Supplementing a Gluten Free Diet


A gluten-free diet is generally followed by people diagnosed with celiac disease. However, there are many who choose to follow a gluten-free diet.  Celiac disease causes the body to destroy the lining of the small intestine when glutens are ingested.


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  Intestinal damage from celiac disease hinders the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals.  Often those following a gluten-free diet may need vitamin supplements.  It is always best to meet with your physician to discuss your individual dietary needs.


The University of Virginia Health System recommends a multivitamin for anyone beginning a gluten-free diet.  A gluten-free diet means that you must learn to choose foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals.  Prepared (store bought) gluten-free foods are usually made with refined gluten-free flours that may not have the necessary vitamins and minerals that you require.  Often there are lower amounts of iron, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and fiber than recommended for a healthy adult diet.  A good multivitamin containing these nutrients would be beneficial.  However, if you consume adequate amounts of gluten-free whole foods (vegetables, fruits and whole grains) the added supplements may not be necessary.


Folate is a B vitamin that is essential for cell growth and development.  This includes red blood cell production.  Folate is important during pregnancy as it prevents neural tube defects in the developing fetuses.  Folate is often found in enriched grain products so it may not be readily available in gluten-free form.  For instance, women between 18 and 50 should take 400 mcg of Folate per day.  Folate may be consumed in a multi-vitamin or as a Folate only supplement.  Folate products include enriched cereals and orange juice.  Dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are Folate-rich foods.  Other sources of Folate include citrus fruits, legumes and liver.


Celiac disease increases your risk of osteoporosis (thinning of  bones) due to a lack of calcium absorption stemming from the damage caused to intestinal tissues.  The amount of calcium you need each day depends on your gender, age and whether or not you already have thinning bones from Celiac disease.  Consulting your doctor about the amount of calcium recommended for you is best. Many gluten-free foods are rich in calcium, including milk, yogurt and real (not processed) cheese.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption.  Low calcium in your diet due to Celiac disease may also be mean that your body is low in vitamin D as well.  You may need vitamin D supplementation along with calcium to prevent osteoporosis.  Vitamin D may also be found in gluten-free products such as fish, margarine, dairy products and oysters.

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  • Thomas Fogg
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