Gluten Free Living

Here are some basics about Gluten:
***Please consult your doctor if you think you may have either Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or allergy. This information is just for basic knowledge.

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
A gluten-free diet is used to treat Celiac disease. Celiac disease is the most severe type of gluten intolerance. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with Celiac disease which causes malabsorption and other health conditions. Celiac disease can take an average of 11 years of continued onset symptoms to diagnose. The number of people with Celiac disease has increased to 1 in 133 people in the United States. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with Celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.
Gluten-free diets are also used for those that are experiencing symptoms from eating gluten. Even though you may not have Celiac disease, it is possible that you can have gluten intolerance or an allergy to gluten. Gluten intolerance is also known as gluten sensitivity.

Here are symptoms for gluten intolerance VS gluten allergy:

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance/Sensitivity:
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue- extreme or continuous
  • Vomiting
  • 'Foggy' brain
  • dermatitis
  • headaches or migraines
Symptoms of a Gluten (or Wheat) Allergy:
  • Rashes
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Asthma or trouble breathing
  • Hay fever
  • Tissue swelling
  • Chest pains
  • anaphylaxis
  • congestion
  • More

My personal experience:
What's interesting is that gluten sensitivity can affect people differently. I know this from first hand experiences with it. I experienced symptoms at a young age starting around 10 or 11 years old. I remember being sick at many family functions. And it became a norm for me. Some of my family members thought I had depression or hypochondria. It was as if I was over exaggerating or making it up. I remember experiencing symptoms such as extreme fatigue, frequent migraines and nausea. And after eating lots of cakes and cookies at an event or holiday, I would be on the couch, sleeping by the end of the party. I just told my family that I had a headache or upset stomach. During that time, it didn't appear that my symptoms were severe enough to be concerned. But I visited the doctor frequently. They couldn't explain my symptoms. I remember a doctor telling me that I was too young to even know what feeling 'dizzy' even meant.

Over the years, I learned to live with these symptoms. And even as a child, my mom would see a difference in me from just removing snack cakes out of my diet(I just found this out!). As I grew older, I began to research more about nutrition. I experienced some relief eating healthier foods and increasing fruits and vegetables. I hadn't realized though during college years that gluten was causing my troubles and there were times that I ate a lot of it. I would get these terrible migraines once in a while that started to increase about two years ago.

All of the symptoms I experienced as a child started to come on more frequently and with a vengeance. It seemed like those last 6 moths (before I started eating gluten free) were lived in misery and missed work. I experienced mornings that I woke up with such bad brain fog and migraines that I barely knew where I was. I would call into work once in a while with those terrible migraines. I also experienced symptoms of gluten intolerance and I thought I had food poisoning multiple times- vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. It seemed to me that my immune system was just low and I was 'catching bugs' from other people since I worked in the health system. I even had mornings where my throat and nasal passage would close up making it difficult to breath, as well as experiencing hives and skin irritations. It was as if my body had enough and was fighting me.

My significant other at the time( now my husband) worked hard with me to figure out what was causing my sickness and pain. I took vitamins, probiotics and we researched constantly. At this point in my life, I had already studied nutrition in school and ate healthy on a regular basis. But I was still getting sick. Everything started making sense when a friend of mine needed help with eating gluten free since she suspected she had symptoms of gluten intolerance. This wasn't my specialty so I did lots of research on it and provided her with information about it and what to eat. As I read all the symptoms, I sat there in awe, realizing that I had most of them. I would try anything at this point!

It didn't take but a week for me to start feeling some relief. And within a month's time, I was waking up better in the mornings, and starting to recover. I tried a few times to eat something containing gluten since it was so hard for me to believe. And you bet that I woke up sick in the morning! And got hives one time! I knew that gluten was what was causing me to be sick. I can't say that I have had more than 2-3 headaches in the last year. And maybe only one of those was a migraine. Basically ALL of those symptoms have subsided. And I only get them when I eat something that contains hidden gluten.

I am healthier now than I feel like I ever have been! I am so thankful to all of my friends and family who continue to support me through their love and even caution in preparing gluten free meals for me. I am especially grateful to my husband who has been by my side through most of this terrible ordeal.

I just want to say to those of you who are experiencing any of these symptoms- I feel your pain! Hang in there and take extreme precaution to eat gluten free. You will see results if this is what's causing it! Eating gluten free is not an easy life style change but it is for the best. And believe me, it gets easier over time.
Good luck! And please let me know if you have any questions!!

