Getting Started on a Gluten Free Diet
(Beginning your gluten-free journey toward a healthier life!)
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is a sticky protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt and kamut. Since it is so sticky, it acts like a glue to bind ingredients together. Gluten holds together the flour which makes bread. Gluten stops sauces, gravies, and soups from curdling and gives a smooth texture to cheese spread and dips, dressings, margarines, sweets, canned meats, mustard, and almost all packaged and processed foods. It has therefore been in the interest of the manufacturers to use it extensively and in the interest of the growers to increase the gluten content of grains.
LET'S START WITH....
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.
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.
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! No shortages there....
This list geared with children in mind:
Can I make my own baked goods?
Yes, you can!
It is simple to purchase various gluten free flours and make your own baked goods. You can buy pre-blended gluten free flours, or blend your own... usually a combination of rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch flour. The healthiest flours to bake with are almond flour and coconut flour and recipes can be found on elanaspantry.com. There are many gluten free recipe books on the market if you look for them. According to Amazon.com there are 276 of them, and counting!
Online and local support groups are also very helpful in supplying gluten free recipes and baking tips.
And don't throw away your old cook books either! It is very simple to convert most recipes, especially when cooking, but even when baking. You can make a mean Toll House cookie right off the Nestle package, with a simple substitution of gluten free flour, and an added teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum.
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
- Bromated flour
- Durum flour
- Enriched flour
- Farina Graham flour
- Phosphated flour
- Plain flour Self-rising flour
- White flour
- Rye and 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
- Chips/potato chips
- Candy (including licorice!) and chewing gum
- Cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, sausage
- Communion wafer
- French fries, fryer oil may be contaminated or if they are breaded
- Glazed Hams - glaze or injections
- Gravy - all purpose flour is usually the thickener
- Imitation fish - additives and fillers
- Marinated Meats - the marinade
- Rice mixes - the seasoning packet
- Seasoned tortilla chips, french fries, potato chips
- Self-basting turkey
- Soy sauce- substitute with Tamari sauce
Reading labels must become a new part of every day life unless you remove all processed foods from your diet. We need to read labels at the grocery store, and reread them again before opening a can, box or package at home. And because ingredients often change~ we must read labels over and over and over again, even when purchasing products we think we “know” are safe.
Being a member of a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease community, locally or online, can be immensely helpful when starting out on a gluten free diet. There are a lot “tricks to the trade”... and generally, others who have been doing this for years can tell you exactly which brands are currently safe. Local support groups are also very helpful, and will be able to tell you the best gluten free shopping spots, and gluten free restaurants in the area.
What about oats?
Some oats may be contaminated with gluten because of cross contamination in the fields or during processing. Consequently, whether or not oats are safe to eat remains a controversial subject. The majority of research on the subject indicates that oats are safe for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, but it remains in question.
Some people may also have a separate sensitivity to oats.
If you do choose to include oats in your diet, look for a brand which has gluten free certification. It may be wise to eliminate them completely from your diet for the first several months, and add them back only if all is well, and then do so with caution.
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!
Beyond checking labels for safe ingredients, those on a gluten free diet have to worry about cross contamination that can occur in the home, school, workplace, manufacturing environments, etc. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are some links to things you need to think about.
Cross Contamination Concerns by Anne
Cross Contamination Potential Issues by Mireille http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/mb/message.asp?webtag=celiac&msg=32462.1 (may enter as guest)
How to Make Your Home Gluten Free
by Children's Hospital Boston
Cross- Reactive Foods & Foods You Might Be Sensitive To
There are 13 foods commonly cross-reactive with gluten. They are: cow’s milk, alpha-casein and beta-casein, casomorphin, milk butyrophilin, American cheese, milk chocolate, rye, barley, spelt, kamut (polish wheat), yeast oats, and coffee. Cross reactive means the amino acid sequences are so similar that the immune system can react as if you are still eating gluten.
There are 11 foods not cross-reactive, but patients on a gluten-free diet are frequently sensitive to and they are: sesame, hemp, buckwheat, sorghum, millet amaranth, quinoa, tapioca, corn, rice and potato (not sweet potato).
An accurate test at our office is available for the above.
Some people with gluten sensitivity find they do better with no grains at all, and opt to follow a paleolithic diet, which is not only gluten free, but grain free, casein free and legume free. To learn more:
List of Gluten Derivatives
- Alcohol made from grains: beer, malt liquor; distilled alcohol if fine, (distilled process removes the gluten protein) but you must check flavored liquors such as cranberry vodka, etc. because the flavoring may contain gluten
- Batter-coated foods
- Canned meat containing preservatives
- Canned vegetables (unless canned in water only)
- Caramel (made and imported from countries other than the US and Canada)
- Chewing gum
- Curry powder
- French fries (may be fried in the same oil as bread products)
- Fruit drinks
- Horseradish sauces
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (may be made from wheat)
- Imitation seafood (usually made with a starch binder made of wheat)
- Instant hot drinks-coffee, tea, hot chocolate
- Ketchup - unless stated “gluten-free”
- Modified food starch
- Rice syrup (may contain barley malt)
- Salad dressings -avoid commercial varieties unless noted “gluten-free”
- Soups-most commercially made canned or frozen soups
- Soy sauce and most other Chinese sauces, except for Tamari wheat free sauce
- White pepper
- Veined cheeses (may be created with molds that could be of bread origin)
- Boullion cubes or powder (artificial color)
- Mustards - unless stated “gluten-free”
- Sweets, such as cakes, pastries, cookies , candies, muffins, chocolate unless noted “gluten free” on label
- MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) - flavor enhancers
- Glutamic Acid & Monopotassium Glutamate- flavor enhancers
- Buy good ingredients.
- Buy organic whenever possible especially produce on the “The Dirty Dozen” list
- Limit pesticide exposure.
- Don’t purchase packaged, frozen, or canned foods except for tuna, some beans and coconut milk.
- Always eat before you go to a party so you do not experience hunger pangs.
- Always carry a snack with you when you go out in case your plans change and you cannot find anything to eat.
- Be cautious to accept someone’s word that the food they are offering is gluten-free unless you are really sure.
- Do not be tempted just because you are feeling better, to assume you are cured! Be warned - if your body has just started to recover, it will be even more sensitive to the food and the reaction will be dramatic.
Transitioning to a Gluten Free Life
Get educated. There is on-line help, books, support groups, our office, etc. You are not alone!
Clean your kitchen. If the whole family is going gluten free, give away your non gluten-free food. If it is only part of your family, get out labels and start marking what is gluten- free.
Learn how to shop and where to shop. Start reading labels and looking for hidden sources of gluten in processed foods.
Discuss your needs with your family and friends. Notify them that you are living gluten-free. Let them know so when you plan to get together there are gluten-free options.
Transition away from your normal day-to-day diet.
Be a conscious eater! Think about your food choices and be aware that these decisions are leading you toward a healthier life.( Many individuals with a gluten intolerance may have reactions to other grains as well, so be aware of such a possibility.)
Go to restaurants that provide gluten-free options. Always tell the waiter that you are gluten-free so he can notify the chef. Many restaurants will customize a dish for you if they know. And be aware that when eating at restaurants that do not have gluten-free menus, there are many foods contrary to your expectations that may contain gluten. Be sure to check with your server and if they don’t know, have them ask the chef. Your health is important!
Enjoy this journey to a healthier life!