The Gluten Free Diet Plan: What You Need To Know


The Gluten Free Diet Plan: What You Need To Know

What is a gluten free diet plan? The Mayo Clinic defines it as a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten can be found in grains including wheat, barley, rye and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.

The gluten free diet plan is used primarily to treat celiac disease. More from the Mayo Clinic:


Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.

Initially, following a gluten-free diet may be frustrating. But with time, patience and creativity, you’ll find there are many foods that you already eat that are gluten-free and you will find substitutes for gluten-containing foods that you can enjoy.


gluten free word with wood background

What is the Purpose of the Gluten Free Diet Plan?

While the primary purpose of a gluten free diet is treating celiac disease, other people who don’t suffer from celiac disease also have symptoms when they consume gluten. This is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

More from the Mayo Clinic:

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may benefit from a gluten-free diet. But people with celiac disease must be gluten-free to prevent symptoms and disease-related complications.

Why Go Gluten Free?

The site Beyond Celiac details why one should go gluten-free and who is actually doing it:

A strict lifelong gluten-free diet is the only treatment available for celiac disease. It can help to alleviate the signs and symptoms of celiac disease, including:

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy skin rash known as the skin version of celiac disease
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain
  • Headaches, including migraines
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Mood disorders, including depression, anxiety and “brain fog”
  • Peripheral neuropathy, which causes tingling in hands and feet
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Unexplained infertility and other reproductive health problems
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Three million Americans have celiac disease, and an estimated 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’). Unfortunately, most live unaware and remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. 

In fact, 83 percent of people with celiac disease don’t know they have it. This means that foods like bread, bagels, pasta, pretzels, cookies, cakes, and crackers are making them sick — sometimes very sick.

Left untreated, celiac disease leads to further complications such as osteoporosis, other autoimmune disorders and even cancer.

gluten allergy

Why Should You Go Gluten-Free?

As Beyond Celiac notes, a gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. It helps alleviate the symptoms of celiac, including the following:

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy skin rash known as the skin version of celiac disease
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain
  • Headaches, including migraines
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Mood disorders, including depression, anxiety and “brain fog”
  • Peripheral neuropathy, which causes tingling in hands and feet
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Unexplained infertility and other reproductive health problems
  • Weight gain or weight loss


Who Lives Gluten-Free?

Because there’s a wide variety of people utilizing the gluten free diet plan, it’s not just people who have celiac disease who use it.

Here’s who’s currently living gluten-free:

  • Celiac disease, a serious genetic autoimmune disease that affects 1 percent of the US population or 3 million Americans
  • Gluten sensitivity (sometimes mistakenly referenced as “gluten intolerance”), which has been estimated to affect up to 18 million Americans. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity can be the same as celiac disease, however those with gluten sensitivity do not experience the same intestinal damage. Other foods may play a role in gluten sensitivity. Learn more here.
  • Wheat allergies, which can range from a mild reaction (such as hives), or a more serious reaction (such as anaphylaxis).

Details of a Gluten-Free Diet Plan

Going to a gluten-free diet plan is clearly a big change and will take some getting used to. It’s recommended to purchase a book that can help you understand the change. If you’re not sure where to begin or need some recipe inspiration, this book is a great help!

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Additionally, it’s smart to consult a dietician who can help you to avoid gluten while still eating a balanced diet.

Here’s a list of foods that are naturally gluten free:

  • Milk, butter, margarine, real cheese, plain yogurt, most ice cream without gluten-containing add-ins.
  • Vegetable oils, including canola.
  • Plain fruits, vegetables (fresh, frozen and canned), meat and seafood. This also includes potatoes, eggs, nuts, nut butters, beans and legumes.
  • Distilled vinegar is gluten free.
  • Distilled alcoholic beverages are gluten free because distillation effectively removes gluten. They’re not gluten free if gluten-containing ingredients are added after distillation. This rarely occurs so most products are safe.
  • Mono and diglycerides are fats and are gluten free.
  • Spices are gluten free. If there is no ingredient list on the container, it contains only the pure spice noted on the label.

The Mayo Clinic notes that it’s important to ensure these foods aren’t processed or gluten-containing grains, additives or preservatives.

Several grains and starches are part of a gluten-free diet, including the following:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn and cornmeal
  • Flax
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
  • Hominy (corn)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

What To Avoid In A Gluten-Free Diet

Here’s what to avoid in a gluten-free diet:

    • Wheat in all forms including spelt, kamut, triticale (a combination of wheat and rye). It is also found in durum, einkorn, farina, semolina, cake flour, matzo (or matzah) and couscous.
      • Wheat is found in many bread, cakes, cereals, cookies, crackers, pretzels, pasta, and pizza crusts. It can turn up in other products, too. You can make your own delicious pizza crust with this gluten free mix.

