Gluten-Free? 17 September 2013

Many of you reading this blog are gluten-free — some of you have Celiac disease, some of you just feel better when you avoid it, and some of you have to avoid wheat to avoid a life-threatening allergic reaction. This post contains gluten-free resources and tips from a talk given by Rachel Begun, MS, RD (a dietitian with celiac disease) at the 2013 Colorado Academy of Nutrition Dietetics conference.

Celiac Disease ? Wheat Allergy ? Gluten Sensitivity

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. When folks with Celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and crossbreeds), their immune system mounts an attack and declares war in their gut. Over time, consuming gluten damages the small intestine, leading to malabsorption of nutrients, malnourishment, and multiple chronic conditions.

Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to the protein found in wheat (e.g. an IgE-mediated immune response to gluten). Wheat allergy is relatively rare (0.1% population), and in some individuals, can be severe enough to result in death from anaphylaxis within minutes of ingestion.

Gluten sensitivity is neither an autoimmune disease nor a wheat allergy. However, people report that they have unpleasant and disruptive symptoms after eating gluten, which can occur hours or even days after eating gluten. For more technical information about this condition, see Biomedcentral's online access to Sapone et al's 2011 paper published in BMC Medicine.

Get an Accurate Diagnosis

Ms. Begun stressed that it is very important to get appropriately tested and diagnosed for Celiac Disease vs. relying on self-diagnosis. If you get tested for Celiac, it is best to do so before starting a gluten-free diet — expression involves an interaction between genes, environment, and gluten exposure. Also, it is important to know if you have Celiac vs. gluten sensitivity since medical care could be affected. Also, attention to following a gluten-free diet could be more consistent if one knows for sure if they have Celiac since damage can occur even without gastrointestinal symptoms.

Gluten & Food Labels

The FDA recently passed a labeling law (with a 1-year implementation deadline — about August 2014) that allows manufacturers to use the term “gluten-free” on food labels if the product meets certain criteria:

  • A serving of food contains < 20 PPM gluten
  • No ingredients containing wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of those grains
  • No ingredients derived from those grains
  • If ingredients derived from those grains, gluten fraction removed to < 20 PPM

Processed Gluten-Free Foods vs. Whole Foods

Many folks eating gluten-free simply reach for the processed gluten-free foods for simplicity and ease. The food feels “safer” with that gluten-free label. However, as many of you who have Celiac can attest to, using too many of these products can increase the risk for excessive weight gain as well as reduced fiber intake. To maximize your choices, flexibility, and diet quality, learn how to buy naturally gluten-free whole foods safely and with confidence.

Celiac Now has a very helpful webpage to help you learn how to get enough gluten-free fiber. Here's a quick summary:

Gluten-free fiber sources: dried beans/peas (e.g. red beans, lentils, black beans), veggies, fruits, and to a lesser extent, nuts and seeds.

Gluten-free whole grains: amaranth, millet, buckwheat (despite the name), sorghum, teff, quinoa, brown rice, and wild rice. Make sure product is labeled “gluten-free.”

Oats: naturally gluten-free but a lot of cross-contamination can occur so only buy oats produced, tested, and labeled “gluten-free.” Do not buy from big open bulk bins — ever!

Online Resources — Celiac & Gluten Free

Celiac Now
Gluten Intolerance Group
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Not sure if your gluten-free diet provides enough fiber? Then select “fiber” as a nutrient to track at MyNetDiary and view your day's intake. Ideally, aim for 14 grams fiber per 1000 calories consumed. General guidelines: 25 grams fiber/day for weight maintaining women aim for 25 grams, 38 grams for men.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
Have questions or comments about this post? Please feel free to comment on MyNetDiary's Community Forum or Facebook page – We would love to hear from you. And consider visiting our new Pinterest page!

Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Meal Planning & Diets/Gluten Free & Celiac

Related Posts:

This article can be found at