What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, barley and their derivatives: einkorn, emmer, durum, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat bran, wheat starch, wheat germ, cracked wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein, farina, malt barley. Gluten is mainly found in foods, but can also be found in everyday household products such as vitamins, supplements, lip balms and some medicines.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an immune disease in which people cannot eat gluten because it will trigger an immune response that damages, and even destroys, the part of the small intestine that absorbs nutrients the body needs (aka, small intestine villi). It is genetic, can present with symptoms or be symptom-free, and is commonly diagnosed by blood tests and biopsy of the small intestine. Celiac disease is also sometimes called celiac sprue, nontropical sprue and gluten-sensitive enteropathy.

What is the treatment for celiac disease?

A person with celiac disease must eliminate gluten from their diet. Without treatment, the small intestine is damaged, nutrient absorption suffers and conditions such as osteoporosis, anemia, and cancer can develop.

What if I don't have celiac disease? Should I go gluten-free?

It's important to remember that unnecessarily restricting the diet will limit food choices, making it that much more challenging to eat a healthful, well-balanced diet. Cutting gluten-containing foods out of the diet could lead to deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, magnesium and fiber. Emerging evidence suggests other conditions, in addition to celiac disease and wheat allergies, may benefit from a gluten-free diet, but it is not conclusive at this time.

What can I eat on a gluten-free diet?

Most foods are perfectly safe to eat. Greek yogurt, blueberries, buckwheat pancakes, sweet sugar snap peas, baby carrots, hummus, tuna salad, romaine lettuce, broiled salmon, quinoa, brown rice and popcorn are just some of the foods that are naturally gluten-free. In their natural, unprocessed state, you can safely enjoy all meats, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy.

What are some gluten-free replacement foods?

For starchy foods, look for rice, corn, cornmeal, potato, oats, yucca, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, millet, montina, flax, nuts, popcorn and teff. All are naturally safe to eat. Note that oats are commonly cross-contaminated with gluten, though they do not in themselves contain gluten; so it's a good idea to seek out oats that are specified as gluten-free.

Where can I learn more about eating a gluten-free diet?
There are trustworthy resources out there who can help provide information and support for gluten intolerance:
  • American Celiac Disease Alliance —
  • Celiac Disease Foundation —
  • National Foundation for Celiac Awareness —
  • Gluten Intolerance Group of North America —
  • Celiac Sprue Association USA —
  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinhouse —
  • The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network —
  • Find a registered dietitian with expertise in gluten intolerance using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Find an RD tool —
Our materials have been developed by our nutritionist to provide information relating to a gluten-free diet, but it is not intended to replace medical advice from your health care team.