Diet for Pregnant Women with Gluten Intolerance

The diet for the pregnant woman with gluten intolerance should focus on providing as many nutrients as possible to the baby.
Diet for Pregnant Women with Gluten Intolerance

Last update: 22 March, 2023

If you’re pregnant and you’re gluten intolerant, there’s no need to worry. Rather, take care of your diet and follow your doctor’s instructions. If this is your case, your diet should be balanced, varied, and healthy, but you should make sure that the extra energy and nutrients are adequate. Keep reading to learn more about the right diet for pregnant women with gluten intolerance.

What is gluten intolerance all about?

You must have already asked yourself many questions about your pregnancy and your gluten intolerance. Will my baby’s life be at risk? Will I have major deficiencies? Will I be able to breastfeed? The good news is that with the right diet, these anxieties can be overcome.

According to Nutrients magazine, gluten intolerance refers to certain conditions in which the protein in some grains causes a series of adverse reactions that can damage the digestive system and alter other organs in the pregnant woman. Celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy are part of this disorder. Some of the symptoms are the following:

  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Stomach pain and headache
  • Fatigue
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Depression and anxiety

What is gluten?

Gluten is the general name for a series of proteins called prolamins, which are present in some grains. Mainly in wheat, but also in rye, barley, and oats. It’s the substance in the flour that gives structure to the dough and allows it to rise together with the yeast.

Under normal conditions, this protein is somewhat difficult to digest and it becomes even more complicated when there’s gluten intolerance. From it, peptides or smaller proteins are formed that are toxic to the body. Several organizations that deal with gluten intolerance point out that the disorder is accompanied by a problem of intestinal malabsorption and can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Diet for pregnant women with gluten intolerance

The diet for pregnant women with gluten intolerance should be balanced, varied, and healthy. Obviously, the protein that isn’t tolerated – gluten – must be completely eliminated. Also, it’s important to remember that you’re eating for two, but that doesn’t mean that you need to eat twice as much. Rather, it means ensuring that the nutrients that can be affected by intestinal malabsorption (iron, folic, and iodine) must maintain a good supply from food and supplements.

To reassure you, a gluten-free diet has no negative effect on the growth and development of the baby in the womb. There’s also no evidence that it affects the chemical composition of breast milk. In this regard, a population-based study reported in the journal Human Reproduction shows that the birth weight and the proportion of premature births in pregnant women with a gluten-free diet were similar to those without intolerance.

A pregnant woman holding a plate of fruit.
Fruits should be present in the diet of pregnant women with gluten intolerance. In the case of vegetarianism, vegetables should be combined with fruits source of vitamin C.

Dietary goals for pregnant women with gluten intolerance

The first thing to do is to set dietary goals according to the general condition of the pregnant woman with gluten intolerance. Namely:

  • If she has symptoms, it’s important to improve them and reverse the damage to the intestinal walls to favor the absorption of nutrients.
  • In case of diarrhea, the most astringent gluten-free foods are indicated, such as rice, apple, pear, and green banana. In addition, fluids are monitored to avoid dehydration.
  • When constipation appears, gluten-free foods high in soluble and insoluble fiber should be indicated and sufficient fluids should be recommended.
  • When a deficiency of certain minerals such as iron is diagnosed, it must be replenished immediately. For this purpose, foods that are sources of iron of good absorption are indicated, such as meat, poultry, and fish, as well as supplements.
  • In the case of vegetarianism, iron of vegetable origin should be combined with fruits that are a source of vitamin C, such as guava, strawberries, or kiwi, among others.
  • Maintain direct communication between the health team to evaluate potential deficiencies of other micronutrients and potential supplementation and maintain a healthy and varied diet. Some societies, such as the Gluten Intolerance Group insist on close monitoring of zinc, vitamins D and B12, and other B complex vitamins.
  • Supplements should be by the treating obstetrician. If there’s no deficiency, it’s still necessary to supplement the pregnancy with 30 milligrams of iron per day, 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams of folates, and 150 micrograms per day of iodine.

What foods contain gluten?

Some of the foods with gluten are the following:

  • Wheat
  • Semolina
  • Rye
  • Barley, barley extract, and barley malt
  • Couscous
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Durum
  • Panko or bread crumbs
  • Udon, which is a thick noodle of Asian origin
  • Graham and matzo flour
  • Seitan and triticale
  • Oats and oat starch, as they can be contaminated with gluten-containing cereals
  • Foods containing any of the above

No food such as cakes, pies, pastries, or bakery products made with any grain that contains gluten can be eaten by pregnant women with gluten intolerance.

Others that may contain gluten

In reality, there are many food products that contain gluten, as it’s used as an additive. For this reason, it’s strictly necessary to check the labels of foods on the market. Some of them may be the following:

  • Brown rice syrup
  • Seasoning mixes
  • Cold cuts and other processed meats
  • Sweets
  • Broths and pastes
  • Soy sauce, bacon, and seafood substitutes
  • Soup bases, fillings, marinades, and thickeners
  • Herbal, vitamin, and mineral supplements
A woman eating white rice with chopsticks.
Rice, corn, quinoa, and nut flours, among others, can be included in the diet of the gluten-intolerant pregnant woman as wheat substitutes.

What wheat substitutes can be included in the diet?

Listed here are some substitutes you can consider:

  • Quinoa and amaranth
  • Rice and its bran
  • Corn
  • Nut and seed flours
  • Millet
  • Potato flour and starch
  • Soybeans
  • Tapioca
  • Sorghum
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat

Other gluten-free foods

These foods can be consumed without any issues in the diet of pregnant women, as they don’t contain gluten:

  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens
  • Fresh meat, fish, and poultry
  • Fats and oils
  • Natural herbs, condiments, and spices
  • Honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, and molasses
  • Jams and compotes
  • Tomato sauce, mustard, pickles, and salad dressings (check labels)

A final recommendation

For the diet of pregnant women with gluten intolerance, in addition to excluding foods containing this protein, care should be taken to avoid contamination with it. Therefore, try to ensure that packaged foods are for exclusive use and that kitchen equipment and utensils are carefully cleaned. This way, cross contamination with other foods that contain gluten is avoided.

Don’t forget that a nutritionist is an ideal and qualified person to guide your diet. Just the same, this is a guide that will support the professional’s recommendations.

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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.