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5 ways to make up for what’s missing in a typical gluten-free diet


September 4, 2018

These food groups can help make up for the lack of fiber in gluten-free diets.


Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the seriousness of celiac disease. If you have celiac disease and eat gluten, it causes damage to your small intestine. This damage may cause nutrient deficiencies and limits health and wellbeing. Celiac disease can also impact other parts of the body and is associated with as many as 200-300 different symptoms.

For people with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet isn’t a choice; it’s the only medical treatment available for their disease. Since celiac disease is a chronic disease, the gluten-free diet becomes more than a brief dietary trend. People with celiac disease must follow the gluten-free diet for their entire lives.

To eat gluten-free you must avoid wheat, barley (malt) and rye but avoiding these foods doesn’t automatically make the gluten-free diet healthy. A typical gluten-free diet tends to be high in processed foods and low in healthy whole grains and fiber.

Dietary fiber includes the parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and can help move material through your digestive tract and out of your body, it can be a benefit to people who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. This can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.

The general recommendations for fiber are 25-35 grams per day. Unfortunately, most people aren’t meeting this goal. It can be even more difficult for people who must be on a gluten-free diet to meet this goal since they can’t eat common sources of fiber in the typical American diet like whole wheat flour and wheat bran. So how do individuals who must eat gluten-free meet their fiber needs when they can’t eat wheat?

5 gluten-free sources of fiber

  1. Fruits
  2. Vegetables
  3. Beans/lentils
  4. Gluten-free whole grains including quinoa, teff, amaranth, millet and sorghum
  5. Nuts/seeds including chia, flax and hemp seeds

3 tips for increasing fiber

  1. Increase your fiber intake slowly to prevent gas, bloating or abdominal pain. Add 1-2 higher fiber foods each day to let your body adjust to digesting more fiber.
  2. Focus on unprocessed gluten-free food sources. If you are choosing processed gluten-free foods, choose gluten-free foods with at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving.
  3. Drink lots of water. Drinking water is important while increasing fiber in your diet. If you don’t drink enough water, you can become constipated.
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If you think you may have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, the Vanderbilt Celiac Disease Clinic may be able to help. The clinic sees patients with new, existing or difficult diagnoses of celiac disease.

Learn more