A short guide to a gluten-free diet

March 15th, 2024

You have been diagnosed with celiac disease and have been recommended a gluten-free diet. Together with our experts, we will help you overview the basic rules that you should know.

Switching to a gluten-free diet can bring a whiff of new ingredients and recipes to your kitchen.

We start our breakfast with pastries with spreads and vegetables, we thicken our soup with flour, sometimes a cake from a colleague’s birthday appears on our table, and in the evening, we enjoy savory delicacies made of flour while watching our favorite TV series.

Flour, and therefore gluten, accompanies us at every corner and sometimes even in a hidden form. Gluten is a protein that is commonly found in various cereals such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, but also in many other foods, such as monosodium glutamate, also known as E621.

If you suffer from celiac disease – this is an autoimmune disease where the body directly fights gluten as it does with allergens in allergies. In gluten intolerance, too large or undecomposed parts of food pass through the damaged intestine, which the body then fights against.

In both cases, it is necessary to eliminate gluten from the diet. While a gluten-free diet is a permanent issue in celiac disease, gluten intolerance can be re-checked over time to reveal whether the gluten can be re-consumed.

“Gluten-free diet means that you exclude all products made of flour, but also foods that contain gluten even in smaller quantities, for example in the form of emulsifiers (salami, sausages)”, Dr Nikolaos Dimitrakos from WeCare Medical Centre explains why it is initially difficult to identify all problematic foods containing gluten.

What else to watch out for in celiac disease?

If you decide to eat in a restaurant, be sure to look for allergens that the food may contains. Grains take the first place and tend to be marked with the number 1. These include grains that can cause an allergic reaction: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelled, kamut, or their hybrid varieties.

In the shops, you will find dedicated sections with food shelves for “gluten-free” products. On the packaging of such products, you will find Crossed Grain Trademark symbol.

You don’t have to worry though; you can put together a very healthy and balanced diet plan even without gluten! It also gives you a chance to try foods that you may not have tasted yet, for example, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, or sorghum. You can make gluten-free bread or cake from them. To support digestion, it is advisable to consume live microorganisms – probiotics.

Lactose intolerance is often a side effect of celiac disease. Therefore, it is advisable to start a lactose-free diet at the beginning of a gluten-free diet so that the intestine can recover more quickly.

When will my condition improve?

It takes time to learn what you can and can’t eat with such condition. After switching to a gluten-free diet for celiac disease, you may feel relieved in the next several weeks.

Achieving significant improvement can take up to several months though. Why?

Dr Nikolaos Dimitrakos, MSc from WeCare Medical Centre, answers: “This is the time during which the condition of the intestinal lining can normalize and will recover. Maintaining gluten-free diet is strongly recommended, as there is currently no other alternative treatment. At the same time, this diet also serves as excellent prevention method in enabling your body to properly process nutrients from the diet, which are essential for a good quality of life.”

Written by doctor from WeCare Medical Centre.