How to eat Gluten Free:
Of course talk to your doctor first about being tested for Celiac if you have serious symptoms. And when you are ready to start eating gluten free, here's how to start:

Step 1- Learn about what foods contain gluten
Step 2- Take all gluten containing foods out of your house or keep them in a separate place in your household. Label all foods in the pantry.
Step 3- Get all of your family and friends involved. Let them know basics of what your experiencing if you must and get them on board with helping you eat gluten free. My family all knows that I am gluten free and they let me know when a dish contains flour or breadcrumbs, etc.
Step 4- Make a conscious daily habit of checking EVERY food label before you eat something. Or don't be afraid to ask your server about it. If the server is unaware of gluten, ask the cook! There are many foods that contain gluten that you would think do not contain it. Don't take chances if you are doing this for health reasons. Gluten can cause malabsorption over time. It's not worth the risk.

Allowed foods

Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free:
  • Beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
  • Fresh Fruits and vegetables
  • Most dairy products- butter, most unsweetened and plain yogurts, milk. Use Caution and check labels as some do contain gluten.
  • Gluten free items such as those made with rice, corn or other gluten free grains that are labeled Gluten Free. Some of these safe grains are processed with wheat so check the package.
  • Chocolate- :D. Except items that have been processed. Read ingredients.
  • Some salad dressings- check label.
  • Cooked wild rice, brown rice and quinoa, prepared with gluten free seasoning.
  • Fresh herbs and spices labeled gluten free such as salt, pepper, basil, oregano, etc.
  • Fresh oils such as olive oil, canola oil, and vinegars.
It's important to make sure that they are not processed or mixed with gluten-containing grains, additives or preservatives. Many more grains and starches can be part of a gluten-free diet:
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn and cornmeal
  • Flax
  • Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
  • Hominy (corn)
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff

Always avoid

Avoid all food and drinks containing:
  • Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
  • Rye
  • Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Wheat
  • Oats*
Avoiding wheat can be challenging because wheat products go by numerous names. Consider the many types of wheat flour on supermarket shelves — bromated, enriched, phosphated, plain and self-rising. Here are other wheat products to avoid:
  • Bulgur
  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
Avoid unless labeled 'gluten-free'

In general, avoid the following foods unless they're labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
  • Beer
  • Breads
  • Cakes and pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Croutons
  • French fries
  • Gravies
  • Imitation meat or seafood
  • Ice cream- usually contains a starch or gluten. Check the package or ask!!
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • Processed luncheon meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce
  • Seasoned rice mixes
  • Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups and soup bases
  • Vegetables in sauce
Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. **For this reason, doctors and dietitians generally recommend avoiding oats unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free. And be aware that some people experience symptoms from oats. I did!

Here are some items that I was shocked to find out contained gluten:
  • Ice cream- if it is not labeled gluten free or you did not ask the restaurant, don't eat it. Most of them are so processed now that they contain starches and wheat to bind it together. I recommend So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice cream. Or try a sorbet. Those are usually gluten free.
  • Sauces- Many meals at restaurants appear gluten free. But if there is ANY kind of sauce, you should ask your server if they use flour in the sauce. 9 times out of 10 they do. Trust me on this. Skip the sauce or make sure of what you're getting.
  • Some meats that have been slow cooked such as beef roast. A lot of times, meats are rubbed with flour and spice and cooked in a sauce. Please be cautious!
  • Spices- many spices contain gluten. Please check the label.
  • Frozen drinks such as smoothies, shakes and some yogurts. Again the same thing goes here as the ice cream, it may be used as a binder/starch.
  • Hamburgers- a lot of people use breadcrumbs inside hamburgers.
  • Chocolate or other candy that may appear gluten free may contain malt flavoring. Check the label. Or choose a plain chocolate/dark chocolate.
  • Any food item that has been prepared with the same utensils or in the same space as a gluten containing item. Cross contamination can be serious for those with allergies or celiac. Make sure your work space and utensils have been cleaned before preparing a gluten free meal. And clean out your toaster when making a gluten free toast (such as the kind made with rice). We have a double toaster and my toast goes in the left side, my husband's whole grain toast goes in the right side- EVERY time!!
  • Food additives, such as malt flavoring(found in candy and ice cream), modified food starch and others
  • Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent
  • Play dough
  • Envelopes- the part that you usually lick to seal it.
  • Bottom line is- if something is packaged or processed, read the label and make sure that it is truly gluten free. And don't be afraid to ask your sever at a restaurant if a food contains gluten. Speak up!
Sources and more information:

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