What is the Gluten-Free Diet?
Proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley are harmful to people with celiac disease. Eating any foods or beverages containing these proteins causes the body to attack and damage the small intestine of people with celiac disease. The treatment, therefore, is the complete removal of these harmful grains from the diet. This is called the Gluten-Free Diet. Since wheat and barley grains are abundant in the American diet (in foods such as bread, pasta, baked goods, pizza, crackers, snack foods, and cereals), the Gluten-Free Diet is extremely challenging, but absolutely necessary. Less obvious sources of gluten include many sauces, soups, beer, some medications, communion wafers, most packaged convenience items, and most breaded foods.
All foods containing gluten are eliminated entirely and replaced wherever possible with specialty items such as corn or rice pasta, rice bread, baked goods made with safe flours, and cereal made without wheat or barley. Most of these foods can be purchased in specialty stores or through numerous gluten-free food companies. Staples in the Gluten-Free Diet include fruits, vegetables, meat, most dairy products, and gluten-free bread, pasta, and cereal. Despite these challenges, eating well-balanced, healthy meals on the Gluten-Free Diet is achievable with education and planning.
Special note: A person should not be placed or place themselves on a Gluten-Free Diet without a confirmed diagnosis by intestinal biopsy. Doing so will compromise future testing for celiac disease. The diet is a life-altering one and should never be initiated casually or without a confirmed diagnosis.
For information about the Northeast Ohio Celiac Support Group, please visit www.neohioceliac.com.