Should I make the switch to gluten free?
The phrase “gluten free” gets a lot of attention in the current health and wellness arena—and for good reason too. Many people who have removed gluten from their diet have experienced life changing health benefits. There are many reasons why people may decide to make the lifestyle shift, some of which are: 1.) Celiac Disease, 2.) nonceliac gluten sensitivity (also called gluten intolerance), 3.) a wheat allergy, or 4) other autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimotos Thyroiditis)1,2. Celiac Disease is an immune response to gluten that causes damage to the lining of the intestines, which can lead to other serious health complications. The second reason in the list, gluten sensitivity/intolerance, is probably the most common reason you hear people remove gluten from their diet. These people experience symptoms related to the ingestion of gluten such as digestive issues (nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation), headaches, brain fog, and joint pain, just to name a few. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, trying a gluten free diet might be right for you.
Going gluten free in a few easy steps:
- The first and most obvious (but not always easy!) step in living a gluten free life: remove ALL gluten from your diet.
Okay that’s easy, but what is gluten found in? Gluten is protein found in some grains such as wheat, barely, and rye. So any foods including these big three must be avoided. A big misconception I found throughout the years is that you must avoid all grains when going gluten free (this is called a paleo diet and can be very beneficial for some). These are the gluten free grains you can include in your diet: rice (white and brown), quinoa, cornmeal, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth. Many of these grains will be found in your pre-made foods such as pasta, bread, cookies, etc. See below for a list of my favorite staples to replace your current favorite gluten containing products.
- Eliminating hidden sources of gluten—this can be a little more tricky.
This was probably my biggest mistake when I first was diagnosed. While you might think you’ve gone completely gluten free by changing out your wheat bread for rice bread or switching your cereals and pastas for one with gluten free grains, there are other places gluten may be lingering in your foods:
- Sauces – soy sauce, BBQ, teriyaki, etc. Check the ingredient list to make sure wheat, barely or rye are not present, or better yet, look for “Gluten Free” marked on the bottle
- Spices – This is the same as sauces. Many seasonings, like taco seasoning, may have some source of gluten.
- Dips- Queso was a big one for me! Some recipes use roux, which is usually made from gluten containing white flour.
The biggest takeaway I can emphasize here: check your ingredient labels! When you go out to eat, double check with the server about a gluten free menu and make sure they are aware of your dietary restriction. Eating out can be a stressful situation when first making these changes to your diet, but preparing will make it much more enjoyable. My favorite resource for eating out is Find Me Gluten Free. This is a platform for people to share their experiences at various restaurants throughout the country.
- This is a big one and probably the best way to achieve a gluten free diet—eating a whole foods, plant based diet.
All fruits, vegetables, legumes, meats, and seafood are naturally gluten free, so including more unprocessed whole foods in your life is #1 way to make sure you are avoiding gluten. Incorporating grains like rice and quinoa with other unprocessed foods will ensure you are eating gluten free. Although this isn’t always the easiest because it usually does require more preparation, it is definitely doable.
One of my favorite, easiest ways to make a quick healthy meal – smoothies! There are so many yummy, easy smoothie recipes. For those of you with a sweet tooth like me, check out my Gut Healing Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Smoothie.
Although this may seem like a lot of information to take in and can seem daunting, I promise it is easier than it seems! Just take it step-by-step, include more healthy whole, unprocessed foods in your diet and you will be eating gluten free in no time.
Some of my favorites:
- Canyon Bakehouse (my favorite is honey white!)
- Canyon Bakehouse Bagels
- For grain free- Mikey’s English Muffins
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1. Learn About Gluten-free Diets: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000813.htm
2. Krysiak, R., Szkróbka, W., & Okopień, B. (2019). The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naïve Women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, 127(07), 417-422. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060266
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