Eating Gluten Free

Many health care providers recommend a strict gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, a reaction can occur in the small intestine. This reaction can damage the surface of the small intestine and cause the person's body to reject certain nutrients.

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. A gluten-free food is one that does not contain gluten. Being on a gluten-free diet means not eating any foods that contain gluten.

Many other products that you eat or that could come in contact with your mouth may contain gluten.

These include:

  • Food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch, and others
  • Lipstick and lip balms
  • Medicines and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
  • Hand lotion
  • Toothpaste

Whatever your reason for following a gluten-free diet, here are some tips that can help whether you are at home, at the store, or eating out:

At home

  • Eat plenty of "plain" or unbreaded meat, fish, and poultry, as well as rice, fruits, and vegetables. These foods do not contain gluten.
  • Consider using gluten-free versions of foods such as breads and pastas. You can find them at your local bakery or grocery store.
  • Check out gluten-free cookbooks. They can give you great ideas for adjusting recipes. To search for gluten-free recipes in MerckEngage, click here.

At the store

  • Read the label before you purchase any food product. Some foods that might appear acceptable may contain gluten. A registered dietitian can be a great resource for helping you learn how to read ingredient lists and can make suggestions about gluten-free alternatives.
  • If you still cannot tell by reading the label if a food contains gluten, check with the product's maker.
  • Some medicines contain gluten. Ask the pharmacist about whether or not the medicines you take contain gluten.

When dining out

  • Call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if it serves gluten-free foods.
  • Even if you call ahead, be sure to ask your server about whether the foods you order contain or are prepared with gluten.
  • Once you find a restaurant that meets your needs, stick with it. You'll become more familiar with the menu, and the wait staff can become more familiar with your dietary needs.

Keep in mind that following a gluten-free diet can seem overwhelming at first. However, over time and with some patience and creativity, you will find that there are many foods that you can still enjoy.

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