Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and many other grains. Most people can consume these foods with no adverse effects, but a small population of people experience painful GI symptoms and an elevated immune response to these foods. This immune response is the result of celiac disease and, if left untreated, can cause permanent damage to the small intestine, malnutrition, and even cancer. The best way to treat celiac disease is by avoiding all gluten in the diet, as even 10mg of gluten can cause inflammation in the small intestine. Avoiding gluten can be tricky; the protein is found in a myriad of popular foods.
The most obvious foods people with celiac disease should avoid are gluten-containing grains. Gluten is a protein found in wheat plants and many other popular grains such as barley and rye. Most people can digest this protein easily, but those with celiac disease experience a serious immune reaction after consuming the protein. These grains are primarily found in breads and pastas, although there are many excellent gluten-free alternatives on the market.
Flour Tortillas are another food that people with celiac disease should be careful to consume. Sometimes considered a flatbread, flour tortillas are made from wheat and therefore contain a large amount of gluten. However, tacos are not off the table for people with celiac disease: corn tortillas are almost always gluten-free and are an excellent option for Taco Tuesday.
Who can resist a delectable chocolate cake or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? While these treats are tempting, it is best for people with celiac disease to avoid the desert counter at the local supermarket. These baked goods are usually made from all-purpose flour and contain large amounts of gluten. Even those labeled "gluten-free" should leave Celiacs wary—unless there has been a separate preparation station, cross-contamination has likely occurred.
Those who enjoy a cold one after work should look elsewhere than the local brewery—beer and ale are usually made from barley, which is a gluten-containing grain. Experts caution that even "gluten-removed" beers are not safe for people with the disease, as traces of gluten remain in the beverage. As little as 10 mg of the protein can cause an immune response, so it is best for people with celiac disease to stick to wine or pure spirits when choosing alcoholic beverages.
While it is possible to make a gluten-free gravy, many commercial gravies and powdered packets contain gluten. A rich, thick gravy uses all-purpose flour as a thickener, which isn't safe for people with celiac disease to consume. For those who are looking to make a homemade sauce to go with their fluffy mashed potatoes, choose corn starch as the thickening agent in lieu of flour for a safe alternative.
All fruits are safe for people with celiac disease, but those with the condition should be cautious when purchasing pre-sliced fruit from the store. These fruits are often cut in a communal kitchen where many other foods are prepared. If the fruit is cut on a communal surface, it is easy for gluten cross-contamination to occur. Because of this, it is best for people with celiac disease to purchase whole fruits and vegetables to prepare themselves.
More and more health-conscious people are choosing meat alternatives as science suggests that red meat may be detrimental to health outcomes. People with celiac disease should be careful—oftentimes, these products contain wheat fillers. It is important to thoroughly read the ingredient list before purchasing a product, and people with the disease should always look for the official gluten-free certification.
While oats themselves contain no gluten, these grains are often processed in a facility that also processes gluten, which creates a concern for cross-contamination that can spark a serious immune reaction in people with celiac disease. Additionally, a small portion of people with the disease experience symptoms even when consuming "certified gluten-free oats." Avenin, a protein found in oats, has been shown to cause a similar adverse immune reaction in a small population of people with celiac disease.
Shockingly, even certain condiments contain enough gluten to cause an immune reaction in someone with celiac disease. Examples of these include soy sauce, Worcester sauce, and many types of salad dressing. Typically, these products use gluten as a cheap stabilizer, emulsifier, and thickener. There are many gluten-free options available, although they will have a higher sticker price.
Prepackaged drink mixes, such as hot chocolate or energy powders, often contain barley malt or wheat starches as a thickener and stabilizer. In fact, most energy drinks contain some form of gluten, and it is best for people with celiac disease to avoid these beverages altogether. Those looking for a quick boost of energy or a warm soothing drink should stick to coffee or tea–these are naturally gluten-free and boast a myriad of other health benefits as well.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.