Gluten-Free: The Basics

Prior to becoming a healthcare professional, I underwent my own journey of discovering health which included a gluten-free lifestyle. I was guided by a wonderful naturopathic physician that changed my life. I honestly was never tested for Celiac Disease, however, I tested positive to gluten through allergy testing. My symptoms are severe enough when exposed to gluten that I treat my dietary lifestyle as if I am Celiac: complete avoidance of gluten. That was 14 years ago. I’ve watched our country increase its awareness that some people need to lead a gluten-free lifestyle and am thankful for the options available now. Unfortunately, I’ve also watched it become a marketing scheme that has resulted in the gouging of prices in restaurants and grocery stores showcasing the gluten-free symbols. So let’s make this simple. Here’s a quick guide to leading a gluten-free lifestyle!

If there’s no food label, you’re probably safe!  Ask yourself, where in the grocery store are there no food labels?  You got it… the produce section!  Fruits, vegetables, and even potatoes are all naturally gluten free.  Fruits and vegetables should make up at least half of our diet anyways and the varieties provide a lot of options. Enjoy!

Eat your protein!  Luckily, unprocessed meat and most vegetable-based protein sources are naturally gluten free.  Hint: the key word here is “unprocessed.”  Ideally, we’re all eating grass-fed, organic meat sources, but that’s not reality and food labels are still found on some of our meat products.  Check the label and as long as there isn’t anything added besides meat product, you’re safe.  Vegetable-based protein sources include things like pumpkin seeds, peas, and lentils.  Please note: this does not include your pre-made veggie burgers or other processed items.

Food labels… what do I look for?  Gluten is naturally found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye.  But when we’re reading food labels, gluten-containing ingredients are not limited to those 3 words.  Due to the significant amount of processing in our food industry we need to look more closely at labels.  Some ingredients, like malt extract and Brewer’s yeast, don’t necessarily stand out as a red-flags.  Click here for a comprehensive list from Celiac.org to help guide you when reading food labels.

When in doubt, don’t eat it!  Choosing to lead a gluten-free lifestyle is only effective when there is complete avoidance.  Physiologically, it takes 6 weeks for the body to rid itself of gluten.  If the body has a physical reaction to the exposure, it can take up to 6 weeks for symptoms to subside.  So if you’re doing a trial of how your body responds to gluten being removed from your diet or you’ve found out you need to avoid gluten, you have to go all the way and ensure total avoidance.  It’s not worth the cheat to start all over again!

For more information about Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity, check out this article from last year’s May newsletter: All About Gluten.