Are you struggling to digest wheat? Find out why?

by Somya Agrawal

Does your stomach hurts, or you feel uneasy after consuming chapati? If Yes, it could be an underlying symptom of gluten intolerance. Read this article to understand what celiac disease is and how it can be managed with proper dietary and lifestyle modifications.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley and rye. Chemically speaking, gluten is composed primarily of two protein groups: gliadins and glutenins. These proteins give dough its elasticity, help it rise and maintain its shape, and give the final product a chewy texture.

What are gluten diseases?

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are two diseases associated with poor absorption of gluten.

Celiac disease is a condition wherein consuming gluten rich food damages the small intestines. This disease is autoimmune and can be confirmed by specific blood tests and biopsy. On the other hand, gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), involves similar symptoms as that of celiac but without the intestinal damage or autoimmune response. Diagnosis of NCGS is by exclusion of celiac disease and wheat allergy, with symptom improvement on a gluten-free diet. 

Bottom line for management of both diseases involves avoiding gluten. However, celiac disease demands strict lifelong adherence, while NCGS management is a bit more flexible.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance or celiac disease:

1) Digestive Issues: Constipation, bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, diarrhea

2) Fatigue: Persistent tiredness and lack of energy.

3) Weight Changes: Unexplained weight loss or weight gain.

4) Skin Problems: Rashes, eczema, and dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash specific to celiac disease).

5) Joint Pain: Muscular and joint pains, particularly knee pain 

6) Headaches: Frequent migraines or headaches.

7) Mental Health Issues: Depression, anxiety, and brain fog.

8) Anemia: Iron-deficiency anemia due to poor nutrient absorption.

9) Mouth Ulcers: Recurrent canker sores.

10) Neurological Symptoms: Tingling or feeling of numbness in hands and feet.

7 Best dietary tips to deal with celiac disease:

1) Adopt a Strict Gluten-Free Diet: Eliminate all foods containing wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. This includes many breads, pastas, cereals, and processed foods. Oats, a common breakfast cereal is naturally free of gluten but it can be contaminated with gluten during processing, hence, its better to avoid oats. 

2) Read Labels Carefully: Check food labels for hidden gluten in ingredients like malt, modified food starch, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Look for certified gluten-free products.

3) Focus on Naturally Gluten-Free Foods: Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa, and corn in your diet.

4) Be Cautious with Cross-Contamination: Avoid cross-contact with gluten by using separate utensils, cookware, and appliances for gluten-free and gluten-containing foods.

5) Explore Gluten-Free Alternatives: Try gluten-free substitutes for traditional gluten-containing foods, such as gluten-free bread, pasta, and baking mixes made from rice, almond, or coconut flour.

6)Eat Whole, Unprocessed Foods: Opt for whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible to reduce the risk of accidental gluten exposure. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are naturally gluten-free.

7) Plan Ahead When Eating Out: Research gluten-free-friendly restaurants and inform the staff of your dietary restrictions to ensure your meal is prepared safely. Many restaurants now offer gluten-free menus.

List of food and spices that are safe to consume:

For those with gluten sensitivity, it’s important to focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free and nutritious. Here is a list of foods that are safe to eat:

1) Grains: 

  • Rice: White, brown, and wild rice.
  • Quinoa
  • Corn: Cornmeal, polenta, and corn tortillas.
  • Potatoes: All varieties.
  • Gluten-Free Oats: Certified gluten-free oats and oat products.
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Sorghum

2) Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Fresh Fruits: All types, such as apples, berries, oranges, and bananas.
  • Fresh Vegetables: All types, including leafy greens, carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli.
  • Frozen and Canned Fruits and Vegetables: Ensure no added sauces or seasonings that contain gluten.

3) Proteins:

  • Meat: Beef, pork, lamb, and poultry (unprocessed and not breaded).
  • Fish and Seafood: Fresh, frozen, or canned (in water or oil).
  • Eggs
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas.
  • Nuts and Seeds: All types, ensuring they are plain and not processed with gluten-containing ingredients.

4) Dairy:

  • Milk: Cow’s milk, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk (check for gluten additives).
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter and Ghee

5) Condiments and Spices:

  • Herbs and Spices: Fresh and dried, as long as they are not mixed with gluten-containing fillers.
  • Oils and Vinegars: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar.
  • Gluten-Free Soy Sauce: Tamari.

6) Snacks:

  • Popcorn: Plain or with gluten-free seasoning.
  • Rice Cakes
  • Fruit Snacks: Dried fruits and fruit leathers without added gluten.
  • Gluten-Free Crackers

7) Baked Goods and Packaged Foods:

  • Gluten-Free Bread: Made from rice flour, almond flour, or other gluten-free grains.
  • Gluten-Free Pasta: Made from rice, quinoa, or corn.
  • Gluten-Free Cereal: Made from gluten-free oats, rice, or corn.

8) Beverages:

  • Water
  • Tea and Coffee: Ensure no added flavors containing gluten.
  • Juice: Pure fruit juice without added gluten-containing ingredients.


1) Avoid Cross-Contamination: Use separate cooking utensils, cookware, and toasters for gluten-free foods.

2) Choose Whole Foods: Opt for unprocessed, whole foods to reduce the risk of gluten contamination.

    Should everyone avoid gluten to stay healthy?

    No, not everyone should avoid gluten for better health. Gluten is a protein found  in many whole grains that provide important nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals. 

    For individuals without celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy, there is no proven benefit to eliminating gluten from their diet. In fact, unnecessarily avoiding gluten can lead to nutritional deficiencies and higher costs due to reliance on processed gluten-free products. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, including whole grains containing gluten, supports overall health and well-being for most people.


    Gluten intolerance or celiac disease is a common GUT disorder, that restricts choice of food intake. However, proper nutrition is crucial for optimum health. Hence, adopting gluten free options can help nourish the body while helping manage symptoms of gluten intolerance. Further following proper work out regimen, and medication can help with celiac management.