Gluten Free Diet and Celiac Disease
is a gluten?
Gluten is a protein contained in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly
oats. A gluten-free diet means avoiding all foods that
contain this protein. People following this type of diet can still
have bread and pasta; however, they will have to have gluten-free
breast and pasta which can be made with potato, rice, soy, or bean
flour or purchase other products from special food companies.
Plain meat, fish, rice, fruits, and vegetables do not contain
gluten, so people on a gluten-free diet can eat as much of these
foods as they like.
Celiac Disease: the need for a gluten-free diet
People who have Celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten.
When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their
immune system responds by damaging the small intestine.
Specifically, tiny fingerlike protrusions, called villi, on the
lining of the small intestine are lost. Nutrients from food are
absorbed into the bloodstream through these villi. Without villi, a
person becomes malnourished--regardless of the quantity of food
The only treatment for
celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet--that is, to avoid
all foods that contain gluten. For most people, following this diet
will stop symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent
further damage. Improvements begin within days of starting the diet,
and the small intestine is usually completely healed--meaning the
villi are intact and working--in 3 to 6 months. (It may take up to 2
years for older adults.).
However, a small
percentage of people with celiac disease do not improve on the
gluten-free diet. These people often have severely damaged
intestines that cannot heal even after they eliminate gluten from
their diets. Because their intestines are not absorbing enough
nutrients, they may need to receive intravenous nutrition
supplements. Drug treatments are being evaluated for unresponsive
celiac disease. These patients may need to be evaluated for
complications of the disease.
It is important to remember that Gluten Free Diet in individuals
with Celiac disease is a lifetime requirement. The
gluten-free diet is a lifetime requirement. Eating any gluten, no
matter how small an amount, can damage the intestine. This is true
for anyone with the disease, including people who do not have