This is a cooperative publication of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Celiac 60+

30% of people newly diagnosed with celiac are over 60.


Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that affects roughly 1% of the population. When people with celiac disease ingest gluten; the protein in wheat, barley and rye; their body reacts. This reaction prevents the body from properly absorbing the nutrients from the food eaten. Consequently all body systems may be affected. The list of symptoms is long, diarrhea to migraines to fatigue and more. Celiac disease affects people of all ages, from young babies to the elderly. Once celiac is treated with a gluten-free diet, symptoms typically resolve and the affected feel better.

Once diagnosed

You are not alone in following a gluten-free diet and there are resources to support you. A diagnosis of celiac disease requires lifestyle adjustments. No medication or surgery is needed. The good news is that it can be controlled just by following a special diet. Gluten-free foods can be found in most grocery stores.

Attitude is everything

Like anything new, it takes time to adjust to the gluten-free diet and learn this lifestyle. Stay focused on all the foods you can eat.

Gluten-free Diet

Eating gluten-free can seem overwhelming, but as you learn what to look for, how to read food labels and prepare food, the diet becomes easier. Naturally gluten-free delicious and healthy foods are plentiful, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, poultry, fish, meat and legumes.

What to look for on the label

Gluten is listed using 5 words on a label: wheat, barley, rye, malt, and oats. Read ingredient lists very carefully. If you see any of these words you will know a food contains gluten. By law, wheat used as an ingredient or processing aid must be listed as an allergen. A food described as "wheat-free" may not necessarily be gluten-free. If you are unsure if a food is gluten-free, avoid it until you are able to investigate it further.

How to stay healthy with your new diet

While removing gluten from your diet will help your body heal, you also need to focus on maintaining optimum nutrition. Choose gluten-free whole grains and foods with nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, fiber, zinc and calcium. For a nutritious diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, brown rice, dairy products, meat/fish/poultry, eggs, and gluten-free grains (such as buckwheat, cornmeal, and quinoa). A supplement may be recommended if you are not getting enough nutrients; make sure it is gluten-free.

Gluten in personal care and household items

Gluten must be ingested or swallowed in order to cause a problem. Therefore, items like shampoo and cleaners with gluten-containing grains are safe for someone with celiac disease unless they have a secondary allergy or sensitivity to those ing red ients.

Gluten in Medication

Oral medication must be gluten-free. There are no labeling requirements for the source of ingredients in medications. Few drugs contain gluten, but because some DO contain gluten the source of ingredients in all medications must be verified.

Brand name medications and generic equivalents may have different inactive ingredients and could contain gluten.

Either brand name or generic drugs are acceptable as long as the ingredients have been checked to insure that they are gluten-free. Ask your pharmacist to investigate the medication's ingredients this should be checked when the prescription is refilled in case the ingredients changed, and also if the drug manufacturer changes. Physicians and pharmacists are not always alert to the risk that gluten in medication poses to the person with celiac disease.

If the source of the following ingredients is not specified, ask your pharmacist to call teh manufacturer:

If a prescribed medication does have glutenin it you may:

Fast, easy and nutritious snacks and meals.

  • Yogurt with a fresh (or frozen) fruit topping

  • Corn tortillas wrapped around turkey and cheese
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese (or just a hardboiled egg)
  • A handful of mixed nuts and a piece of fruit makes a great healthy, balanced snack

When you need a little help: Hospitalizations or Assisted Living

Involve family members in the details of your diagnosis and diet. Provide them with a copy of this guide along with a list of current medications and the name and address of all healthcare providers.

To ensure the best possible care during your stay keep a copy bedside and give this brochure to your 11ealthcare providers to help communicate your dietary requirements and have it entered into your chart:

  • Dietitian, pharmacist, physician

  • Pre-admission nurse and nurse manager

Request a written physician's order for a gluten-free diet that identifies you as having an "allergy" to wheat, rye, barley and oats so that all personnel in the hospital will be aware of your dietary restrictions. Make an appointment to see someone in the nutrition services and pharmacy departments prior to your admission to determine the facility's ability to safely accommodate your glutenfree needs.

Request an allergy wristband. You may also request that "Celiac Disease: All foods and medications must be verified glutenfree" be printed in Bold writing on your chart, at your bedside, or on the front of your door.

Ask if you may use medication and food from home. If allowed, mark with your full name, date and room number.

Your Team

The following professionals should form a team of advocates to keep gluten from your diet while in their care:

  • Physicians
  • Pharmacist
  • Dietitian
  • Nursing staff
  • Behavioral health
  • Occupation therapist

Printable Guides for the gluten-free diet can be found online at: and

Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG)

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)