The Gluten-Free Diet

These books are good for the gluten free diet

The gluten-free diet is a diet that eliminates one protein, gluten. It was originally developed for people with celiac disease. Although the immunological mechanisms behind celiac disease and food allergies are different, how to implement an elimination diet is the same. The principle behind both diets is to eliminate all sources of foods that cause you problems. Click here to learn about hidden sources of gluten.

Gluten damages the intestinal lining in people with celiac disease. They must strictly avoid all gluten to allow their intestinal lining to heal and sometimes must also avoid other foods such as dairy products during the initial healing time. After the lining is healed, they must avoid gluten for life to maintain a healthy intestinal lining.

The gluten-free diet eliminates wheat (by all of its names [1]), rye, kamut, spelt, triticale and barley. Until recently, oats were also avoided on the gluten-free diet. Now the "rules" have been liberalized to allow some patients to have 1/2 cup per day of oats processed under gluten-free conditions after a year of avoidance of gluten. All oats, including gluten-free oats, contain a protein called avenin which is very similar to gluten and may be a problem for some celiacs. [2]

However, there are many grains and grain alternatives left to eat on a gluten-free diet in addition to ubiquitous rice. They include amaranth, buckwheat, corn, Job's tears, millet, montina, quinoa, sorghum, teff, and wild rice. These can be ground into flour or you can use flours and starches from other plants such as arrowroot, beans, cassava, flax, nuts, peas, potatoes, tapioca, and yucca. This is not an exhaustive list; there are other non-gluten starches and flours. [3] The former website of the Celaic Support Association had a "Grains and Flours Glossary" about additional flours and grains. I discovered a printed copy of it, which you may see by clicking here. Please pardon the line our scanner puts on some pages. I think the information is helpful although not perfectly scanned.

The incidence of celiac disease in the United States has increased four-fold in the last few decades. [4] As with the recent spike in the incidence of food allergies discussed on the food allergy diet pages of this website, we might wonder why this rapid change occurred. To read about a possible cause, click here.


[1] Wheat of various strains or processed in various ways goes by these names: bulgur, couscous, durum, farina, semolina and graham flour. When reading labels, watch for and avoid starch, modified starch, or modified food starch from an unspecified source, dextrin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, seitan, germ, bran, and grain vinegar. This list is not exhaustive, and wheat derivatives can be hiding in places like the solutions injected into frozen poultry, etc. For information on how to recognize wheat and other common allergens when reading food labels, click here.
[2] Celiac Support Association. "The Scoop on Oats." Unfortunately, this webpage is no longer available online. See the next footnote.
[3] In Healing Basics I advised readers to consult the Celiac Support Association (formerly called the Celiac Sprue Association) about other flours. This group was the definitive source for information on the gluten-free diet for well over 30 years. Then when checking sources while working on this website, I learned that they had dissolved and transferred their members to the National Celiac Association (NCA) which does not have information about gluten-free flours on their website. I emailed them and was told they had not included this information because "when it comes to gluten-free flours, people like what they like and there is a great divide over what is best." I think this type of advice will give many gluten-intolerant individuals a stomach ache! both figuratively and literally. We are all unique and tolerate different foods, but that doesn't make foods that formerly tested positive for gluten in the laboratory no longer contain gluten. This type of information is still needed and used to be available on the CSA website. Consult your doctor about what YOU should eat, and use your mind to make wise decisions. If a food is not in the grain family it should be gluten free.
[4] Davis, William, MD. Wheat Belly. (New York, NY, Rodale, Inc., 2011), 78-79.