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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.
This is because someone with celiac must remove all gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt – from their diet as even a crumb of gluten can make them sick and cause an autoimmune response.
Related Reading: What is Celiac Disease?
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.
Related Reading: 10 Surprise Products that Contain Gluten
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.
Related Reading: 10 Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease
What’s Is the Celiac Disease Diet Exactly?
The celiac disease diet includes any foods that are free from gluten.
This means the best foods are and will always be fresh and whole foods that are naturally gluten free. The celiac disease diet can include the following foods:
- A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Any meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, etc.)
- 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, as well as oats that are labeled as gluten free
- Chocolate – thank goodness!
You can view my complete list of naturally gluten-free foods here.
Of course, people with celiac disease can also eat sweets and desserts as long as they are made with gluten-free ingredients. People with celiac disease should eat desserts and sweets in moderation to aid in their healing.
Gluten-Free Flours 101
Baking gluten-free treats can be tricky for someone with celiac disease because gluten-free flours work differently than wheat flour.
The easiest and most cost-efficient way to bake gluten free is to use a good gluten-free 1:1 flour blend, like Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour Blend or Cup 4 Cup Gluten-Free Baking Flour. Both measure cup-for-cup for regular flour in most recipes.
You cannot, however, swap plain old rice flour as a 1:1 substitute for wheat flour. It doesn’t work as your baked goods will fall apart and taste awful. Gluten, after all, add the “glue” needed to hold breads and cakes together.
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 when properly labeled, and they absolutely have their place in a the celiac disease diet.
I personally 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.
On top of that, if a product isn’t sufficiently labeled as gluten free, it may contain questionable ingredients that might make you sick.
Of course, someone who eats gluten free can enjoy pizza, pasta, bread and donuts like the rest of them… they just have to make sure the food is free from gluten.
Tip! 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 Love With Food subscription box. Love With Food 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. Get 40% off a tasting box when you sign up HERE.
What Happens If Some with Celiac Disease Eats Gluten?
Every celiac patient has a different response or reaction to accidental gluten ingestion. While internally the gluten will damage their small intestine, externally someone might have to throw up or urgently use the bathroom, or experience a rash, red bumps, acne, headaches or joint pain.
Every person with celiac disease is different and therefore reacts in a different way.
For me, after accidentally eating gluten, I have to urgently use the restroom within an hour of the exposure, and I feel awful for a while thereafter.
Related Reading: 7 Ways to Recover from an Accidental Gluten Exposure
Eating gluten can really set back someone with celiac disease and their efforts to heal their gut and whole bodies. This is why someone should NEVER cheat on their gluten-free diet. The consequences of doing so are dire, and you can read more about what happens when you cheat on your gluten-free diet in this article.
Keep in mind that someone with celiac disease does not go into anaphylactic shock like someone with a wheat or peanut allergy might do upon exposure because celiac disease is an autoimmune disease (not an allergy). Many people with celiac disease experience a delayed reaction, and sometimes silent reaction – that wreaks havoc over time.
This might explain why people with celiac disease may not always be taken seriously. It’s sad, I know, because both an allergy and autoimmune disease are damaging and even deadly.
Related Reading: 12 Questions Every Celiac is Asked Over and Over Again
Healing Foods Perfect for the Celiac Disease Diet
When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, implementing a gluten-free diet is only part of the healing process. Someone with celiac also must work hard to heal their body.
The first step to healing is, of course, removing gluten from their diet. This is mandatory.
Someone with celiac disease might also need to eliminate other proinflammatory 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 in order to replenish lost nutrients. This means plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, healing bone broths, antioxidant rich green juices, and a high quality probiotic and fish oil supplement (to control inflammation).
Related Reading: The Benefits of Probiotics for People with Celiac Disease
I worked hard to heal my body from the damages of celiac disease, and I write about my healing journey here. It’s perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT article I’ve ever written.