Even with all of the gluten-free foods and substitutes available today, going gluten-free is not always easy for a lot of people diagnosed with celiac disease. It is, however, the only treatment available for this autoimmune disease that damages the gut; causes many intestinal symptoms; and can lead to nutritional deficiencies, long-term poor health and other complications.

What Can I Eat?

Patients diagnosed with celiac disease must avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. That still leaves celiac sufferers with plenty of other foods such as vegetables; fruits; beans and legumes; meat; fish; nuts and seeds; rice; and other grains like oats, flax and millet. However, gluten is found in many processed foods and sometimes in restaurant meals where you might not expect it. That’s why thoroughly reading food labels and checking that dishes are gluten-free when eating out becomes paramount.

Foods to Avoid

Gluten is found in all types of wheat grains, rye, barley, brewer’s yeast, malt and triticale. Typical foods that have these products include:

  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Cakes, muffins and cookies
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Processed meats
  • Beer
  • Processed foods, including sauces and salad dressings
  • Soy sauce
  • Seasonings (Note: Gluten-containing seasoning is often used on gluten-free foods like fries and potato chips.)

Gluten Substitutes

The good news is that there are gluten-free options for your favorite gluten-containing foods available at most supermarkets, and many restaurants offer them as well. Plus, there are loads of easy substitutes. You probably already have some of them in your kitchen. We’ve listed some of our top tips below.

  • Granola: Make your own with oats (if tolerated), nuts, seeds and shredded coconut.
  • Pancakes: Use coconut flour, almond flour or gluten-free plain flour instead of regular flour.
  • Bread: Use gluten-free bread, toasted sweet potato slices (You can even pop them in the toaster just like you would bread.) or lettuce wraps.
  • Tortillas: Go for corn instead of flour.
  • Salad dressing: Make sure to choose a gluten-free option, or make your own at home with simple ingredients like olive oil and vinegar (or Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard and Sriracha sauce).
  • Croutons: Replace with nuts, roasted chickpeas or kale chips.
  • Pasta: Gluten-free pasta or spiralized vegetables like zucchini and spaghetti squash are great substitutes.
  • Pizza: Use store-bought, gluten-free flour or ready-made pizza crust. Homemade cauliflower crust is another option.
  • Couscous: Cauliflower or broccoli “rice” and quinoa are good options.
  • Breadcrumbs: Use almond flour or oats.
  • Crackers: Try corn chips or rice cakes.
  • Soy sauce: Use tamari sauce.

Once you start eating a gluten-free diet, your gut will begin to heal, and you will start feeling better. It can take months and sometimes years for the gut to fully heal. However, most people feel better within days or weeks of changing their diet.

If you do eat gluten, your symptoms will likely return. Symptoms can last for hours to a handful of days, depending on how much you’ve eaten and how sensitive you are to gluten. It is important to try avoiding gluten at all times, even if you can tolerate the symptoms. Gut damage will progress if you continue to eat gluten regularly.

For more gluten-free meal ideas and sample eating plans, here are some other good resources:

https://celiac.org/eat-gluten-free/meal-plans/7-day-meal-plan/

https://gluten.org/2021/01/05/4-week-gluten-free-meal-plan/

The team at GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treats multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have more than 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care that you can trust. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.