What is a Celiac Diet?

Anna T.
Anna T.
Wheat contains gluten, which cannot be digested by people with celiac disease.
Wheat contains gluten, which cannot be digested by people with celiac disease.

A celiac diet is an eating plan a person diagnosed with celiac disease may choose to follow. Celiac diets typically revolve around avoiding foods containing gluten, because people with celiac disease have an intolerance to gluten. Most types of grain, including barley, rye, and wheat, contain gluten. This can make following the celiac diet difficult for many people due to the large number of food items that contain these ingredients. It is often impossible for celiac disease sufferers to follow the diet 100 percent of the time because there are many foods that are not labeled.

A blood test can usually determine if an individual has celiac's disease.
A blood test can usually determine if an individual has celiac's disease.

Celiac disease is a result of the small intestine being sensitive to gluten. It is likely that the disease runs in families, putting people with relatives who have celiac disease at a higher risk of developing the condition themselves. A celiac disease blood test can usually determine if a person is affected, and once the diagnosis is made a doctor will typically place the patient on the celiac diet. People who follow this diet to the best of their ability frequently report a huge improvement in their symptoms.

Fruits and vegetables are allowed on the celiac diet.
Fruits and vegetables are allowed on the celiac diet.

The symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, malnutrition, and deficiencies in various nutrients. People with the disease who continue to regularly consume foods containing gluten may be as much as 100 times more likely to develop gastrointestinal cancers than others. The possible risk of cancer makes early diagnosis extremely important. There is no known cure for celiac, and those who have it must stick to the celiac diet to prevent the problems related to it. Many sufferers of the disease have no idea they have it because the symptoms may also indicate other health problems.

Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine.
Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine.

People on the celiac diet may have to avoid many types of grain, but they are free to eat meats, corn, and rice, in addition to butter, fruits and vegetables, milk, and most cheese products. It is considered a good rule of thumb to avoid most processed foods regardless of whether they contain non-gluten items. For example, broccoli alone does not contain gluten, but a frozen dinner containing broccoli in some type of sauce likely does. Some prepackaged and processed foods are labeled as gluten-free, as awareness of celiac disease has increased. Even if a product is labeled as being free of gluten, it may still be a good idea to look at the ingredients list before purchasing that item.

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Discussion Comments

anon155096

We are new to gluten-free world. We are worried about other ingredients/terms that mean gluten (like cassein for dairy). can someone help?

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    • Wheat contains gluten, which cannot be digested by people with celiac disease.
      Wheat contains gluten, which cannot be digested by people with celiac disease.
    • A blood test can usually determine if an individual has celiac's disease.
      A blood test can usually determine if an individual has celiac's disease.
    • Fruits and vegetables are allowed on the celiac diet.
      Fruits and vegetables are allowed on the celiac diet.
    • Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine.
      Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine.
    • The symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, malnutrition, and deficiencies in various nutrients.
      The symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, malnutrition, and deficiencies in various nutrients.
    • During the first two weeks of eating a gluten-free diet, those with celiac disease often find their symptoms are greatly improved.
      During the first two weeks of eating a gluten-free diet, those with celiac disease often find their symptoms are greatly improved.