What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disease triggered by consuming gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye). In individuals with CD, their immune system attacks body tissues, leading to intestinal villi damage - which interferes with nutrient absorption. Symptoms of CD may include abdominal pain, bloating, bloody or fatty stools, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea, anemia, bone and joint pain, depression, fatigue, skin rash, migraine headaches or osteoporosis/osteopenia.
How is celiac disease treated?
The only treatment for CD is following a gluten-free diet. There are no medications that can treat CD.
How can nutrition help?
Because dietary control is the only treatment for CD, smart food choices are essential. A well controlled, gluten free diet can eliminate symptoms and improve the integrity of the intestinal villi.
What are the nutrition guidelines?
Following a gluten free diet should still incorporate variety and overall healthful items.
Grains: Grains will require the most attention when trying to maintain a gluten free lifestyle. Include whole grains that contain corn, rice, arrowroot, potato, flax, legume flours (bean, garbanzo, chickpea, lentil or pea), and quinoa. Avoid grains with wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, kamut, faro, emmer and malt (including beer).
Dairy: Include low fat or fat free milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and ice cream. Be aware of flavored yogurts, sour cream, cheese sauces, malted milk, and some ice creams because they may contain hidden sources of gluten.
Meats and other proteins: Choose fresh meat, poultry and fish eggs or those preserved with gluten-free ingredients.
Fruits and vegetables: choose fresh, frozen and canned vegetables. Be cautious of pie fillings, dried fruits, French fries (especially from restaurants), battered vegetables and fruits or vegetables with sauces.
Fats: Butter, margarine and oil are generally gluten free but be watchful of salad dressings and some mayonnaise.
Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you can't
Start with single ingredient, fresh foods until you are more comfortable deciphering nutrition labels
Ask your favorite restaurants if they have a gluten free menu or are willing to make special accommodations
Prevent cross contamination by storing gluten free items in a separate pantry, and washing all cooking surfaces thoroughly before preparing gluten free items
Do not share utensils, pots, pans, toasters or other cooking tools used for gluten free cooking with foods containing gluten
Attend local gluten free support groups to learn what works for other individuals with CD, which restaurants are gluten free friendly and how to maintain a normal life with CD
Links to additional resources