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If you know or love someone with celiac disease, you might be wondering what they can and can’t eat.
The celiac disease diet is essentially a gluten-free diet. Someone with celiac must remove all gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye – from their diet as even a crumb of gluten can make them sick and cause an autoimmune response.
Unfortunately, gluten is everywhere. It’s not only found things like wheat, barley and rye, but also in a slew of other ingredients that may be derived from these ingredients. Gluten goes by many names and is hidden in many products you know and use regularly.
According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, a leading celiac researcher and author of Gluten Freedom, celiac disease afflicts 1 in 133 people in the U.S., but many people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed. Celiac disease is often considered a digestive disorder, but there can be many symptoms of celiac disease. beyond digestive abnormalities. People who experience joint pain, migraines, skin issues, chronic fatigue and even depression are often dealing with celiac disease. (Read: 8 Roaring Symptoms of Celiac Disease and 30 Tell-Tale Signs You Have Celiac Disease)
What’s Included in the Celiac Disease Diet?
The celiac disease diet includes any foods that are gluten-free. The best foods are fresh and whole foods that are naturally gluten-free foods. The celiac disease diet can include:
- A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Any meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, etc.) – preferably organic and pasture-raised
- A variety of nuts and seeds
- Most dairy products such as yogurt, milk and cheese
- Gluten-free whole grains, including white, brown and wild rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat (and oats that are certified gluten-free)
- Eggs – preferably organic and free-range or pasture-raised
- All fish – especially wild caught fatty fish like salmon and shellfish
You can view my complete list of naturally gluten-free foods here. These are foods that every celiac should be eating in order to maintain good health.
Of course, people with celiac disease can also eat sweets and desserts, after all, sugar and chocolate are naturally gluten-free too.
That said, desserts can be tricky for someone with celiac disease, as gluten-free flours bake different than wheat flour. Experimentation is necessary in order to find the right taste and texture in gluten-free baked goods. There are many awesome gluten-free flour blends on the market today that measure just like regular flour.
I personally use and recommend Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour and I know a lot of people who like Cup 4 Cup Gluten-Free Baking Flour too. The beauty of these flours is that you can use your regular recipe and simply swap the wheat flour for one of these one-for-one gluten-free flour substitutes.
What About Gluten-Free Packaged Food?
You may have noticed that I didn’t list gluten-free packaged food as foods safe for those on the celiac disease diet. However, gluten-free packaged foods are, of course, gluten-free, and they have their place in a celiac’s diet. I enjoy gluten-free crackers, gluten-free breadcrumbs, gluten-free baking mixes and gluten-free snack foods like the rest of you, but I do try to limit my packaged food exposure as much as possible. Packaged foods are notorious for having excessive flours, starches, sugars and artificial ingredients – all that can sabotage a celiac’s already compromised health.
That said, we all need gluten-free bread crumbs and gluten-free soy sauce (tamari sauce) to round out our gluten-free recipes. I’ve created a list of many of the gluten-free packaged foods I have tried and recommend in this list of Gluten-Free Recommended Products.
If you’re new to celiac disease and want to try new gluten-free foods without wasting a lot of money, I encourage you to sign up for the gluten-free Urthbox subscription. Urthbox will send you a box of gluten-free goodies each month so you can explore different brands and learn about new gluten-free packaged foods. I encourage you to read my review of Urthbox … and if you want to sign-up, click here for a $10 off coupon in your shopping cart.
What Happens If Some with Celiac Disease Eats Gluten?
Every celiac has a different response or reaction to accidental gluten ingestion. While internally the gluten will damage a celiac’s small intestine, externally he or she might have to throw up or urgently use the bathroom, or experience a rash, red bumps, acne, headaches or joint pain. Every celiac is different and reacts in a different way. For me, symptoms often appear within 60 minutes of accidental gluten exposure. (Read: 12 Questions Every Celiac is Asked Over and Over Again)
Eating gluten can really set back someone with celiac disease and their efforts to heal their gut and whole bodies.
Keep in mind that someone with celiac disease does not go into anaphylactic shock like someone with a wheat or peanut allergy might have a severe and deadly allergic reaction. Rather, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease (not an allergy) and because the reaction is delayed, sometimes invisible, and requires damage over time, people with celiac disease aren’t always taken seriously. It’s sad, I know, because both an allergy and autoimmune disease are damaging and even deadly.
Healing Foods Perfect for the Celiac Disease Diet
When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, going on a gluten-free diet is only part of the healing process. Someone with celiac also must work hard to heal their bodies. The first step is, of course, removing irritants from their diet – like gluten (mandatory) and then even limiting pro-inflammatory foods like sugar and/or dairy (which Dr. Tom O’Bryan says must go in his book, The Autoimmune Fix).
Someone with celiac also must work hard to put good stuff in their bodies, perhaps through healing bone broths, antioxidant rich green juices and a high quality probiotic and fish oil supplement (to control inflammation).
I worked hard to heal my body from the damages of celiac disease, and I write about my healing journey here.
If you suffer from celiac disease, I encourage you to sign up for the Heal Your Gut Challenge to accelerate your healing process.