Food & Nutrition

Should People with Diabetes Follow a Gluten-Free Diet?

No matter where you look, gluten-free versions of food can be found anywhere from pasta to chicken nuggets. Are these gluten-free versions healthier? Should people with diabetes follow a gluten-free diet? 

Let’s break it down.

Gluten free written in flour on table top

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. The only true disease that requires complete elimination of gluten is known as celiac disease 

Celiac Disease and Diabetes

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 1 in 100 people have diagnosed celiac disease. It’s estimated that approximately six percent of people with type 1 diabetes also have celiac disease—there may be a genetic link between the two. Both conditions have an inflammatory component, which causes the immune system to attack the body’s tissues or organs, such as the intestines or pancreas. 

There have not been any links found between type 2 diabetes and celiac disease. 

The Verdict

So, should people with diabetes avoid gluten? The answer is not so easy. A food that is labeled “gluten-free” isn’t necessarily “healthy” or low in carbohydrates. Gluten-free grain products can be made from rice, potatoes, corn, quinoa, and sorghum, to name a few. These products still contain a carbohydrate load that can have an effect on blood glucose (blood sugar). Some gluten-free products may also be made to mimic gluten-containing products by adding in additional sugars to attempt to recreate a familiar mouthfeel. 

For example, a gluten-free granola bar may actually contain more sugar compared to a gluten-containing granola bar to attempt to compensate for the change in texture the gluten-free flours can produce. However, a lentil- or soy-based gluten-free pasta is far higher in fiber and protein than a traditional gluten-containing pasta. 

Talk to Your Doctor

Not sure about a particular gluten-free food? Read the Nutrition Facts label and Ingredients List or ask your doctor or registered dietitian.. There are many diabetes-friendly gluten-free alternatives you can include in a healthy lifestyle, and there are also some you should avoid. If you follow a gluten-free diet due to a true celiac disease diagnosis or personal preference, try to opt for lean meats, high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and grains.

This kidney-friendly guest blog post was provided by DaVita dietitian Elyse Aracich. 

For more Kidney-Friendly resources, please visit


Celiac Disease Foundation

Al-Toma A, Volta U, Auricchio R, Castillejo G, Sanders D, Cellier C, Mulder CJ, Lundin KAE. European Society for the Study of Coeliac Disease (ESsCD) guideline for coeliac disease and other gluten-related disorders. United European Gastroenterol J. 2019. Doi: 10.1177/2050640619844125.