Gluten Intolerance

Gluten is the general name for a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten containing foods can be part of a healthful, balanced diet; however, some people may suffer from conditions, which may require elimination of gluten from the diet. There are three common medical conditions associated with gluten that susceptible individuals may encounter: celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten intolerance.

  • With a genetic susceptibility, celiac disease results from eating gluten, which triggers an immune response to attack the lining of the small intestine. Right now, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong, gluten-free diet.
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is used to describe people with non-specific symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea after eating gluten. Gluten sensitivity also involves an immune reaction to gluten, but it does not involve the production of damaging antibodies that cause intestinal damage.
  • Gluten intolerance is commonly used to describe individuals who have symptoms after eating gluten, and who may or may not have celiac disease. Similar to gluten sensitivity, these symptoms may include nausea, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea.

If you experience these symptoms when consuming gluten, you should consult a doctor before eliminating gluten from your diet. There may be an underlying medical condition, for which a gluten-free diet is not the treatment.

Gluten-Containing Grains

Wheat, barley, and rye all naturally contain gluten. Oats do not contain gluten, but may come into contact with gluten when processed in a facility that processes a variety of grain products.

Hidden Sources of Gluten

Sauces, gravies, dressings, granola bars, imitation meat products, malt vinegar, starch, spices (cinnamon, basil), couscous, beer and cereals are all foods that may contain hidden sources of gluten. Also, some vitamin/mineral supplements, medications, and cosmetics may contain gluten.

Living Gluten-Free, Nutritiously

Since gluten-free diets tend to lack many nutrients, such as fiber, iron, calcium and B vitamins, it is important to find and regularly consume food sources that provide these nutrients.

Nutrient Gluten-Free Food
Fiber Nuts and Seeds
Beans—Black, pinto, garbanzo
Fruits & veggies
Iron Legumes—Lentils and beans
Meat—Red meat and poultry
Seafood—Fish and oysters
Fortified, gluten-free cereals
Dark, leafy greens—Spinach
Calcium Low-fat dairy products—Skim milk
Dark green vegetable—Kale, broccoli
Fortified orange juice or soy milk
B Vitamins
Thiamin (B1)—Pork, peas, fortified cereals
Riboflavin (B2)—Dairy products, salmon, chicken, eggs, leafy greens
Niacin (B3)—Peanut butter, lean beef, poultry, fish, avocado, beans.
B6—Baked potato, banana, nuts, pork, fish, chicken
Folate—Orange juice, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, avocado
B12—Animal products (milk, eggs, poultry, fish, meat)

Adequately managing celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance does not have to be an impossible task. Becoming familiar with hidden sources of gluten, gluten substitutes, and gluten-free recipes can help you limit or avoid your exposure to gluten and still enjoy a wide variety of foods.