Vegan diets and coeliac disease

Read Time:   |  21st October 2020

How to manage a vegan diet when your body can't cope with gluten

What is Coeliac Disease?

According to Coeliac UK, this condition is thought to affect around one in 100 people. If you’re affected, eating food containing or contaminated with gluten triggers your immune system to attack your own tissues. This damages the lining of the gut, reducing its ability to absorb nutrients.

Gluten is found in certain plant foods including barley, rye and wheat. A small number of those with coeliac disease are sensitive to uncontaminated oats, even though they’re gluten-free.

You can live well with coeliac disease if it’s treated with a lifelong gluten-free diet after diagnosis.

Gluten-Free Vegan

Eating a vegan diet can be more challenging for people who avoid certain plant foods, but it is certainly possible for someone with coeliac disease. As always, nutritional planning is key.

Here are some healthful wholegrain options that can make useful contributions to your intake of good quality protein, as well as your intakes of fibre and slow-release energy:

  • Make a muesli mix using suitable amaranth or buckwheat flakes.
  • Use quinoa or wild rice as a base for your favourite salad.
  • Pop some corn for a snack.

Vegan staples like beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, nuts and seeds are naturally gluten-free, and lots of fortified alternatives to milk and yoghurt are suitable. Also, it’s possible to obtain gluten-free vitamin and mineral supplements designed for vegans like The Vegan Society’s VEG 1.

Reading food labels is an important skill for someone with coeliac disease and one that comes in handy when looking for vegan options. For example, you might be surprised to find that some gluten-free bread contains egg.

More lifestyle tips are available in Dietitian Rosie Martin’s blog entitled ‘Living with coeliac disease as a vegan’ available at www.vegansociety.com.

More Calcium

It’s recommended that people with coeliac disease obtain around 40% more calcium compared to the general population. Consuming three portions of calcium-rich foods daily can help you to get enough.

Here are plant-based examples of one portion:

  • 200ml suitable fortified plant milk.
  • 200g suitable fortified vegan yoghurt.
  • 100g calcium-set tofu.

Tahini, kale, watercress, dried figs, okra, almonds, oranges and beans can also provide useful amounts of this mineral. Vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, so you need to make sure you’re getting enough.

In the UK, a supplement is recommended from October to March as a minimum. Vegan products contain vitamin D3 made from lichen, or vitamin D2.

Can you be vegan if you have coeliac disease?

Recipes for Thriving

As part of the Vegan and Thriving campaign, The Vegan Society has published some recipes at www.vegansociety.com/thriving. Each one is well-balanced, including multiple portions of fruit and vegetables. Some are tagged to show that they are easily adaptable to a gluten-free diet.

Professional Help

If you have coeliac disease and need dietary advice, it’s a good idea to talk to your local healthcare team. A dietitian is in the best position to provide you with individualised support.

Check out the resources at www.vegansociety.com/nutrition

Heather Russell is passionate about eating well and keeping fit. She trained to be a dietitian to combine her love of science with a desire to help people, and she loves food! She worked in the NHS from 2010- 16, and is now using her dietetic skills to support the work of The Vegan Society. www.vegansociety.com

Find out how to thrive on a gluten-free diet here

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