If you’ve found your way here, you’re most likely diagnosed with Celiac disease (or Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity), know someone who is, or you have a hunch that you may be suffering from either of these issues. First off, welcome!
There are so many incredible benefits to going gluten-free, not the first of which is putting your poor, tired body at ease by removing what it perceives as harmful toxins.
Think back to your health class at school, when you learned about the Immune System, and its role in protecting the body. The Immune System protects the body from infection, disease and foreign substances, known as allergens, and reacts against disease, infections and auto-antigens (pesky allergens). So when you eat foods that your body perceives as allergens, your immune system starts its never-ending battle to protect you from the threat. So, that yummy bagel you had for breakfast sets off a series of responses, not the least of which is a continuous strain on your immune system to defend and protect against the assailant; gluten!
I know, it sounds silly, but the point is simple; no matter how much you might love a food, if you’re one of the millions of us who suffers from a food sensitivity, your body will keep putting up the good fight to protect you. And if you’re like me, the continuous strain on your immune system leads to many other health issues. For me, it led to an auto-immune disorder called Hashimotos Disease, where my body attacks my thyroid anytime my immune system is triggered. Hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, dry skin… good times – not really.
How to eliminate gluten from your life.
From dedicated nut butter jars and kitchen drawers to new utensils and appliances, a dedicated gluten-free kitchen is a serious undertaking.
Step 1: Educate yourself. Because gluten is contained in many different foods, there is a lot to learn if you want to avoid it.
- Don’t confuse “wheat-free” with “gluten-free”. A product labelled “wheat-free” may contain gluten in the form of grains such as rye, barley and oats, each of which contain gluten. In addition, a gluten-free product may contain proteins not suitable for someone who is allergic to wheat.
- Understand what it means to be “gluten-free”. There is no consistent definition of what “gluten-free” means. There is, however, an international standard for “gluten-free” products produced from cereals containing gluten. This is the Codex Alimentarius, and it permits products to be called “gluten-free” if there are less than 200 parts-per-million of gluten in the finished product. Many manufacturers follow this standard.
Step 2: Be sure it’s gluten-free. Read as much as you can about different foods. Processed foods can be a problem when it comes to hidden gluten. Even after many years of being gluten-free, you may still be discovering new products that contain gluten. Examples of such sources include some glucose syrups, smoked foods, ice cream and tomato ketchup.
Step 3: Know that other household items and medications may also contain gluten.Just because it’s not food doesn’t mean it can’t contain gluten. And products that you use to clean yourself and your home may be culprits. Again, remember to check the label and research online if you have any doubts about the product that you are using.
- Check the ingredients of your medications. Some medicines contain gluten in the form of starches and fillers. If the packaging doesn’t list the ingredients, check with your pharmacist, who may be able to suggest gluten-free alternatives.
- Look for the ingredients in household products — particularly make-up, shampoo and skin lotions. You may also want to check on the contents of children’s art supplies and also home building supplies. People vary in their sensitivity, but you may find that you absorb sufficient gluten from such products to cause a reaction.
Step 4: Find other gluten-sensitive people. You can get a lot of support — and a lot of information — from local organizations and internet groups. It’s worth considering even if you’re not usually a joiner. The internet makes it easy to feel like you’re part of a community without doing that much work.
- Be on the lookout for support groups offering help to those diagnosed with celiac disease. Forums, blogs, and other internet resources exist to make life for celiac sufferers a lot easier. Helpful hints, recipe tips, and coping mechanisms can motivate you to breathe easier and trust in your ability to push through.
Step 5: Be prepared. A little planning can really protect your health and make it easier to be gluten-free.
- Have a separate cupboard for your gluten-free products in order to prevent contamination. If this isn’t possible, at least reserve a top shelf for gluten-free items. Be especially wary of sharing jam, butter, toasters and other items regularly associated with bread or other gluten products.
- Be sure to clean surfaces in the kitchen and have clean utensils before preparing any gluten-free food.
- Think ahead to holidays, parties and other festivities. Plan your gluten-free food well in advance so you know what you’ll be eating. If a party is at someone else’s house, offer to bring some food to share — gluten-free, of course!
- Plan your travels with food in mind. It can be handy to keep an emergency travel-pack of gluten-free snacks — such as popcorn — to take on trips.
Step 6: Make sure family and friends understand how important it is that you completely avoid gluten. If you are celiac or gluten-intolerant, be sure to praise those who feed or share food with you when things go well. If mistakes are made and anyone takes it lightly, be sure to explain clearly the consequences you will suffer as a result of the mistake. If you don’t speak up, others may not take your situation seriously enough to help prevent future problems.
Step 7: Focus on what you can eat. Although there are some things you can’t eat, there are actually many more that you can. Having a positive outlook will go a long way in your ability to live a better life, even if you don’t have celiac.
Check out these other pages below for some good places to start!
Click here to view a chart of Gluten-free flour substitutes.
The first suggestion I have is to remember a very simple, but wise mantra; take it one day at a time!