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The gluten-free (GF) diet can provide adequate nutrition while eliminating wheat, rye and barley from the diet as long as GF grains with high nutritional value are used and the diet includes a variety of foods. Gluten is a generic term referring to storage proteins in grains. The fractions of gluten protein in wheat which are problematic in people with gluten-related disorders are gliadin and glutenin. There are equivalent toxic protein fractions in barley and rye. Research on oats indicates small quantities (1/2 cup dry) are safe for use in the gluten-free diet. Oats used should be clean and uncontaminated, and certified gluten-free.
Gluten damages the intestine of persons with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis (a skin manifestation of celiac disease). It is not thought to cause damage to the intestine of persons with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but it still has an adverse effect on the health of people with this condition.
When all sources of gluten are removed from the diet of individuals with celiac disease, the intestine is able to regenerate and normal function is usually restored. Similarly, a gluten-free diet leads to resolution of symptoms in individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.