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Learning to Live With Celiac Disease

You may not know you have it, but celiac disease can rob the body of nutrients it needs to thrive.

Kids With Celiac Disease continued...

"I like to tell people what they can eat -- not what they can't," she says.

Eating and baking gluten-free is getting easier and easier. For starters, commercial gluten-free breads and mixes with easy-to-digest base ingredients -- such as rice flours (white or brown) arrowroot, potato, and tapioca -- are available in most food stores today, she says. "Other fun 'yes foods' for kids with celiac disease include: pure cornmeal chips and tortillas, popcorn; vegetable and gluten-free nut-based chips, gelatin desserts; selected pudding mixes; and ice cream, sherbet or yogurt (without suspicious additives on the label)," she says. Harmful ingredients to be on the lookout for include:

  • unidentified starch
  • modified food starch
  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
  • texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
  • binders
  • fillers
  • excipients
  • extenders
  • malt

Some over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as dietary supplements may contain gluten, states the Celiac Disease Foundation web site. Talk to your pharmacist.

Gluten-Free Alternates

"In place of wheat pasta, choose potatoes, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice, or beans," she says. "Parents are always asking about healthy gluten-free snacks to put in their children's lunch box and I usually suggest peanuts and raisins, dried or fresh fruit, a small yogurt or a bag of potato chips for a treat."

Greene also advises parents of children with celiac disease to talk to the school's lunch staff. "Today school dietitians are very familiar with lactose intolerance, diabetes, and other health issues, so they know what it takes and are willing to accommodate special dietary needs without making a big fuss about it," she says. The Celiac Sprue Association web site offers printable letters with specific advice on school issues.

"I also tell parents to tell their child's teacher to let them know if there will be a birthday party or other special snack time in the classroom, so they can send something for their child to eat so he or she won't feel too left out," she says.

A Gluten-Friendly Future

But diet may not be the only way to deal with celiac disease in the future, Peter Green says.

In the future, there may be drugs available to help people with celiac disease better digest gluten. "There is a considerable amount of research on drugs that may serve to help people, and while they may not replace a gluten-free diet, they may allow people to tolerate small amounts of gluten."

There is also some work going on involving genetic engineering of food to get rid of toxic components of wheat, he says.

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Reviewed on October 01, 2008

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