Getting Started on a Gluten Free Diet
WHAT YOU CAN EAT!
Lots of things! While it is true that a lot of food will now be off limits, it is also true that there is a lot of food in the world~ and many things are still perfectly safe to eat! Getting back to basics is a good way to start.
You can still eat:
Nuts and Seeds
Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt (if not casein or lactose intolerant)
Please rest assured that you can buy or make your own gluten free baked goods~ bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, and more!
There are several brands of gluten free beer on the market now, and an endless supply of gluten free snack foods like popcorn, peanuts, gf pretzels, gf crackers, corn chips, etc. Many restaurants offer gluten free menus.
It really is best to begin with a basic whole foods diet and it is also important to focus on what you CAN HAVE rather than dwell on what you can't have. It's that whole positive thinking thing.
Whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth are acceptable on the diet as long as you are not sensitive to them.. It can be fun to explore new foods, and you may find with the new focus on food you will actually increase the variety of healthy foods in your diet; most of us do!
“Back to basics” eating is just easier while on the gluten free diet learning curve. Reading labels at the grocery store can be daunting in the beginning. That gets easier over time as you eventually learn which foods and ingredients are acceptable.
You will eventually get back to a regular shopping list~ it will just be a little different than it was before. Eating unadulterated whole foods over processed foods really cuts down on label reading.... a big help when beginning this overwhelming task of re-evaluating everything you eat!
Whole foods, unprocessed foods, are just healthier for you all the way around, and are easier on your intestinal system while it is healing. You will be reducing the risk of inadvertent gluten errors by avoiding processed foods, and giving your body a better chance to heal quickly.
It is not uncommon for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease to suffer from other food intolerances as well. In fact, studies tell us up to 50% of those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity also have problems with cow's milk. Corn and soy sensitivity are commonly a problem as well.
Sticking to whole foods, and keeping a food and symptom journal, can help to identify additional sensitivities if you continue to have symptoms. Many people find they do much better without any grains at all in their diet.
3 Reasons Why You May Not Have Felt Better on a Gluten-Free Diet
With all the buzz on how Gluten can cause so many chronic symptoms, many patients I consult with have tried a Gluten Free diet a one time or the other. The responses I hear is that they felt better for a little while or even that they may have felt worse. Gluten sensitivity is not a fad, it is real - there are over 10,000 research publications on Gluten and its affects causing multiple health issues from digestive disorders to chronic pain and fatigue to metabolic disorders like thyroid disease and diabetes. Because going on a gluten free takes a great deal of education and commitment, it is recommended that proper testing be performed to identify whether the diet is right for you. Remember going gluten free is not a trendy diet; it is a permanent lifestyle that should be taken very seriously as even small amounts of gluten exposure can cause problems. To accurately diagnose gluten sensitivity, the right lab test must be used. Genetic testing is the gold standard for diagnosing gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, many doctors still use antiquated and inaccurate tests. If you have chronic health issues Gluten may be a trigger, but you have to consider other components that are adding fuel on the fire as well.
Here are my top 3 Reasons Why You May Not Have Felt Better on a Gluten-Free Diet
1. Gut repair - Unresolved Intestinal Permeability issues also known as 'Leaky Gut' can continue to cause symptoms even on a gluten free diet. Realize if you are sensitive to gluten and been eating it for years, damage has been done to your intestinal lining that needs repair and continued support. There are tests now available to measure the damage to your intestinal lining.
2. Cross reactive foods "I'm Gluten Free but I eat Corn-chip Now Syndrome" - Some foods act chemically similar to gluten and may cause a negative reaction or symptoms for you as well. These foods should be tested for sensitivity along with gluten.
Coffee Chocolate Buckwheat
Rye Barley Sorghum
Millet Tapioca Amaranth
Spelt Sesame Corn
Rice Milk Potato
Hemp Oats Yeast
3. Hidden exposure- Gluten while found in our diet in foods like bread, pasta, cake, cereals, and crackers; can be found in other places as well like
Soy Sauce Food Starches
Food Emulsifiers Food Stabilizers
Artificial Food Colorings Malt Extract, Flavor, Syrup
People who experience chronic pain and fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and even weight gain should consider Gluten sensitivity as a possible trigger. What I am finding in my patients who are Gluten sensitive is that there are other mechanisms that are preventing their gut inflammation from decreasing not allowing them to feel and function at optimal health. Once those are addressed, they feel better and get their life back.
WHAT YOU CAN'T EAT
Bread, cakes, pies, cookies, pasta, candy, or any other product that uses wheat, rye, or barley needs to be avoided. Don't be fooled... white bread is indeed made with wheat flour!
Avoid anything made with:
Wheat - including einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein
Farina Graham flour
Plain flour Self-rising flour
Rye & Triticale - a cross between wheat and rye
Gluten may also be found in other processed foods you might not suspect, so it is important to read labels carefully. You'll need to ask questions when eating at restaurants, and at the homes of family and friends. It is generally possible to find gluten free brands of many of these items, but you must be especially cautious about the following items~ and verify!
Brown rice syrup
Candy (including licorice!) & chewing gum
Cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, sausage
Seasoned tortilla chips, french fries, potato chips
HOW STRICT DO I NEED TO BE?
You need to be very strict~ 100% diligent about removing all gluten from your diet. A tiny little bit, even in the form of cross contamination, can do damage if it occurs often enough~ preventing your intestines from healing, and keeping your immune system producing destructive antibodies.
One of the best analogies I've heard is of comparing damaged intestinal villi to a skinned knee. If you skin your knee, and then keep falling down every couple of days and re-scraping it, it will never heal. Cross contamination and gluten errors are like falling down and re-scraping your knee. You'll never get better if you keep falling.
Some people may not react symptomatically to gluten errors, but that doesn't mean the infractions aren't doing any damage. Repeated errors will keep those antibodies in production and working against you, even if you aren't noticing any symptoms on the 'outside'.
If you are auto-immune, eating gluten, is like THROWING GAS ON A FIRE!
DO I HAVE TO BUY EXPENSIVE SPECIALTY FOODS?
No! In fact, you can live quite nicely and healthfully without any of the specialty food products. Many opt to eat only naturally gluten free whole foods and find this simple way of eating very satisfying.
There are also many mainstream processed foods that are gluten free and safe for you to eat. Some mainstream products are even beginning to clearly label products as gluten free... which makes our job of label reading a lot easier.
Allergy and Contains Statements on products are also very helpful, but beware because they won't necessarily include barley or rye ingredients. Wheat is one of the eight major allergens covered under labeling laws. When you see wheat in a Contains: statement, or highlighted in the ingredient list, it shortens the label reading task as you quickly return the product to its store shelf.
SPECIALTY FOODS GALORE IF YOU WANT THEM!
There are many specialty gluten free foods on the market and the market is growing like wild fire. More products are making their way to your very own local grocery store... be sure to check the health and specialty aisles! Most health food stores will carry a wide variety of gluten free products.
The GF Mall is a one stop directory of websites offering foods in the gluten free specialty market. There is a searchable data base of GF products at GF Overflow
One caution about specialty foods... though. They are not necessarily HEALTHY foods. Once you begin to read labels of everything you eat, out of necessity, you will gain an acute awareness of exactly what you are eating. Many of us end up cleaning up our diets overall and doing without much of the processed foods, but for some of us who still like to splurge on occasion with a little junk food... it is still all available!