Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Celiac Disease

Gluten-free Diet

A lifelong, gluten-free diet is the only way to treat celiac disease. Symptoms often go away in a few days. The diet must be used even when a person does not have any symptoms. This will 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 the diet. A dietitian can help with meal planning.

Managing the Diet

The US Food & Drug Administration requires that gluten-free products have strict limits on how much gluten is present. This should make it easier to focus on what to eat instead of what not to eat.

Some items that can be eaten on this diet are:

  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Maize
  • Buckwheat
  • Potato
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Flax
  • Soybean or tapioca flours, meals, or starches
  • Nut flours

Foods to Avoid

These foods will need to be avoided:

  • Wheat and wheat varieties, such as semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, durum, or wheatberries
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Triticale
  • Malt
  • Brewer's yeast

These ingredients are in most bread, pasta, cereal, and processed foods.

Gluten may also be found in:

  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial flavors like monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Flavored broths
  • Thickening agents in sauces, gravies, and jams
  • Additives and preservatives
  • Starches
  • 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. Do not eat foods that may contain gluten.

Other Sources

Gluten can also be found in non-food sources such as:

  • Cosmetics used on the lips
  • Over the counter and prescription medicines that may contain starches and agents used for coloring, lubrication, bulking, or binding
  • The inactive ingredients in vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements
  • Communion wafers
  • Play dough for children contains some wheat (starches and flour)—gluten-free options can be bought or made at home

References

Caio G, Volta U, et al. Celiac disease: a comprehensive current review. BMC Med. 2019 Jul 23;17(1):142.

Celiac disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/celiac-disease. Accessed January 4, 2021.

Celiac disease. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/malabsorption-syndromes/celiac-disease. Accessed January 4, 2021.

Eating, diet, and nutrition 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/eating-diet-nutrition. Accessed January 5, 2021.

Gluten-free now means what it says. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm363069.htm. Accessed January 5, 2021.

Sources of gluten. Celiac Disease Foundation website. Available at: https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/sources-of-gluten. Accessed January 5, 2021.

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. Accessed January 5, 2021.