Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that develops in genetically predisposed subjects following gluten intake. Those who suffer from it must follow a gluten-free diet: even small traces of this protein, in fact, if ingested, can damage the intestinal tract.

As Dr. Paoletta Preatoni, Gastroenterologist and digestive endoscopist at Humanitas explains: “Gluten is a protein complex contained in different cereals such as wheat, barley and rye. If all solid products based on these cereals are prohibited for celiac people, so are beverages derived from their malt, such as beer, or products such as milk and liquid yoghurt made from cereals or malt, for example.

Many products labeled as gluten free are available on the market, but care must be taken, since gluten may be found in less suspected products. Therefore, always read labels carefully and check what can be consumed and what should be avoided.


The Hidden Gluten

Gluten is very often contained as an excipient thickener in various packaged food products such as sauces, soft drinks, sausages, and nuts. It may also be present in herbal medicines and preparations.

In terms of spirits, there are no problems for wine, grappa and spirits. In order to consume beer, it must be certified as gluten-free.

Celiac sufferers can drink tea, coffee, chamomile, herbal teas and infusions, provided they check the list of ingredients well. Beware of soluble drinks, however, which may contain traces of gluten. Barley and oat drinks should be avoided.

Sweets, some ice creams, candy and energy bars, as well as chocolate with cereals, can also contain gluten.


The handbook of the Italian Celiac Disease Association

“Products on the market that comply with the regulations in force should contain details of the ingredients and possible contamination should also be reported. When in doubt, it is better not to buy the product or seek advice from a specialist,” says Dr. Preatoni.

The Italian Celiac Disease Association has also prepared a detailed handbook to help patients know what to eat without concern and what to avoid. Therefore, labels should always be read, bearing in mind that the words ‘gluten-free’ should ensure safe consumption.


Foods to avoid

Gluten is contained in cereals such as wheat, spelt, barley, oats, rye, monococcus, khorasan wheat, spelt, triticale, flours, starches, groats, meal, prohibited cereal creams and flakes, wheat germ, bulgur, couscous (from forbidden cereals), cracked wheat, frik, greis, greunkern, seitan, tabulé, bran and malt from forbidden cereals, taragna polenta (if buckwheat flour is mixed with wheat flour).

Moreover, pay attention to products such as breaded or floured meat or fish or mixed with breadcrumbs or cooked in sauces and sauces thickened with flour and banned ready meals made with cheese, also breaded with banned flour.

Soups are also to be avoided as well as soups containing prohibited cereals, natural yeast or sourdough, dehydrated floured fruit, seitan and béchamel produced from prohibited cereal flours.