No matter why you decided to become gluten free it is going to take some effort on your part to make sure you are successful. I've outlined the steps that worked for me and I'm sharing them with you to help you be successful also.
What is Gluten?
via Wikipedia: Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat and other related grains. Gluten is what makes bread dough elastic, making it rise, giving it a chewy texture.
Dictionary.com: a protein consisting of a mixture of glutelin and gliadin, present in cereal grains, especially wheat.
Basically, a protein that some of us cannot digest and our bodies see it as a foreign object that must be attacked.
#1. Cry if you need to.
There'll be no judgement here. This can feel like a loss, a death, a best friend moving away. But once you're done crying I ask that you move on and dig in with both heels. Each of us are bombarded each day with advertisements for the latest gigantic sandwich, the newest pizza now wrapped in bacon and cheese stuffed in the crust, never ending pasta bowls, etc, etc. Our own government has stated that we need x amount of servings of gluten containing grains a day. You now have a choice, you can think about that pizza and start feeling sorry for yourself OR you can mute the TV, or better yet get up and get away from the temptation, knowing that the choice you are making to not eat gluten will have long lasting beneficial health affects.
#2. Find a Dr. to work with.
This step could be a difficult one to achieve. Believe me, I tried also and finally found an MD who didn't want to shove me off with the latest antibiotic and wanted to get to the root cause of my issues. This recommendation came from my Chiropractor, who is amazing also but realized I needed more help than she could offer. I would challenge you to ask your friends, to go on line, or even join a Gluten Free support group, these people will have lots of recommendations for you. For more than half my life I saw a general practitioner who said I was just getting older, that's why I was still tired all the time. "Your TSH levels are normal, and you're not getting any younger." I was 30. That's another story to share at another time. Please listen to your body and fight for it, you are worth it.
There is also a website called PrimalDocs.com. This site has a list of Doctors who follow the Primal/Paleo movement which also supports everything gluten free.
Another thought to keep in mind is that you might have to travel some distance to see someone who practices in Functional Medicine. I travel 1 1/2 hours one way to see my MD and it's worth every mile. She has helped me in ways I didn't even know were possible. Luckily the functional medicine movement is growing and more doctors aren't as afraid to question the status quo anymore.
The benefits to seeing a functional medicine MD is that they can order some tests that you cannot get yourself. You'll want to be tested to find out if you're Celiac or not. Celiac disease is much more serious than just trying to remove gluten from your diet. With Celiac disease you MUST remove gluten from your diet.
#3. Educate, Educate, Educate yourself.
Websites - Podcasts - Books you name it. Gluten Free is everywhere now. They are even labeling fruit as gluten free. For real!!! This is for the consumer who has no idea where gluten comes from and what it is. If you don't cook very often this will be more challenging for you but you can do it.
One of my favorite books that I refer to often is "The Gluten Connection" by Shari Lieberman.
This was recommended to me by my Chiropractor when I first started my GF journey. This book shares with you how Gluten can be much more than just a gut irritant, (Skin diseases, Neurological Disorders, Autoimmune Diseases, Digestive Disorders, etc). This book was a HUGE eye opener for me and even gave me hope that I could clean up a more than 30 year Psoriasis rash, you can read more about that here.
One of my favorite podcasts that I listen to regularly is The Paleo View. This podcast does focus on a Paleo diet but as I stated above that is also gluten free. The ladies running this show share a ton of information on why and how your diet and lifestyle are so extremely important. I wrote a review of their podcast that you can read here.
There are even Gluten Free magazines and these are the top 3 today.
Simply Gluten Free
I have found that I never quit learning about gluten and food sensitivities.
When shopping at the grocery store or eating out at a restaurant ask yourself these simple questions?
Is it breaded? Then it contains gluten
Is it deep fried? Then it was probably cooked in the same oil with breaded foods.
Does it come on a bun? Then always assume it's not a Gluten Free bun.
Here are the main gluten containing culprits.
Breads, Pasta, Bagels, Donuts, Cereals, Granola, buns (hamburger/hot dog), canned soups, canned gravies, canned meats, croutons, deli meat (some), cookies, candies such as twizzlers. gummy bears, any item that is breaded, think fish sticks and chicken nuggets, malt/malt flavoring, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, processed cheeses - Velveeta, imitation crab meat, meatloaf/meatballs, beer, some spirits. ketchup - some not all, taco seasoning, salad dressings etc, etc, etc.
The Mayo Clinic website has a long list of common gluten containing items here.
This is just a starting list of foods containing gluten. Do you feel like you've been sucker punched? Well it's time to move on. This is part of your education. You can't make good food decisions if you don't know where gluten is hiding. Start reading your labels. You will learn on the gluten free journey there are many other foods you CAN eat, and eat often, and they are better for you - Bonus!
