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  • Katherine Ancona, MS, RDN, CDN

Nutrition for Celiac Disease - Celiac Awareness Month

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Statistics show that it is estimated to affect 1 in every 100 people worldwide, where only about 30% are accurately diagnosed.When those with celiac disease eat any form of gluten, their immune system triggers a response that attacks the small intestine; these attacks result in damage to the villi, which are small fingerlike projections that line this portion of the intestine. When these villi get damaged nutrients can not sufficiently be absorbed, therefore malnutrition can occur as well.

How is it diagnosed?

The signs and symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly and differ in children and adults. Digestive signs and symptoms for adults could include the below:



-Weight loss

-Bloating and gas

-Abdominal pain

-Nausea and vomiting


However, more than half the adults with celiac disease have other signs and symptoms unrelated to the digestive system, including:


-Loss of bone density

-Itchy, blistery skin rash

-Joint pain

-Mouth ulcers

Doctors most often use blood tests and biopsies of the small intestine to diagnose or rule out celiac disease.Blood tests can show levels of certain antibodies that are often higher than normal in those who have untreated celiac disease. A doctor could also do biopsies of the small intestine during an upper GI endoscopy. After the test is completed a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to look for signs of celiac disease.

How is celiac disease treated?

Celiac disease is treated by following a gluten free diet. Gluten is a protein found naturally in certain grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is also added to many other foods and products as well to preserve texture, etc.

Following a gluten free diet requires paying careful attention to food choices, ingredients found in foods, and their nutritional content.

Many naturally gluten-free foods can be a part of a healthy diet:

• Fruits and vegetables

• Beans, seeds, legumes and nuts in their natural, unprocessed forms

• Eggs

• Lean, nonprocessed meats, fish and poultry

• Most low-fat dairy products

Grains, starches or flours that can be part of a gluten-free diet include:

• Amaranth

• Arrowroot

• Buckwheat

• Corn — cornmeal, grits and polenta labeled gluten-free

• Flax

• Gluten-free flours — rice, soy, corn, potato and bean flours

• Hominy (corn)

• Millet

• Quinoa

• Rice, including wild rice

• Sorghum

• Soy

• Tapioca (cassava root)

• Teff

Grains to Avoid:

Avoid all foods and drinks containing the following:

• Wheat

• Barley

• Rye

• Triticale — a cross between wheat and rye

• Oats, in some cases

While oats are naturally gluten-free, they may be contaminated during production with wheat, barley or rye. Oats and oat products labeled gluten-free have not been cross-contaminated.

When you are buying many processed foods it will be important to read labels to ensure they are gluten free. Foods that are labeled as gluten free are required by the USDA to have fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. All the below foods should be avoided unless they are labeled gluten free.

• Beer, ale, porter, stout (usually contain barley)

• Breads

• Bulgur wheat

• Cakes and pies

• Candies

• Cereals

• Communion wafers

• Cookies and crackers

• Croutons

• French fries

• Gravies

• Imitation meat or seafood

• Malt, malt flavoring and other malt products (barley)

• Matzo

• Pastas

• Hot dogs and processed lunch meats

• Salad dressings

• Sauces, including soy sauce (wheat)

• Seasoned rice mixes

• Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips

• Self-basting poultry

• Soups, bouillon or soup mixes

• Vegetables in sauce

If you are newly diagnosed with celiac disease or have questions on how to manage it, please consult your registered dietitian here at the Rite Bite!! We are here to help!

Until Next Time,

Katherine Ancona, MS, RDN, CDN

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