The gluten free diet All you need to know about the diet that will make you well again
- If you have coeliac disease you will have to avoid gluten for life.
- A gluten free diet is the only treatment for the condition.
- Gluten is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye.
- On the gluten free diet you can eat many foods including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, rice and potatoes.
- You can also eat gluten free substitute foods and processed foods that don't contain gluten.
- You can tell whether gluten is in a food by learning about allergen labelling - it sounds scary, but you get used to it once you know how.
If you have been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease then your immune system has been reacting to gluten and damaging your gut. To get better, you must remove gluten from your diet, which is the only treatment for coeliac disease. Gluten is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye.
You may have heard the term 'gluten free diet' before. This can be a bit confusing to some people because it isn't a diet in the way that most people understand it - it's not designed to help people lose weight. It's just a way of eating that helps you heal your gut so you can start absorbing all the nutrients you need from your diet.
Here we briefly discuss some of the facts about a gluten free diet so you have the knowledge you need to change your diet after your diagnosis.To help you further, you could join us and become a member of Coeliac UK to gain access to recipes and a database of food products which have all been checked for being eaten on a gluten free diet – great tools to get you started. The best support comes from people who understand. We can help you make safe food choices more easily and connect with others just like you, because we know what it takes to live gluten free every day.
Join us online today and get instant access to the support and resources that will help you live well, gluten free.
On the gluten free diet you can eat any naturally gluten free foods, such as:
- fruit and vegetables
You can also eat processed foods which don't contain gluten, such as ready meals and soups. Our Food and Drink Information lists thousands of products and you can access this online, on our app or order one in hard copy. Some ingredients are confusing as they can be made from wheat but the final ingredient is gluten free, for example glucose syrup. Read more about information on labels and ingredients like this.
Our Gluten free Checklist can help you identify which foods are safe - you can download a copy at the bottom of this page. This is a great tool to get you started. And to help you shop, use our Gluten Free Food Checker App which will let you scan items to tell you whether we list these as gluten free.
There are also gluten free substitute foods available, such as specially made gluten free bread, flour, pasta, crackers and biscuits. These are available in the free from section of the supermarket and health food stores. Gluten free bread and flour mixes are also available on prescription for some people.
There are plenty of both alcoholic and soft drinks which don’t contain gluten:
- fruit juice
- flavoured water
- fizzy drinks
There are also specially made gluten free beers and lagers available.
The following drinks are NOT suitable for people with coeliac disease:
- barley squashes
After your diagnosis of coeliac disease and moving to a gluten free diet you will start to feel better as your gut heals.
Some people feel significantly better within a few days of cutting out gluten but some people may see more of a gradual improvement in their symptoms or that one symptom improves before another.
It can take between six months and up to five years (in some cases longer) for the gut damage caused by eating gluten to fully heal. Several factors are thought to be involved in the variable time taken for the gut to heal, including age and severity of gut damage at diagnosis.
If your symptoms have not improved or have become worse since starting a gluten free diet, speak to your GP, dietitian and/or gastroenterologist who are best placed to monitor your response to the gluten free diet.
If you make a mistake
Following a gluten free diet is a learning process, not only for you but also for your family and friends. Mistakes can happen, especially if you have only recently been diagnosed.
If you have coeliac disease and eat gluten by mistake, you would usually start to have symptoms a few hours after eating it and the symptoms can last from a few hours to several days. The effects vary from person to person and depend on how much gluten you’ve eaten, how sensitive you are and how long you have been on a gluten free diet.
If you make the occasional mistake and eat gluten by accident, it’s unlikely to cause lasting gut damage. It's a learning process and we can support you and help you because we understand what you are going through. Our helpline is staffed with dietitians and food experts who are here to help you with advice and support. Call us on 0333 332 2033.
What to do if you have symptoms
If you have diarrhoea or you are vomiting, it’s important to keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Some people find that taking medication to treat constipation, diarrhoea or headaches can ease symptoms, but check with 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, speak to your GP.