Celiac Disease Home > Gluten-Free Diet

People who eat a diet of gluten-free foods do not eat products containing wheat, rye, or barley. Some people do this because they have a sensitivity to gluten, such as people with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis. Avoiding these foods might seem difficult at first -- especially since there are hidden sources you need to be aware of. However, many health food stores offer gluten-free products.

What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?

A gluten-free diet means not eating foods that contain wheat (including spelt, triticale, and kamut), rye, and barley. Foods and products made from these grains are also not allowed. In other words, a person with a sensitivity to gluten, such as someone with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis (a skin condition), should not eat most grains, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods.
Despite these restrictions, people with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis can eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods, including gluten-free bread and pasta. For example, they can use potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, or bean flour instead of wheat flour. They can buy gluten-free bread, pasta, and other products from stores that carry organic foods, or order products from special food companies. Gluten-free products are increasingly available from regular stores.

Checking Labels

Checking labels for "gluten-free" is important, since many corn and rice products are produced in factories that also manufacture wheat products. Hidden sources of gluten include:
  • Additives (such as modified food starch)
  • Preservatives
  • Stabilizers.
Wheat and wheat products are often used as thickeners, stabilizers, and texture enhancers in foods.
"Plain" meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables do not contain gluten, so people with a sensitivity to gluten can eat as much of these foods as they like. Whether oats should be avoided or not is controversial, because some people have been able to eat oats without any adverse effects. Scientists are currently studying whether people with celiac disease can tolerate oats. Until the studies are complete, people with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis should follow their physician's or dietitian's advice about eating oats.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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