If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, it is strongly recommended to visit a dietitian skilled in celiac disease. A dietitian can teach you the details of the gluten-free diet, recommend supplements, help you manage your symptoms, share useful resources and much more. But not everyone is able to schedule a nutrition consult. While a website cannot replace medical information provided by a health care provider, we hope CeliacNow.org will teach you more about celiac disease, and offer you some of the same information and resources about celiac disease that you would learn by visiting a skilled dietitian.
Managing Celiac Disease
The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet. However, managing celiac disease is more difficult than just avoiding gluten because, for example:
- Food labels can be difficult to understand.
- Shopping takes much longer when you are just starting out.
- Dining out and traveling on the gluten-free diet require planning and attention.
- Some people gain unwanted weight gain on the diet.
- Others have trouble regaining their weight.
Why Visit a Dietitian Skilled in Celiac Disease?
A registered dietitian (RD) is a health professional trained in nutrition counseling for a variety of diseases and conditions. A dietitian skilled in celiac disease has a particular interest and skill in addressing the nutritional needs of patients on the gluten-free diet. An RD can help you:
- Understand which foods are safe to eat.
- Learn which foods must be avoided.
- Plan your meals at home, in restaurants and when traveling.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Get all the nutrients you need in the required amounts.
- Learn cost-saving tips.
- Manage coexisting conditions like lactose intolerance.
- Follow a healthy, gluten-free diet.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics strongly recommends that people with celiac disease see a registered dietitian who is skilled in celiac disease and Medical Nutrition Therapy.1 In 2004, the National Institute of Health recommended that a visit with a dietitian skilled in celiac disease be part of the total medical management plan for people with celiac disease.2
Key Elements in the Management of Celiac Disease
The National Institutes of Health recommend the following in the treatment of celiac disease:
- Consultation with a skilled dietitian
- Education about the disease
- Lifelong adherence to the gluten-free diet
- Identification and treatment of nutritional deficiencies
- Access to a support group
- Continuous long-term follow-up by a multidisciplinary team.2
Read the entire consensus statement
When Do I Visit a Dietitian?
When you are first diagnosed with celiac disease, you can ask for a referral to see a dietitian skilled in celiac disease.
If this is not possible, then you can ask for a referral:
- When you have learned all you can from reputable sources
- If you have questions about your gluten-free diet or supplements
- If you are still having symptoms; If so, it is important to see your gastroenterologist and a dietitian.
How Else Can a Dietitian Help Me?
A dietitian can also help with other possible health concerns, including but not limited to:
- Weight gain on the gluten-free diet
- High lipid levels (such as cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides)
- Special diets for additional conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes, or carbohydrate intolerance.
How Do I Find a Dietitian?
There is a lack of dietitians specializing in celiac disease but interest is growing. Below are some of the resources that will help you to locate dietitians in the U.S. skilled in celiac disease.
If you are unable to find a dietitian skilled in celiac disease, you can educate yourself through this website and other reputable resources. Share the information you learn with your own dietitian. Please note that online or printed educational materials do not replace a visit to a health care provider. Ask your doctor for a referral to visit with a dietitian.
ADA Evidence Analysis Library. Executive Summary of Recommendations. http://www.adaevidencelibrary.com/topic.cfm?cat=3726
NIH Consensus Statement on Celiac Disease. http://consensus.nih.gov/2004/2004CeliacDisease118main.htm Accessed 8/4/2011.
Revision Date: 1-1-12
Author: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN
Editors: Suzanne Simpson, RD and Daniel Leffler, MD, MS