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Living gluten-free

(HealthDay News) -- It may sound simple enough: Stay away from gluten if you have celiac disease. But what, exactly, does that mean?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. People who need to avoid gluten, however, need to be on the lookout for it in more than food. They also need to carefully read product labels, advises the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. That includes medicines and vitamins. For prescription medications, ask the pharmacist if they contain wheat.

The institute says that gluten also is used as an additive in some products, so checking all labels needs to become a habit. Lipstick, lip balms, play dough and more may contain gluten. If a product label does not list ingredients, contact the manufacturer for a list.

As for foodstuffs, where gluten is most often found, anything made from wheat, rye and barley should not be eaten by someone with celiac disease. Off the list, then, are most grains, pastas and cereals and many processed foods. But plenty of foods do not contain gluten, and many gluten-free products have made their way onto supermarket shelves in recent years.

The institute suggests that anyone needing to eat gluten-free may want to:

  • Substitute with potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat or bean flour instead of wheat flour.
  • Check out organic food stores or mail-order outlets if neighborhood markets do not offer a variety of gluten-free bread, pasta and other products.
  • Join a support group, often a good source of ideas on food options.
  • Ask the waiter or chef, when eating out, about specific ingredients and food preparation or ask if a gluten-free menu is available.

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