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Foods to Eat With Gluten Intolerance But Not Celiac Disease

The symptoms of celiac disease, a genetic condition which affects an estimated 2 million Americans, and gluten intolerance are sometimes similar but vary from person to person. Many experience abdominal discomfort, nausea and diarrhea. Symptoms overlap greatly with irritable bowel disorder and other digestive conditions. If you suspect you are gluten intolerant, your doctor can order blood work and a diagnostic analysis to rule out celiac disease and evaluate other causes of the symptoms. Sometimes it becomes clear, or at least very possible, that gluten intolerance may be causing symptoms, but the condition is not celiac disease, and the dietary advice and monitoring of the condition are quite different.

Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Intolerance

Despite some similarities, the primary difference between the two conditions is that celiac disease involves your immune system and causes long-term damage to the villi (finger-like projections) that line your small intestine, causing nutrients to be poorly absorbed and causing a variety of unhealthy consequences. In contrast, gluten intolerance is a digestive tract reaction that causes you to experience a variety of gastrointestinal discomforts, but where there is no damage and no danger. With rare exceptions, if a blood test for celiac disease is negative, and yet you clearly feel bad when eating gluten products, the diagnosis is gluten intolerance rather than celiac disease. The answer in both conditions may be to limit gluten in food, but there is a vast difference!! In celiac disease, all minute traces of gluten should be avoided, lifelong, and patients with celiac disease soon learn how complex that is. The much larger number of individuals with gluten intolerance need to learn just how much gluten they can consume without bothersome symptoms, or how to balance minor symptoms with tolerable amounts of gluten intake. The goal of gluten restriction with gluten intolerance is gaining comfort. There is virtually never anything to be gained from absolute gluten restriction, lifelong if the problem is intolerance. It is much like lactose intolerance: some people can have a glass of milk, others must avoid nearly any dairy product with lactose to stay comfortable.

So, what to eat if you want to restrict gluten but don’t have to remove “every bit” of gluten?

Remember, the goal is achieving comfort, and some gluten (but less than what you used to consume) may not be a problem.

Meats and Seafood

Meats and seafood are naturally gluten-free, as they contain no wheat, barley or rye. The preparation methods you select become important, as some spices, sauces and soup mixes may contain gluten. Use olive oil or canola oil when you're grilling meat or seafood, and opt for fresh herbs when seasoning your meats. If you're making a casserole with canned soup, examine the label to ensure the words "gluten-free" appear on the label.


Even if you're gluten-intolerant, you may find that there are some wheat products that don't upset your stomach, and you can continue eating them. If you must eliminate wheat products altogether, you can still find grains that have no gluten. Among them are rice, corn, popcorn, rice cakes and foods made from arrowroot, amaranth and buckwheat flour. Refined grains that are gluten-free include some corn and potato chips. Always read the label before purchasing or consuming a food containing grains.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits, most dairy products, and all vegetables are good choices when you're gluten intolerant. As with meats, be aware of what foods you add to plain fruits and vegetables. Avoid salad dressings unless the label has the words "gluten-free." You can use mayonnaise as a basis for dips, vinegar for added flavor and enjoy most jams and jellies. You can make fruit salads with plain yogurt, or top your cottage cheese with freshly chopped fruit to help you get the recommended 3 cups of dairy each day. Some flavored yogurts and cheese may contain gluten, so check the label.

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