holiday dinner

Celiac disease occurs when the immune system reacts to gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley- used to make many breads, pastas, crackers, and cereals.

The immune reaction damages the lining of the small intestine, leading to malabsorption of valuable nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and energy rich compounds.

So, how does one get through the holidays if they are unable to eat the many staples of the buffet table that contain gluten?

Here are a few tips for breezing through the holiday gluten-free:

  1. Research gluten-free products before purchasing them for your dish.  Many packaged food manufacturers have been jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon.  New FDA guidelines require that foods labeled “gluten-free” have less than 20 parts per million of gluten, a safe level for almost any celiac patient.  Always make sure the ingredients were produced in a separate gluten-free facility, free of any cross-contamination with wheat, rye or barley. If you are unsure about product labeling, contact the company!
  2. Keep it simple.  While most processed foods contain gluten, all fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, and seafood are naturally gluten-free.  Your dishes will be delicious and healthy.
  3. Practice your favorite dish beforehand. Avoid the last minute rush to cook gluten-free stuffing, and do a test-run the night before to make sure it comes out to your liking.
  4. Avoid unknown dishes! The best way to combat Celiac disease is to maintain your diet, no matter what temptations arise. One way to do this is to bring your own gluten-free dish to a party, eating enough to tide you over and stay away from other foods.
  5. Relax…it’s the holidays! The true focus of the holidays should be less on the food you will be eating, and more about spending time with family and friends.

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Marc Schwartz, MD of the Celiac Disease Center at UPMC says, “A gluten-free diet has to be a way of life, but does not have to limit your enjoyment. With planning and preparation, careful food choices, and a focus on whole foods your holiday feast will be as satisfying as ever.”

About Digestive Disorders

UPMC Digestive Health Care cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Whether your digestive condition is common or complicated, our experts can help. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Find a GI doctor near you.