Receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease can be pretty daunting. The most common inherited autoimmune disease, celiac disease causes a lifelong inability to tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and many processed foods. When patients eat gluten, they experience inflammation of the small intestine, which leads to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and, in kids, poor growth.
The good news is that dietary treatment for celiac disease is usually very effective. Once patients stop all gluten consumption, their intestines heal and their symptoms end. The bad news is that avoiding gluten can make grocery shopping and eating out a lot more complicated. Gluten hides in odd places in our food supply — plain tortilla chips usually don’t have any, while flavored chips often do. Some salad dressings and ice creams include gluten-containing ingredients. Although potatoes are naturally gluten-free, restaurant french fries may be a problem if they’re cooked in the same oil as foods with gluten. The list goes on.
Luckily, there’s help. Pediatric gastroenterologist Nasha Khavari, MD, who directs the celiac disease program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, has developed a set of practical online tools for people who are learning about the disease and adjusting to the diet. It includes:
- An explanation of the cause, symptoms, diagnostic tests and treatment for celiac disease
- Information about which foods and additives contain gluten
- Ideas for how to navigate the grocery store
- Menu suggestions for gluten-free breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks
- A handy, printable list (.pdf) of “green light,” “yellow light” and “red light” foods for those on a gluten-free diet
- Links to other resources, including an explanation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules for “Gluten Free” food labels
If you’re learning how to live with celiac disease or avoiding gluten for other reasons, it’s worth checking out.
Previously: Stanford pediatric gastroenterologist responds to your questions on celiac disease, Best thing since sliced bread? A (potential) new diagnostic for celiac disease and From frustration to foundation: Embracing a diagnosis of celiac disease
Photo by Shashank Jain