Staying Heathy with Celiac Disease

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Tina Patnode, RDN, LD

Celiac disease is an autoimmune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten damages the intestinal tract lining which can cause poor absorption of nutrients leading to deficiencies of iron, vitamin D and other key vitamins and minerals. It is fairly common, occurring in one in 133 people in the United States. 

Not everyone with gluten sensitivity has celiac disease. While we do know Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is not an autoimmune reaction, it is not well defined and there is no test to diagnose the condition.  To diagnose gluten sensitivity, one must first rule out celiac disease and wheat allergy as other possible causes of symptoms.

A life-long gluten-free diet is recommended for individuals with celiac disease. People with celiac disease can stay healthy and symptom-free by following these dietary recommendations:

Include naturally gluten-free whole grains in your diet. Replace wheat, rye, and barley with quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, and teff. These grains are readily available and packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Talk to your doctor or dietitian about adding oats to your gluten-free diet. Oats are naturally gluten-free but may be contaminated with wheat, barley, or rye depending on how they were grown, harvested, and processed. It is likely safe to consume ½ cup dry, certified gluten-free rolled oats daily.

Some individuals with celiac disease do not tolerate lactose containing foods and beverages due to what is referred to as secondary lactose intolerance. Rather than eliminating dairy all together, try lactose-free milk, yogurt, and kefir as a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D which are important for
bone health.

As part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, include quality protein at every meal in the form of fish, poultry, eggs, beans, legumes, or nuts and seeds.

And of course, always eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables! Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrot, cucumber, and tri-colored bell peppers.

If you think you might have celiac disease, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or see a gastroenterologist to evaluate the cause for your digestive symptoms.