A gluten-free diet means avoiding all foods that contain wheat (including spelt, triticale, and kamut), rye, and barley. Despite these restrictions, people with celiac disease can eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods, including gluten-free bread and pasta. For example, instead of wheat flour, people can use potato, rice, soy, or bean flour.
Plain meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables do not contain gluten, so people with celiac disease can eat as much of these foods as they like. The gluten-free diet requires a completely new approach to eating that affects a person’s entire life. People with celiac disease have to be extremely careful about what they buy for lunch at school or work, eat at cocktail parties, or grab from the refrigerator for a midnight snack. Eating out can be a challenge as the person with celiac disease learns to scrutinize the menu for foods with gluten and question the waiter or chef about possible hidden sources of gluten. However, with practice, identifying potential sources of gluten becomes second nature and people learn to recognize which foods are safe and which are off limits.
A dietitian, who is a healthcare professional specializing in food and nutrition, can help people learn about their new diet. Also, support groups are particularly helpful for newly diagnosed people and their families as they learn to adjust to a new way of life. Over time, the diet becomes easier—even second nature. If you fi nd that the diet is still diffi cult after several months, or you are still sick, talk to your doctor, your dietitian, and your support organizations. You may be eating gluten accidentally and need an outside perspective to identify foods that are keeping you from regaining your health.