Dos and Don'ts of Gluten-Free Eating

It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed after receiving a celiac disease diagnosis, mainly because it means permanently changing your way of eating. Strict avoidance of gluten is the only way to prevent further damage to the intestines and protect your health. 

Because gluten is an extremely common food component, newly diagnosed patients may feel confused about what they can and can’t eat. We’ve put together a beginner’s guide to get you started on the right track.

What does it mean to have celiac disease?

Here at Illinois Gastroenterology Group, our gastroenterologists routinely evaluate and diagnose a wide range of digestive disorders, including celiac disease. A diagnosis of this nature means that your immune system responds abnormally to an otherwise harmless protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When patients with celiac disease consume gluten-containing foods, the immune system mounts an attack that damages the lining of the small intestine.

Over time this immune response can cause serious damage and prevent the intestines from absorbing vital nutrients. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, anemia, fatigue, and weight loss. Adopting a strict gluten-free diet is the only way to treat celiac disease. For most patients, a gluten-free diet requires a drastic change in their eating habits. Here are some dietary dos and don’ts for living with celiac disease.

Do get to know gluten

Becoming familiar with gluten-containing foods is a good place to start, as it enables you to know which foods to steer clear of. Wheat, rye, and barley are the “big 3” foods to avoid.


Common wheat sources are:


Common foods containing barley are:


Rye is most commonly found in:

Do implement a simple approach

Gluten can lurk in the most unassuming foods, making avoidance challenging for patients who are new to gluten-free dieting. Some examples include granola, ice cream, and oats. Simplifying your approach to gluten-free living can take away a lot of stress and frustration. Focusing on natural, unprocessed foods is the simplest and most economical approach to gluten-free eating.

Whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes, as well as unprocessed meats are naturally gluten free. Building your meal plan with these foods as a foundation, along with heart-healthy fats and gluten-free whole grains, is the easiest way to avoid the hassle of a gluten-free diet.  

Do become familiar with gluten-free grains

For patients with celiac disease, gluten-free grains are your friend. Gluten-containing cereal grains are a major part of the typical American diet. Having safe replacements for gluten-containing grains is key to following a balanced gluten-free diet. Here are seven gluten-free grains that are safe for patients with celiac disease:

Keep in mind that while oats are naturally gluten-free, they’re often processed using equipment that also processes gluten-containing grains. Cross-contamination can occur and render oats and oat-containing products unsafe for celiac patients. When purchasing oats, check for the Certified Gluten-Free label. These products are manufactured under strict guidelines to avoid gluten contamination.

Don’t confuse “wheat-free” with “gluten-free”

The terms wheat-free and gluten-free are often used interchangeably, creating confusion for patients who must avoid gluten in all forms. Gluten is a protein found in various grains, and that includes wheat, whereas wheat is simply a grain that contains gluten. Patients with celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet. This means avoiding wheat and all other foods that contain gluten. A wheat-free food isn’t necessarily gluten-free.

Don’t fail to plan in advance

The saying “fail to plan and you plan to fail” rings true when it comes to following a gluten-free diet early on. Checking menus beforehand when you plan to dine out and creating a meal plan in advance when you’re at home and away is key to a low-fuss, successful gluten-free diet transition.

Adjusting to a gluten-free diet takes some time and know how. While the tips we’ve shared can help you get started, it’s no substitute for visiting a specialist for the proper guidance. Our team helps you every step of the way. 

We have offices in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs including Gurnee, Evanston, Skokie, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, and Highland Park. Call your nearest office to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists or you can request an appointment here on our website. 

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