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Child Nutrition – Living Well and Coping with Celiac Disease

Posted Dec 01 2009 10:00pm

By Colleen Hurley, RD Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist

 Celiac disease has been in the media quite a bit lately, as advanced diagnostic tools are being created science provides further insight into the etiology of celiac. The best treatment for celiac disease is a gluten free diet, which for a newly diagnosed person can feel like mission impossible.  Luckily, there are many resources out there to help you along the way.  As the saying goes, knowledge is power and staying informed can help you successfully manage a gluten free lifestyle.

  Remember to Breathe

It is very important to keep a positive attitude when coping with any ailment or lifestyle change. It is ok to feel overwhelmed and even a little bummed out when you discover you or your child have celiac disease. Keep in mind that by simply changing your diet your overall health and well-being will improve immensely. Most celiac sufferers recover 100% and remain symptom free without the use of medication or surgeries by simply eliminating gluten from their diets.   There is a world of satisfying, delicious foods that are free of gluten, so stay focused on the things you can eat. Take a deep breath and know that you can do it!

  Read Labels

The most crucial step in coping with celiac is to understand food labels. Gluten containing grains include wheat, barley, rye and oats. The safety of oats in the celiac diet has been under a great deal of debate. Some celiacs cannot tolerate oats because oats contain a protein similar to that in gluten. In addition, cross-contamination with other grains can occur during processing. There are a few companies who manufacture a gluten-free oat, but it must say so on the label.  Millet and sorghum are other grains that have not been tested for gluten, but are tolerated by many celiacs as they are more botanically similar to corn than wheat. Other gluten containing grains include:

  • Bran
  • Couscous
  • Semolina
  • Kamut rice
  • Spelt
  • Matzo
  • Pasta
  • Triticale
  • Sprouted wheat
  • Udon
  • Seitan
  • Malt, malt flavoring, or malt vinegar

Often, the source of gluten is not so obvious. Many other types of foods and food additives contain gluten.  Hidden sourcesinclude:

  •  Soy sauce
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Breading
  • Imitation meat, bacon, and seafood
  • Processed lunch meats
  • Gravies and marinades
  • Some salad dressings
  • Stuffing, dressings
  • Thickeners
  • Some drugs, over the counter medications and vitamins
  •  Broth, soup bases
  • Communion wafers
  •  Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Horseradish
  • Some peanut butters and “dry roasted” peanuts
  • Modified food starch
  • Artificial flavoring or coloring

When it doubt- leave it out

If you are unsure about an ingredient, do not eat it. It is simply not worth eating something that may cause a reaction. The label should clearly say “gluten-free”, although some celiacs choose to eat a food to see if it elicits a response but his method is not recommended because a reaction may occur and cause discomfort.

 Check your cabinets

Gluten may also be lurking in other places aside from food and the absorption of gluten through skin care products is yet another highly debated topic. However, it is best to err to the side of caution.  Gluten has been found in postage stamps, envelopes, mascara, cosmetics, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, and other hair styling products. Be sure to read all product labels to confirm they are gluten free before using.

  There is help available

Consulting with a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or other health care professional specializing in food allergies and/or celiac disease can provide a wealth of information. A specialist will be able to sit down with you and assist you in meal planning as well as lifestyle management ensuring you or your child are getting adequate nutrients from your gluten free diet. 


Celiac disease can affect a person’s digestive ability resulting in decreased nutrient absorption. In addition, the gluten free diet can reduce the intake of some important nutrients.  Common nutrient deficiencies seen in celiac disease include calcium, magnesium, vitamin b12, vitamin D, iron, and folic acid. It is important to discuss your nutrient status with your physician both upon diagnosis and while maintaining a gluten free diet. As stated, some vitamins and supplements may contain gluten but there are plenty of naturally gluten free foods that are excellent sources for these nutrients:

Calcium: Dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, sea vegetables (wakame and kombu), sprouts, tofu (calcium prepared), whole or low-fat milk, enriched soy or rice milk, raw almonds, sesame seeds, navy beans, dried tapioca, and aged cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan

  Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, spinach, quinoa, halibut, soybean, buckwheat flour, and legumes

  Vitamin b12: organic beef, organic dark meat poultry, and gluten-free brewer’s yeast

  Vitamin D: fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and oysters, fortified dairy and non-dairy products, butter, and sunshine

  Iron: organic beef, organic dark meat poultry, tuna, black strap molasses, enriched brown rice, prunes, raisins, spinach, kidney beans, lima beans, and pumpkin seeds

  Folic acid: dark leafy green vegetables, asparagus, bananas, legumes, citrus fruits, organic beef, organic lamb, fish, nuts, and root vegetables

  Fiber Facts

Although not considered a nutrient, fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. Reducing the amount of grains you eat can lessen your fiber intake and many commercially made gluten free foods contain little to no fiber. It is important to note that fruits and vegetables are natural source of gluten free fiber. Here is a list of gluten-free grains that are an excellent source of fiber and can be eaten as a whole grain or used as flour:

  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Cornmeal
  • Millet
  • Brown rice
  • Rice bran
  • Soy flour


The Food Allergy Network

11781 Lee Jackson Hwy, Suite 160

Fairfax, VA22033-3309

(800) 929-4040

American Celiac Society

P.O. Box 23455
New Orleans, LA70183-0455

Celiac Sprue

Association/USA, Inc.

P.O. Box 31700

Omaha, NE68131-0700

(402) 558-0600
(877) CSA-4-CSA Celiac Disease Foundation


13251 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1

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