What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in the cereals wheat, rye and barley. Some people react to a similar protein found in oats.
Where is gluten found?
The most obvious sources of gluten in the diet are bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, flour, pizza bases, cakes and biscuits. Gluten can also be found in foods such as soups, sauces, ready meals and processed foods such as sausages.
What can I eat?
The gluten-freeWhen a food has less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten so it is safe for people with coeliac disease to eat.
diet is made up of:
- Naturally gluten-free foods such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, rice, potatoes and lentils. We provide a gluten-free checklist of foods and a Guide to common grains to help you with your diet.
- Processed foods which don't contain gluten, such as ready meals and soups. The Coeliac UK Food and Drink DirectoryCoeliac UK’s key source of information listing thousands of foods that can be included in a gluten-free diet.
lists thousands of these.
- Gluten-free substitute foods such as specially made gluten-free bread, flour, pasta, crackers and biscuits. These are available on prescription and in the shops.
How long does it take to feel better on a gluten-free diet?
The time it takes for someone to feel better on a gluten-free diet varies. Many people feel better within a few days and usually symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea and bloating clear up within a few weeks.
Some symptoms may take longer to improve, or you may find one symptom gets better before another. The time it takes for the gut damage to heal completely varies and can take between six months and two years.
Gluten in items which are not foods
Gluten only causes a problem if you eat it. It cannot be absorbed through the skin.
It is unlikely that you would swallow enough lip balm or lipstick to cause a problem. If you are concerned then you should contact the manufacturers directly about specific products.
It is possible to be sensitive to ingredients used in cosmetics, but this has nothing to do with coeliac diseaseA condition where a person is unable to eat gluten as it makes their body attack itself.
specifically. If you experience skin irritation when using any cosmetics, visit your GPGeneral Practitioner, or local doctor.
Gum on envelopes
We have spoken to the Post Office and envelope manufacturers who have told us that the gum used on envelopes is gluten-free and safe for people with coeliac disease.
The reaction to eating gluten varies between individuals. In some it may trigger immediate symptoms that last several days and others do not get any symptoms.
Eating gluten will damage your gut and the effects will depend on how much gluten you have eaten and how sensitive you are. However, if you make the occasional mistake and eat gluten by accident, it is unlikely to cause lasting gut damage.
What to do if you have eaten gluten by mistake
Following a gluten-free diet is a learning process, not only for you but also for family and friends. Learning to live with coeliac disease means that mistakes on the gluten-free diet can happen, especially in the early stages after diagnosis.
When you have eaten gluten by mistake you would usually start to have symptoms a few hours after eating it. The effects can last from a few hours to several days depending on your own symptoms.
If you are having symptoms you may want to treat the symptoms or some people prefer not to and instead choose to wait until they naturally feel better.
- If you are having diarrhoea or are vomiting it is important to keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
- Some people also find that taking medication to treat constipation, diarrhoea or headaches can ease symptoms, so speak to your pharmacist or GP.
- The most important thing is to get back onto your gluten-free diet to try to prevent further symptoms.
- If your symptoms are very severe or do not improve, you should discuss this with your GP.