Gluten-free Diet Guidelines

Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. If you have celiac disease, you must follow a gluten-free diet to prevent symptoms and celiac-related complications. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may also benefit from a gluten-free diet.

Remember, it’s important to always read the labels before eating or drinking anything (for example: medications and vitamins may use gluten as a binding agent), and watch for cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination occurs when gluten-free foods come into contact with foods that contain gluten. It can happen during the manufacturing process, for example, if the same equipment is used to make a variety of products. Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. Foods that are fried in the same oil as breaded products may be contaminated.

Cross-contamination can also occur at home if foods are prepared on common surfaces or with utensils that weren’t thoroughly cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods. Using a common toaster for gluten-free bread and regular bread is a major source of contamination.

Some food labels include a “may contain” statement if cross-contamination is likely, but this is voluntary. If a product carries a gluten-free label, the Food and Drug Administration requires that the product contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Products labeled “wheat-free” may still contain gluten.

If you’re just starting with a gluten-free diet, it’s a good idea to consult a dietitian to learn how to avoid gluten while still eating a healthy, balanced diet.