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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Celiac Disease
A lifelong, gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. Fortunately, it is very effective. Symptoms often go away within days of starting the diet. It is important to maintain the diet even when you do not have any symptoms to prevent damage to the intestines..
Gluten is found in many foods such as cereal, bread, and pasta. It may take some time to get used to your new diet. A registered dietitian may make the transition easier.
Managing the Diet
Learn how to read the nutrition labels on foods. The US Food & Drug Administration requires products labeled as gluten-free to follow strict limits on how much gluten is present. This should make it easier to focus on what you can eat instead of what needs to be avoided. There are many more gluten-free options today than in the past. This may make it easier to manage trips to the grocery store.
While the diet does require restricting foods, there are still many options including:
- Soybean or tapioca flours, meals, or starches
- Nut flours
With some basic changes to recipes, you may find fewer limits in your diet.
Foods to Avoid
The following will need to be avoided in a gluten-free diet:
- Wheat and wheat varieties, including semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, durum, or wheatberries
- Brewer's yeast
These ingredients can be found in most bread, pasta, cereal, and processed foods.
Gluten may also be found in:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial flavors such as monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Flavored broths
- Thickening agents in sauces, gravies, and jams
- Additives and preservatives
- Emulsifiers used to keep oil- and water-based products from separating
- Beers, lagers, stouts. and ales
- Malt beverages
- Malt vinegar
Read labels carefully. Not every gluten-free product will carry a label. If you are not sure of the contents based on the ingredients, avoid it until it can be determined.
Other Sources of Gluten
Gluten can also be found in non-food sources such as:
- Cosmetics used on the lips
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications may contain starches, agents used for coloring, lubrication, bulking, or binding
- Vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements have inactive ingredients that may contain gluten
- Communion wafers—check with your church before taking communion
- Playdough for children contains some wheat (starches and flour)—gluten-free options can be bought or made at home
If you are having symptoms even though your diet is gluten free look for these other sources.
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Gluten in medication. Celiac Disease Foundation website. Available at: https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/gluten-medication. Accessed February 13, 2018.
Sources of gluten. Celiac Disease Foundation website. Available at: https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/sources-of-gluten. Accessed February 13, 2018.
The gluten free label reading. Gluten Intolerance Group website. Available at: https://www.gluten.org/resources/the-gluten-free-label. Accessed February 13, 2018.
Treatment for celiac disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/treatment. Updated June 2016. Accessed February 13, 2018.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 12/2017
- Update Date: 02/13/2018