Gluten Free Diet
Maintaining a daily gluten free diet is the only treatment for coeliac disease. For most people suffering from coeliac disease cutting gluten out of their food will mean that they start feeling better within a few days. Usually symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea and bloating clear up within a few weeks, but the time it takes for the gut damage to heal completely varies from person to person and can take between six months and two years.
Some symptoms may take longer to improve, or you may find one symptom gets better before another.
Preparing gluten free meals
In the preparation of gluten free meals using gluten free ingredients is not the only thing to pay attention to. It is also important that all cooking utensils and ktichen surfaces used in the preparation are completely free of gluten. This is to avoid cross contamination with gluten containing particles.
If you are following a gluten free diet, it’s important not to allow your gluten free food to be contaminated with food that contains gluten. Even tiny amounts of gluten may cause people with coeliac disease to have symptoms in the short term and gut damage in the longer term.
When you’re cooking at home, there are some simple steps to take that will help keep food preparation safe:
- wipe down surfaces
- clean pots and pans with soap and water
- normal washing up or using a dishwasher will remove gluten
- washing up liquids are fine to use as there are very few that contain gluten. If they do, normal rinsing will remove any traces
- you do not need to use separate cloths or sponges
- you may want to get separate bread boards to keep gluten free and gluten containing breads separate
- use a separate toaster or toaster bags
- use different butter knives and jam spoons to prevent breadcrumbs from getting into condiments.
Food that is safe to eat
You can also eat foods that have been processed to not contain gluten, such as ready meals and soups. Many of our Member societies have licensed over 5,000 gluten free products that are safe to eat. They bear the Crossed Grain symbol which makes them easily identifiable to consumers, even when you are travelling and unable to speak the language. See page Gluten Free Products under License for more information.
Due to the increased risk of osteoporosis it is important to regularly consume calcium containing food, such as milk and cheese. A daily intake of 1500mg of calcium is recommended for adults suffering from coeliac disease.
Many alcoholic and soft drinks do not contain gluten such as:
- fruit juice
- flavoured water
- fizzy drinks
Specialty gluten free beers and lagers are now increasingly available and can be found in supermarkets and health food stores. Please note that normal beer, lager and ale is not suitable for people with coeliac disease.
An increasing number of restaurants, takeaways, pizzerias, canteens in schools, universities and hospitals are now offering gluten free meal options. It is still recommended to call the establishment in advance to ensure that serving and kitchen staff are aware of the need for meals to be gluten free. Many of our Member societies maintain a directory of gluten free catering establishments in their countries. For a list of their contact details go to our Members page.
Eating gluten by mistake
Following a gluten free diet is a learning process, not only for you but also for your family and friends. Mistakes can happen whilst you’re following a gluten free diet, 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. However, even if the effects are the same, symptoms can vary from person to person, and depend on:
- how much gluten you’ve eaten
- how sensitive you are
- how long you have been on a gluten free diet.
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 speak to your doctor about this first. 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 doctor as soon as possible.