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  • Most ingredients with “wheat” in the name including hydrolyzed wheat protein and pregelatinized wheat protein. Buckwheat, which is gluten free, is an exception.
  • Barley and malt, usually made from barley, including malt syrup, malt extract, malt flavoring and malt vinegar.
  • Rye, most often found in bread products. It is not typically used to make ingredients.
  • Breaded or floured meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables, when the breading is made with wheat. Also meat, poultry and vegetables when they have a sauce or marinade that contains gluten, such as soy and teriyaki sauces.
  • Foods that are fried in the same oil as breaded products are not considered to be safe on the gluten free diet.
  • Licorice, which is made with wheat flour, and other candies that contain wheat or barley.

This can be difficult because wheat products go by several names. There are several types of wheat flour, including bromated, enriched phosphated, plain and self-rising.

gluten free

Here’s other wheat products to avoid:

  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Spelt

MAYBE: What to Absolutely Avoid Unless Labeled “Gluten-Free”

  • Beer is gluten-free when made from gluten-free grains. Beer made from barley and processed to remove gluten is not considered to be gluten free.
  • Dextrin can be made from wheat, which would have a label, and would not be gluten free.
  • Flavorings are usually gluten free, but in rare instances can contain wheat or barley. By law, wheat would have to be labeled in foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
    • Barley is usually called malt flavoring. In rare instances, neither barley or malt has a specification when used in a flavoring.
  • Modified food starch is gluten free. However, if is noted on the label as “modified wheat starch,” it is not gluten free. It can also be called modified starch (wheat).
  • Wheat starch is allowed in gluten-free foods if the starch has been processed to remove the gluten protein.
    • The packaging of any product using safe wheat starch will note that it has been processed to meet FDA gluten-free standards. Wheat starch in foods that do not also have a label are not safe on the gluten-free diet.
  • Oats are considered safe on the gluten-free diet. This is only true if they’ve been specially processed to prevent cross-contamination.

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MAYBE: What to Absolutely Avoid Unless Labeled “Gluten-Free” (Part 2)

    • Oats are allowed as an ingredient in products with a gluten-free label as long as the final food meets the FDA gluten-free standard. This includes granola, granola bars, cookies and other products. Products that are made with oats but don’t have a gluten-free label aren’t gluten free.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can contain gluten. Check with the pharmaceutical company, especially if you take medication on a continuing basis.
  • Processed cheese (spray cheese, for example) may contain gluten. Real cheese is gluten free.
  • Seasoning mixes can contain gluten. Wheat has a note on the label as required by law.
  • Soy sauce is usually fermented from wheat. Only soy sauce made without wheat is gluten free. Look for soy sauce with a gluten-free label. The good news is that La Choy brand of soy sauce is naturally gluten free. It’s available in most supermarkets in the USA and for purchase online. This is a safe choice for you if you’re gluten free. Plus, you don’t have to sacrifice on flavor or spend a lot of money on a special brand.

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Special Cases

Caramel color is almost always made from corn. Most companies in North America use corn because it makes a better product. Malt syrup can be used but rarely is, so caramel color is almost guaranteed to be gluten free.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is a phrase that under federal regulation should not be used on a food label. Food processors have to identify the “vegetable.” “Hydrolyzed wheat protein,”is not be gluten free. “Hydrolyzed soy protein” is gluten free.

Beware of cross-contamination

Cross-contamination happens when gluten-free foods intermingles with foods that have gluten. It happens during the manufacturing process. This can pose a huge problem for those on the gluten free diet plan.

The Mayo Clinic gives more details on the gluten free diet plan:

Foods also have “gluten-free” labels. If a product carries a gluten-free label, the FDA requires that the product contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Be aware that products with “wheat-free” labels may still contain gluten.

You still need to check the actual ingredient list. If you’re not sure whether a food contains gluten, don’t buy it or check with the manufacturer first to ask what it contains.

Cross-contamination occurs at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods. Using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination. Consider what steps you need to take to prevent cross-contamination at home, school or work.

Be careful about eating out at restaurants. Ask restaurant staff members if they have choices that are truly gluten-free. This includes the food being prepared in order to avoid cross-contamination. Eating out without exercising caution can completely derail your gluten free diet plan. 

gluten free life

In Conclusion

To successfully master the gluten free diet plan, one must consult a dietician and examine food labels carefully. Doing this will take a lot of work and won’t be easy. However, you can be successful if you really work at it! The gluten free diet plan is liberating once you’ve learned and adjusted to the new, healthier way of living.

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