The Gluten-Free Quick-Start Guide
[Updated July 6, 2015]
Here's a simple overview of the gluten-free (GF) diet. Keep in mind that not all areas of the diet are as clear-cut as portrayed by this guide, which is intended to be used as a safe and temporary survival tool until you can obtain additional information. Understanding these dietary requirements, however, will enable the newly diagnosed to read labels of food products and determine if a product is gluten-free.
Celiac disease (CD) is a life-long genetic disorder affecting children and adults. When people with CD eat foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine. This does not allow food to be properly absorbed. Even small amounts of gluten in foods may affect those with celiac disease and cause health problems. Damage can occur to the small bowel even in the absence of symptoms.
Gluten is the generic name for certain types of proteins contained in the common cereal grains wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives. Research indicates that pure, uncontaminated oats consumed in moderation (up to 1/2 cup dry oats daily) are tolerated by most celiacs. Gluten-free oats are currently available in the United States. Consult your physician or dietitian before including oats in your diet and for regular monitoring.
Rice, Corn (Maize), Soy, Potato, Tapioca, Beans, Garfava, Sorghum, Quinoa, Millet, Buckwheat, Arrowroot, Amaranth, Teff, Montina, Flax and Nut Flours.
Grains not allowed in any form
Wheat (Einkorn, Durum, Faro, Graham, Kamut, Semolina, Spelt), Rye, Barley and Triticale.
Foods/products that may contain gluten
Beers, Ales, Lager, Breading & Coating Mixes, Brown Rice Syrup, Communion Wafers, Croutons, Dressings, Drugs & Over-the-Counter Medications, Energy Bars, Flour & Cereal Products, Herbal Supplements, Imitation Bacon, Imitation Seafood, Marinades, Nutritional Supplements, Pastas, Processed Luncheon Meats, Sauces & Gravies, Self-basting Poultry, Soy Sauce or Soy Sauce Solids, Soup Bases, Stuffings, Dressings, Thickeners (Roux), Vitamins & Mineral Supplements
How about alcohol?
Distilled alcoholic beverages and vinegars are gluten free. Distilled products do not contain any harmful gluten peptides. Research indicates that the gluten-peptide is too large to carry over in the distillation process. This process leaves the resultant liquid gluten free. Wine and hard liquor beverages are gluten free. Beers, ales, lagers and malt vinegars are NOT gluten free. Gluten-free beers are now available in the United States.
Always read the label
The key to understanding the gluten-free diet is to become a good label reader. Don’t eat foods with labels that list questionable ingredients unless you can verify they do not contain or are not derived from prohibited grains. Labels must be read every time foods are purchased. Manufacturers can change ingredients at any time. As of 2006, wheat used in products is identified on the label.
Be a food detective
Call first. You can verify ingredients by calling or writing a food manufacturer and specifying the ingredient and the lot number of the food in question. State your needs clearly—be patient, persistent and polite.
"If in doubt, go without"
Don’t eat a food if you are unable to verify the ingredients or if the ingredient list is unavailable. Regardless of the amount eaten, if you have celiac disease, damage to the small intestine occurs every time gluten is consumed, whether symptoms are present or not.
Add one new food at a time
When adding a food item to your diet, introduce only one new food at a time. Listen to your body for adverse reactions before trying a second new food item.
Wheat-free is not gluten-free
Products labeled wheat free are not necessarily gluten free. They may still contain spelt, rye or barley-based ingredients that are not gluten free. Spelt is a form of wheat.
Keep in mind
Starting the gluten-free diet before being tested for celiac disease makes an accurate diagnosis difficult.