What is gluten-free diet?

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Gluten-free diet: Overview

To help your symptoms, your doctor has recommended a gluten-free diet. This means not eating foods that have gluten in them. Gluten is a kind of protein. It's found in wheat, barley, and rye.

If you eat a gluten-free diet, you can help manage your symptoms and prevent long-term problems. You can also get all the nutrition you need.

What foods may contain hidden gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in some grains, notably wheat, barley, and rye.

Some foods and food products may contain gluten even when it is not specifically listed as an ingredient. The following foods and food products may have hidden gluten:

Milk products

  • Ice cream and other frozen dairy products
  • Cheese spreads
  • Yogurt with fruit

Processed foods

  • Hot chocolate mixes or cocoa, chocolates, and candy bars
  • Bouillon cubes, soup mixes, and canned soups
  • Processed meats and poultry, such as hot dogs, sausages, and luncheon meats
  • Imitation meat and seafood
  • Energy bars

Other products

  • Breading and coating mixes, gravy and other sauce mixes, ketchup, marinades, mustard, nondairy creamer, panko, peanut butter, salad dressings, soy sauce, and tomato sauce
  • Drink mixes and herbal teas
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which is a filler product used in many prepared or processed foods
  • Communion wafers used in religious services
  • Children's modeling dough (such as Play-Doh)
  • Some vitamins and herbal, mineral, and nutritional supplements
  • Some prescription and nonprescription medicines
  • Some kinds of lipstick and lip balm

Gluten-free diet: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have unexplained weight loss.
  • You have diarrhea that lasts longer than 1 to 2 weeks.
  • You have unusual fatigue or mood changes, especially if these last more than a week and are not related to any other illness, such as the flu.
  • Your symptoms come back again.
  • Your stomach pain gets worse.

How can you care for yourself with a gluten-free diet?

  • Avoid all foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley. Foods that are often made with these grains include bread, bagels, pasta, pizza, malted breakfast cereals, and crackers.
  • Carefully read food labels. Look for wheat or wheat products in ice cream and candy. You may also find them in salad dressing, canned and frozen soups and vegetables, and other processed foods.
  • Avoid all beer products unless the label says they are gluten-free. Beers with and without alcohol have gluten unless the labels say they are gluten-free. This includes lagers, ales, and stouts.
  • Avoid oats, at least at first. Oats may cause symptoms in some people, perhaps as a result of contamination with wheat, barley, or rye during processing. But many people who have celiac disease can eat moderate amounts of oats without having symptoms. Health professionals vary in their long-term recommendations regarding eating foods with oats. But most agree it is safe to eat oats labeled as gluten-free.
  • When you eat out, look for restaurants that serve gluten-free food. You can also ask if the chef is familiar with gluten-free cooking.
  • Look for gluten-free foods. Many food stores offer specially marked gluten-free food. And you can look online for gluten-free foods and recipes.
  • On a gluten-free eating plan, it's okay to have:
    • Eggs and dairy products. (But some dairy products may make your symptoms worse. Ask your doctor if you have questions about dairy products. Read ingredient labels carefully. Some processed cheeses contain gluten.)
    • Flours and foods made with amaranth, arrowroot, beans, buckwheat, corn, cornmeal, flax, millet, potatoes, gluten-free oat bran, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soybeans, tapioca, or teff.
    • Fresh, frozen, or canned meats. Be sure to check the ingredient list on processed meats like hot dogs, salami, or deli meat. These may have added ingredients that contain gluten.
    • Fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables, if they do not have thickeners or other additives that contain gluten.
    • Some alcohol drinks. These include wine, liqueurs, and ciders. They also include liquor like whiskey and brandy.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.