The gluten-free way of life is a lifestyle adaptation for people with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Giving up gluten means no more late-night pizza and lunch meat sandwiches. To abide by a gluten diet, you must cut out bread and pasta, as well as sneaky seasonings and supplements that contain gluten.

When people with celiac disease eat food with gluten, their immune systems damage the lining of their small intestine. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse warns this condition can impede the body’s natural absorption of nutrients.

Symptoms of celiac disease include stomach pain, gas, changes in bowel movement, weight loss and fatigue. People with celiac disease may not display any symptoms, so the condition often goes untreated. You need blood work and a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm that you have it. Celiac disease can lead to a whole slew of health problems, including osteoporosis, anemia, infertility and digestive issues.

People can still have adverse reactions to gluten without an official celiac disease diagnosis. They may choose to limit gluten in their diets in order to feel better. The National Institute of Health has some guidelines regarding gluten-free diets. Before you make any major lifestyle change, check first with your health care provider and see a dietitian or nutritionist.

What can I have?
Here are some foods that are fine to have on a gluten-free diet: fish, fruit, meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, quinoa, millet, nuts, rice, potatoes, poultry, vegetables and wine.

What can’t I have?
The following foods are not recommended: beer, bread, cake, cereal, cookies, crackers, pasta, pie, pizza, processed lunch meat and soup.

Does it work?
A gluten-free diet is a great way to manage the symptoms of celiac disease. Weight loss may be a side effect of cutting out gluten, but this meal plan does not guarantee weight loss. If you aren’t careful, you can actually gain weight by following a gluten-free diet.  Some gluten-free foods are high in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol because of the ingredients that are added to make the product taste better. Specialty gluten-free food can also cost more than regular varieties.

Your gluten-free diet may lack important nutrients and vitamins like calcium and iron. Gluten-free diets also run the risk of being low in fiber. By cutting out grains and many carbohydrates, you are not eating balanced meals. If you choose to follow a gluten-free meal plan, make sure you find ways to get necessary vitamins.