Gluten: Could You Be Allergic?

By Neal D. Barnard, MD Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC Author of the 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart

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How to Go Gluten-Free


If you’re going gluten-free, the good news is that you only have to avoid three grains: wheat, barley and rye. You’ll have no problem with rice, corn, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat, since they are naturally gluten-free. You’ll also be fine with vegetables, fruits, beans, etc.

The bad news is that traces of wheat, barley and rye end up in a wide range of products – in soy sauce, beer, and countless other foods. So, you’ll need to read food labels. Even the slightest trace of gluten can cause a reaction.

To make life easier, you will find helpful lists of foods that do and do not contain gluten. Celiac.org has a handy “What Can I Eat?” page. CeliacCentral.org offers printable guides on many aspects of gluten-free living. You can also refer to this gluten glossary to learn what ingredients to look out for in your food items and other products.

You will discover that it pays to emphasize simple, mostly unprocessed foods. After all, a serving of rice or carrots has no long list of ingredients that you need to plow through. Ditto for an apple or an orange. These simple “one-ingredient” foods are obviously gluten-free and safe for you to enjoy. But a frozen dinner or a can of soup can be more complicated, and you’ll want to check labels for any that are new to you.

Oats do not normally contain gluten, so you ought to be able to enjoy a bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning. However, sometimes oats pick up traces of wheat as they grow in the field or in the factory. To prevent that from happening, some companies have set up dedicated production facilities so you know your products are safe.

Restaurant dining can be a challenge. Who knows what’s going into foods in someone else's kitchen? But Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern restaurants will be easiest, as they usually have many offerings that are naturally gluten-free. Celiac or gluten-free support groups in your area will have tips for the best restaurants. 

If gluten is a problem for you, it’s great to find an answer to your symptoms. If it is not, it is great to know you can eat gluten-containing foods without worry.   

Neal D. Barnard, MD

Article written by Neal D. Barnard, MD
Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC Author of Power Foods for the Brain