easy. But if you take your time to read labels and ask questions, you can stay on a gluten-free eating plan.
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On a gluten-free eating plan, you can still drink beer.
You may need to avoid milk and milk products at the beginning of treatment for celiac disease.
If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins where you have questions.
Many communities have celiac disease support groups that are local branches of national organizations. It can help to join such groups. Other members of the group can help teach you which foods are gluten-free, share recipes and meal ideas, and help you learn what foods to avoid.
If you would like more information on celiac disease, the following resources are available:
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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