I am writing this long blog post to index all of the information that I’ve generated over the years in one simple place. Articles I’ve written and posted across the internet since I went Gluten-Free in January of 2005. In January 2009 I went soy-free, and in November of 2009, dairy-free. I’m a careful researcher, so you don’t have to be.
I want to start off by saying that elimination diets are not easy, and are not to be undertaken lightly for a “weight loss” plan or “fad diet” plan. If you want to lose weight. Try something like logging your food, and learning the way your body really wants you to eat.
Just so you know, Celiac disease is just one kind of disorder that can greatly benefit from a gluten-free diet. Patients with autism show great improvement of symptoms, as do sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis. I, myself, am called “gluten intolerant”. I don’t test for full-blown celiac (which means the villi in my small intestine haven’t died off and atrophied) but I do have a severe enough response to the stuff to warrant an elimination diet. I do have rosacea though, and I sometimes wonder if that’s linked to my gluten intolerance like other skin conditions.
If a doctor, allergist or holistic practitioner suggests an elimination trial, or if you suspect that you are allergic or intolerant to certain types of food, then it’s best to try a 2-week food elimination trial. The first step to doing this is to learn the ways that allergens can be “hidden” in food ingredients lists. (This stuff can hide in weird places, like tea bags, and play-dough!) Here are a few articles on the hidden allergens:
- Hidden Wheat or Gluten Ingredients
- Hidden Soy Ingredients
- Hidden Corn Ingredients
- Hidden Egg, Yeast and Dairy Ingredients
If your two-week food trial proves to you that you are better off without gluten than with it, then forge on, intrepid adventurer! If you don’t see a marked change in your symptoms, please don’t try to eliminate something “just in case”. The human body will stop producing enzymes necessary to digest certain foods, and total elimination of a food from your diet may, in fact, force you to make that elimination later on.
So, you’ve tested it, and you’ve decided it’s time to go gluten-free. “Now what?” Right? Right. First, if you don’t live alone, you need to make some decisions about your kitchen, and you need to clear out some of the hidden gluten still lurking in the cupboards. Once the cupboards are bare (or at least reorganized) you’ll want to know where to start in the grocery store. (I know, trial and error with dubious snacks can be frustrating, so here’s a list of brands I like, including cold cereal!) After you’ve been doing this for a while, you might see that it’s a tad more expensive, too. So, here are money-saving tips for the gluten-free groceries.
One of the things you’ll want to get is a bread machine! Trust me.
But, gluten-free baking is far from impossible. In fact I enjoy it! I even baked 5 pies one Thanksgiving to find the best pie crust possible. There are tons of resources out there, from cookbooks to support groups!
However, I want to point out that the “can’t have” mindset that comes with an elimination diet can sometimes be our greatest weakness. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on all of the great stuff you CAN have – like vegetables, fruits, alternative or “ancient” grains like quinoa, meat, dairy, etc. It’s not that hard to eliminate something if you simply don’t miss it when you fill your plate with delicious food!
I’d also like to note that just because it’s gluten-free, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Learn to read the nutrition labels just as much as the ingredients lists. For instance, I’ve seen gluten-free cookies that were through the roof in sodium and sugar to make up for the lack of gluten. Why is that necessary, when Kinnikinnick can make freaking donuts that are delicious and nutritiously sound? Another thing that I’ve noticed is that gluten-free eaters will frequently go with something easy and convenient – sacrificing nutrition. That’s so unnecessary! With a little planning, we can eat simple meals that are delicious, nutritious and gluten-free. Check out my whole-family dinner recipes below – all of them freeze for single servings later, and all of them are nutritious!
However, here are a handful of recipes to get you started:
- Simple Gluten-Free Lasagna
- Old-Fashioned Chicken Soup (plus, how to prepare gluten-free chicken broth!)
- Easy Beef Stew (and how to make gluten-free beef stock!)
- For the lover of exotic foods, or just for something fun, try Imam Bayildi!
- And, of course, a gluten-free cookie recipe that’s to die for.
- mouth-watering peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips from Martha Stewart (always keep an eye on “flourless” cakes and cookies!)
And, then of course there’s the challenge of eating out. Some restaurants really get it when it comes to food allergies. For the ones that don’t, here’s my action plan for a safe evening out. (And here’s the best way I’ve found to order in!)
The other big hurdle for most folks on elimination diets would be family gatherings and holidays. Some people will see you as whiny when it comes to your allergies. But it’s not a question of polite or impolite to be able to eat what is keeping you healthy. Of course, I’ve seen some folks go the other direction – and make people crazy with their demands. So I wrote up a list of do’s and don’t for polite society. Just call my GF Ms. Manners.
If you decide to stick with this in the long term, then your doctor needs to know about this so that he or she can monitor vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are often missing from gluten-free food, such as calcium. Studies have even shown that bone density loss can be attributed to celiac autoimmune functions!