A gluten free diet may seem like just a another popular health trend, but once we take a closer look and discover what gluten is and how to live well without it in this Beginner’s Guide to Going Gluten Free, we learn that a gluten-free lifestyle is more than just a trend.
In this article we will explore how eliminating gluten can be a step in the right direction when it comes to using food as medicine and healing our bodies naturally. To fully understand whether or not a gluten-free diet is right for you, first, we need to understand what gluten is.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in several types of grains, which, when mixed with water, forms a sticky cross-linked network of proteins, that gives elastic properties to dough and allows bread to rise when baked.
The name ‘gluten’ derives from its glue-like properties. When gluten reaches the digestive tract, the cells of our immune system mistakenly believe that it is coming from some sort of foreign invader, like a bacterium. And in certain people who suffer from celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten sensitivity) this causes the immune system to attack the gluten proteins together with an enzyme in the cells of our digestive tract.
This reaction can cause degeneration of the intestinal wall, lead to nutrient deficiencies and many digestive issues.
Beginner's Guide to Going Gluten Free
Where Is Gluten?
Grains & Flours Containing Gluten:
- Durum flour
- Graham flour
- Non-certified gluten free oats (due to cross contamination)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
Foods that commonly contain grains with gluten include things like pasta, crackers, bread, pastries, baked goods, cereals, granola, pancakes, waffles, french toasts, biscuits, croutons, panko bread crumbs, stuffing, soy sauce, roux based cream sauces, wheat flour tortillas, beer, brewers yeast, noodles and anything else that lists wheat flour as an ingredient.
Celiac, Gluten Sensitive or Gluten Intolerant?
Because gluten is highly inflammatory, you don’t need to have celiac disease to experience adverse reactions to gluten. Gluten sensitivity or intolerance are much more common and provoke effects such as bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, as well as pain in the bones and joints. All these sorts of adverse reactions to gluten can be improved by a gluten-free diet.
How Do I Know If I Am Sensitive To Gluten?
Since there is no clear definition of gluten sensitivity, the best way of knowing is by eliminating gluten temporarily and completely from our diet, and reintroducing it later on to see if you still have symptoms. In fact, it takes typically 3-4 months for gluten to be purged from the system.
Beware of Cross Contamination!
Make sure that during this process you are vigilant about avoiding gluten. Even the slightest trace will compromise the entire process. So, for example, if you buy gluten free bread, make sure they don’t slice it in the same machine used for the regular bread. If you get gluten free pizza, ensure it’s not baked in the oven of the wheat based one (or that at least they put it on a clean pan).
Now that we know what gluten is, what it does and how to determine if you may have a sensitivity, you may be wondering what foods contain gluten.
What Are the Gluten Free Grains?
A Beginner’s Guide to Going Gluten Free shouldn’t’ t only be about the grains to avoid, but also about the gluten free grains that can be included in your new diet!
Be careful though: just because something is labeled gluten free, does not make it healthy! Pre-packaged, heavily processed foods often contain an abundance of sugar, artificial colors and preservatives, whether they are gluten free or not!
Grains & Flours NON Containing Gluten:
- Nut flours (all)
- Potato Starch
- Seed Flours (all)
- Wild Rice
When going gluten free, make sure you focus on eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, not on packaged gluten free cookies!!
Going gluten free doesn’t mean you can never indulge or enjoy a tasty treat again. There are a plethora of amazing and healthy gluten free flour alternatives you can use to recreate all of your favorite dishes! Examples of gluten free flours: rice, buckwheat, teff and flax.
Grain free flours include: potato tapioca, cassava, sorghum, arrowroot, nut (such as chestnut, almond and tigernut) and coconut. You can use cassava flour to create these amazing ginger and cinnamon cookies! Or use almond meal and tapioca flour to make your own homemade paleo bread. You can either buy these flours or make your own simply by grinding whatever gluten free product you like in a high-speed blender.
BEWARE Hidden Sources of Gluten!
When you are trying to look out for gluten, don’t forget to check on some common sources of hidden gluten: things like soy sauce, fake meats like seitan, imitation seafood (especially crab), marinades, candy, processed meats, spice mixes, gravies, soup, french fries, salad dressings, jerky, confectioners and brown sugar, beers, ale, lagers, brewers yeast, snack and energy bars, roux, herbal teas (barley), supplements, over-the-counter medications, flavored vinegars, and communion wafers.
Also, when reading labels, watch out for these ingredients as they are often hidden sources of gluten: vegetable protein, natural flavorings, natural colorings, modified food starch, artificial flavor, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, dextrin, maltodextrin.
If you spot these ingredients amongst the ingredient list and can’t find the gluten free label on the package, stay away from these products.
I love hearing from you! What are some of your biggest concerns regarding going gluten free? Drop them in the comments below!
If you found this Beginner’s guide to going gluten free to be useful, be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook and save it on your Pinterest!
For many beginners to the gluten free diet, this can feel overwhelming as many of these gluten containing foods have become staples, making the thought of eliminating them feel impossible!
Thankfully, a gluten free diet doesn’t have to be intimidating! With a little hard work and planning, going gluten free can be a seamless and even enjoyable transition. If you’re looking for more gluten free recipes and inspiration, check out all my gluten free recipes and resources here.
Big love from Italy!