Strategies to go gluten-free when treating the symptoms of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
The first step to eliminating gluten from your diet in order to treat celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is to identify the foods you must avoid entirely. These include: Wheat, barley, rye, and their gluten-laden relatives including spelt, kamut, durum, semolina, graham, triticale, einkorn, and farro. Oats don't contain gluten, but if they’re processed in a plant that processes gluten-containing grains, they'll be contaminated. Don't take the chance unless it's labeled "gluten-free."
In that vein, gluten is present in far more foods than just breads, cakes, crackers, and cookies. There’s gluten in most processed foods, including breaded items, panko crumbs, croutons, many energy bars, most cereals, imitation meats, marinades, cold cuts, self-basting poultry, thickened sauces, gravies, soup bases, communion wafers, malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar (which are made from barley), and soy sauce. Ingredients to look for on product labels (and subsequently avoid) include modified food starch, unidentified starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), texturized vegetable protein (TVP), binders, fillers, excipients, extenders, and malt.
It will take some practice, but you'll soon get the hang of it. Also, many nutritional supplements contain gluten. Even some cosmetics such as lipsticks and lip balm contain gluten, making it evermore important for you to scrutinize labels and use only products labeled "gluten-free," not just "wheat-free." That's the only way you can really be sure.
Ease Into Gluten-Free Eating
For an easier transition to a gluten-free diet, find substitutions that you like before going off wheat products cold turkey. Luckily, today you’ll find scores of gluten-free products readily available in most health food stores, many major supermarket chains, and through the Internet. Make a list of the foods you’re willing to give up first, followed by those you’ll replace over time. Keep moving forward until you’ve successfully transitioned to an entirely gluten-free way of eating. This may take a month or longer—it’s up to you.
Keep in mind that it takes three weeks to establish a new habit. While walking away from the familiar, you will discover wonderful new foods and better health. Stick with it, and keep it simple. Nowadays as more attention is being paid to gluten intolerance problems, many more gluten-free cookbooks and other resources are available. However, in my opinion, too many try to recreate familiar, gluten-containing foods with substitute ingredients such as xanthan gum—processed chemicals the human body is not naturally equipped to handle. As a result, they give a lot of people gas and bloating. My advice is rather than trying to approximate your old habitual diet with subpar substitutes, wipe the slate clean and use recipes that contain simple, fresh, natural ingredients. Here are some guidelines to help you establish and maintain your new gluten-free diet:
- Variety is the spice of life. If you eat the same grains every day, even if they’re gluten free, you run the risk of developing new sensitivities. Rather than seeing this as an inconvenience, try viewing this as an opportunity to expand your palate, not to mention improve your health. You can bake with such diverse flours as corn, brown rice, teff, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, sorghum, potato, tapioca, amaranth, flax, and nut flours. Try not to repeat any one grain more often than every couple weeks. Bette Hagman, a leading expert in gluten-free cooking, suggests this substitute for wheat-based flour: For every 3 cups of wheat flour, substitute 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, and 1/3 cup tapioca starch.
- Supplement with B vitamins. Research shows that patients with longstanding celiac disease, whose absorption of nutrients has been impaired by the disease, have significant and faster improvement in their overall health when their gluten-free treatment is augmented with B-vitamin supplementation, including 0.8 mg folic acid , 0.5 mg cyanocobalamin, and 3 mg pyridoxine daily.
- Take a probiotic. Studies show that gluten-related problems are associated with reduced levels of Bifidobacterium and B. longum species in both the colon and the upper small intestine. Although the microbial counts were upped when patients with celiac disease adopted a gluten-free diet, they did not recover to optimum levels, leading the researchers to suggest probiotics as a possible way to combat the low number of these beneficial bacteria.
Along with those essential tips to starting your new gluten-free life, here are a few delicious gluten-free recipes for you to try.