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Celiac disease (or celiac sprue) is a problem with digesting gluten. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, and other grains. This problem starts when the body's immune system attacks the small intestine when gluten is eaten. The immune system is supposed to fight off viruses and other invaders, but sometimes it turns on the person's own body. (This is called an autoimmune disease.) Celiac disease seems to run in families.
Celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine. This makes it hard for the body to absorb vitamins and other nutrients. You cannot prevent celiac disease. But you can stop and reverse the damage to the small intestine by eating a strict gluten-free diet.
Eating a gluten-free diet can be challenging. But if you take your time to read labels and ask questions, you can stay on a gluten-free eating plan.
These include foods made with wheat, barley, rye, or triticale (a wheat-rye cross). Common foods that contain these grains include:
Beers with and without alcohol—including lagers, ales, and stouts—contain gluten unless they specifically say they are gluten-free.
Oats may cause symptoms in some people who have celiac disease. This may be a result of contamination with wheat, barley, or rye during processing. But many people who have celiac disease can eat moderate amounts of oats without having symptoms. Health professionals vary in their long-term recommendations about eating foods with oats. But most agree that it's safe to eat oats labelled as gluten-free.
Look for hidden gluten. Foods such as ice cream, salad dressing, candy, canned and frozen soups and vegetables, and other processed foods may have hidden gluten.
When you're on a gluten-free eating plan, there are many foods you can still have. Foods you can eat include:
When you eat out, look for restaurants that serve gluten-free food. You might ask if the chef is familiar with cooking without any gluten.
Look for grocery stores that sell gluten-free foods. Or you can look online for more information about gluten-free foods.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Jerry S. Trier MD - Gastroenterology
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