#5. Clean Out Your Pantry
Notice I didn't start with this one. Because there are other things you need to understand before you can do this successfully.
This task can be tough. You paid good money for those Oreo cookies and it seems like a sin to just throw them away. Here's my suggestion: If any of your gluten containing food has not been opened consider sharing them with a youth group, day care provider, neighbors who will eat anything. If the items are canned and not out dated, donate them to a local food pantry. At least this way the items won't go to waste.
And for those of you who've been on the GF journey for a while your saying to yourself right now ("But you're glutening the kids, the poor, the neighbor with bad choices!"). One thing you need to understand is not everyone cares as deeply about this as you or I do. And there are some who would be thrilled to get your un-opened boxes of Mac N Cheese. Once you understand the GF protocol and you are ready then when you buy items for a food pantry consider buying GF items. There are many people who are getting assistance today that are gluten intolerant or even Celiac. They need nutritious food also but are taking what they can get because any food is better than no food.
Just think about it, your situation could be a whole lot worse.
#6. Start Using Whole Foods (Get back to Basics)
Almost everything that is pre-processed will have gluten in it. Start thinking back to those days when you're mom made meals from scratch. They probably weren't terribly elaborate but they were healthy. Pot Roast with potato's and carrots, a side of green beans and you have the making of a beautiful gluten free meal.
#7. Don't Substitute for the Gluten Free Version
Just because you can buy Gluten Free pasta doesn't mean you need to consume it 3 times a week. You shouldn't have consumed it 3 times a week before you were gluten free but many of us did, myself included. It was a cheap and easy way to feed your family. Nowadays you can find a gluten free version of Oreo's if you want them. Remember this when shopping: Junk food is still junk food, even if it's gluten free. Another item to remember: even though they do make a gluten free version of Oreo's I'm sorry to say they do not taste JUST LIKE OREO's, they are close but it's not the same. This is where I look for reviews from other gluten free foodies and take their advice into consideration. Also, the GF version is going to be quite a bit more expensive. Just please take this advice, it's one thing I had to learn the hard way.
#8. Start Meal Planning
In order to be successful staying away from gluten it will help you to start thinking about meals in advance. If this is a new process for you be sure to have some backups on hand for those quick meals that cannot be avoided. I'll admit I'm not a great meal planner, I'm still working on planning my meals ahead. Remember to stick with the basics: some protein, a couple of vegetables and fruit are all appropriate. This could be a bun-less hamburger, salad, sweet potato and apple sauce.
For those of you who still don't want to cook there are food delivery services out there:
Pete's Paleo - they deliver organic produce, gluten free, dairy free, soy fee, egg free, sweetener free fresh meals directly to your home.
Pete's Paleo is the only food service that I've heard amazing reviews about but there are many other services somewhat similar to Pete's, I just can't speak for their quality.
There are many websites out there who have delicious recipes and beautiful photographs that can help you with menu ideas, Pinterest is also an excellent way to find new recipes and collect a virtual recipe box.
These are some of the websites that I started with on my gluten free journey:
The Gluten-Free Homemaker
Gluten Free on a Shoestring
The Gluten-free Goddess
#9. Family Get Together Planning
It's time to go to Grandma's for Easter. The menu is ham, scalloped potatoes, dressing/stuffing, green bean casserole, pasta salad and cherry pie. Unless the person cooking the food knows how to cook gluten free the only thing you can eat here is the ham. Solution: Offer to bring the salad (crouton free of course) or plain green beans - sorry folks but WTH is up with green bean casserole??? What did that beautiful green bean ever do to you to want you to cover it with canned cream of mushroom sauce and canned fried onions. You can gladly have my share. Rant over! You can also offer to bring a desert of a fresh fruit salad or go for the gusto and make a gluten free pie. If your like me and your not a huge sugar craving person keep some dark chocolate squares in your purse. One or two square of dark chocolate and my sweet craving is over.
Don't expect your host to offer everything up gluten free, help them out. Many times just the thought of having a guest with food intolerance's overwhelms them and they just think you cannot eat anything. So give them a break and tell them what you can bring, a veggie tray has saved me on numerous occasions.
#10. Pat yourself on the Back.
Take a deep breath, relax, and pat yourself on the back. Your on track for a beautiful healing journey and it can be done successfully. Note - you will fall off the wagon. When you do, get up, dust yourself off, no pity parties allowed, and start again. Everyday you are not eating gluten is a day your body is healing from the inflammation, the bloating, the headaches, the rashes, insert your reaction here ____________. Not everyone will understand why this is important to you, and that's ok. Take a relaxing bath with some epsom salts and congratulate yourself for taking these steps.
With Love, Understanding and Encouragement,