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The Gluten Free Diet

Gluten Free Article

On the gluten free diet means avoiding foods that contain wheat (including spelt, triticale, and kamut), rye, barley, and possibly oats. In other words, avoid most grain, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods.

Despite these restrictions, people with celiac disease can eat a well- balanced diet with a variety of foods, including bread and pasta. For example, instead of wheat flour, people can use potato, rice, soy, or bean flour. Or, they can buy gluten- free bread, pasta, and other products from special food companies.

What About Oats?

Whether people with celiac disease should avoid oats is controversial because some people have been able to eat oats without having a reaction. Scientists are doing studies to find out whether people with celiac disease can tolerate oats. Until the studies are complete, people with celiac disease should follow their physician or dietitian's advice about eating oats.

Foods with No Gluten

Plain meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables do not contain gluten, so people with celiac disease can eat as much of these foods as they like. Examples of foods that are safe to eat and those that are not are provided below.

The Gluten Free Diet is Complicated

The gluten-free diet is complicated. It requires a completely new approach to eating that affects a person's entire life. People with celiac disease have to be extremely careful about what they buy for lunch at school or work, eat at cocktail parties, or grab from the refrigerator for a midnight snack.

Eating out can be a challenge as the person with celiac disease learns to scrutinize the menu for foods with gluten and question the waiter or chef about possible hidden sources of gluten. However, with practice, screening for gluten becomes second nature and people learn to recognize which foods are safe and which are off limits.

A dietitian, a health care professional who specializes in food and nutrition, can help people learn about their new diet. Also, support groups are particularly helpful for newly diagnosed people and their families as they learn to adjust to a new way of life.

2014 Update

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a rule requiring the "gluten free" label to met certain criteria. The first official guidelines for that nutritional claim. By August, 2014, all products labeled "gluten free" must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten. This is the lowest level that scientifically can be detected. It is also the level widely considered safe for people who have celiac disease. Many manufacturers are aiming for 5 ppm or less. (Source: Pamela Cureton, dietitian at University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research)

Consumers should note, however, that products sporting claims like "made with gluten free ingredients" do not have to comply with the rule unless they are also making the claim "gluten free".

Resources for More Information:

The Gluten Free Symbol American Celiac Society -- Dietary Support Coalition
P.O. Box 23455
New Orleans, LA 70183
Phone: (504) 737-3293

Celiac Disease Foundation
13251 Ventura Boulevard, #1
Studio City, CA 91604-1838
Phone: (818) 990-2354

Celiac Sprue Association/USA Inc.
P.O. Box 31700
Omaha, NE 68131-0700
Phone: (402) 558-0600
Fax: (402) 558-1347
Internet: csaceliacs.org

Gluten Intolerance Group of North America
15110 10th Avenue, SW., Suite A
Seattle, WA 98166-1820
Phone: (206) 246-6652
Fax: (206) 246-6531
Internet: Gluten.org

Gluten-Free Living (a bimonthly newsletter)
P.O. Box 105
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
Phone: (914) 969-2018

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