My son recently went gluten-free and in a very short amount of time has had improvement in his health. I have considered it in the past, but never did it due to the restrictions and my lack of will power, but one of my best friends was recently diagnosed with a disease that causes a lot of inflammation, Polymyalgia Rheumatica & Giant Cell Arteritis. She and I are going to go gluten-free to see if it helps her symptoms. It is sometimes easier to have a partner when facing such changes and I’m sure it will help my blood glucose numbers, so here we go, starting on March 1, 2017. I better eat some bread today, I won’t be having any more, but I will feel better and that it a positive!
20 million Americans suffer from: non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). These folks don’t test positive for celiac disease, but when they eat gluten they experience symptoms such as GI distress, foggy mind, depression, acid reflux, eczema, and headaches. There are hundreds of symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity but are often blamed on other things like spicy food, environment, and tension, and covered up with over the counter drugs.
What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats and other grains. Gluten can trigger inflammation, stand in the way of nutrient absorption and cause a host of other health problems. In my opinion, no one needs gluten and we’re all better off without it, so you’ve got nothing to lose when it comes to implementing the recommendations in this post.
Why go gluten-free? When you are sensitive to gluten and consume it, an inflammatory reaction takes place in your body. The reaction significantly varies from person to person and can manifest itself in a wide variety of symptoms including but not limited to: bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, acid reflux, stomach aches (anything digestive), fatigue, rashes, ulcers, depression, migraine headaches, joint pain, acne, and allergies. Some people who are gluten sensitive are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t exhibit symptoms, at least for a certain period of their lives. This means it’s possible for symptoms to suddenly appear out of nowhere. It’s no wonder so many people say things like “but I’ve been eating bread my whole life without any problems… it can’t be the bread.” It could!
Italian researchers recently confirmed this diagnosis when they gave participants who believed gluten was responsible for their symptoms a pill containing gluten or a placebo. Even though participants didn’t know which one they were taking, their symptoms were more severe when they swallowed the gluten-containing capsule. A study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found people with NCGS experienced an increase in depression symptoms when they consumed a diet containing gluten. “We’re just beginning to understand the many different ways that gluten can affect the body,” Fasano says. “One of the most fascinating yet poorly understood issues is the relationship between gluten and the brain.”
“But I don’t have Celiac Disease.” You don’t have to have Celiac Disease to be susceptible to the damaging effects of gluten. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune condition triggered with the consumption of gluten. Damage of the small intestine is done when gluten is consumed. But non-Celiac gluten sensitivity may be affecting over 1/3 of the population. And the symptoms can be similar but there isn’t an accurate test that a lab can do to show a sensitivity.
Are there any risks involved with going gluten-free? Some healthcare professionals may tell you that you’ll be at risk of nutrient deficiencies, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Gluten can inhibit your gut from absorbing other nutrients and making vitamin B12. Besides, gluten-containing foods are usually low in vitamins and minerals when compared to whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. This is why the government fortifies grains with iron and folic acid—they know that people become depleted in these nutrients by eating grains. Most gluten-containing foods will also take us for a ride on the blood sugar roller coaster leading to spikes in our blood sugar. In fact, many people find that their blood sugar goes up higher after eating some wheat, than it would if they ate pure sugar!
So what can I eat? Eat fish, meat, eggs, poultry, all healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and get your carbs from fruits and veggies! Sound familiar!? That’s because our PFC approach is naturally gluten-free! It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is important to try to go “all in” during your trial period (and afterwards if you discover you are sensitive to gluten). Being “mostly” gluten-free won’t provide the results you’re looking for. At minimum, give it everything you’ve got for 3 weeks. 100%.
If you find that you are super sensitive, you may need to be extra careful of cross contamination and even check labels of products like shampoo, lipstick and vitamins. When you’re first trying gluten-free, try not to stress too much and just keep it as simple as possible by sticking to real foods.
When in doubt, opt for real food. Now if you’re still not sure what that means, check out our Simple Guide to Gluten Free to learn what you should and shouldn’t be eating!
Foods made from grains (and grain-like plants) that do not contain harmful gluten, include:
- Corn in all forms (corn flour, corn meal, grits, etc.).
- Plain rice in all forms (white, brown, wild, basmati, enriched rice, etc.).
- Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat (kasha), cassava, flax, millet, quinoa, sorghum, soy, tapioca and teff.
- Flours made from gluten-free grain, nuts, beans and coconut. Look for products labeled gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination.
- P (Protein)
All proteins are naturally gluten-free — just make sure they don’t have added ingredients such as bread crumbs or batter. – Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs
- F (Fats) – No (healthy) fats are off-limits! Embrace them all. Fats are super important because they will also help heal the damage (inflammation) from eating gluten in the first place.
Cream and Butter
Dairy: As far as yogurt and ice cream goes, as long as there aren’t any added ingredients (like granola or cookie pieces), they should be gluten-free.
- C (Carbohydrates)
We recommend getting your carbs from veggies and fruits, but if you want to include a grain, rice is your best bet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Potatoes (white or sweet potatoes but sweet potatoes are more nutritious!)
Corn Tortillas (always check the ingredient lists though — especially at restaurants!)
Annatto, glucose syrup, lecithin, maltodextrin (even when it is made from wheat), oat gum, plain spices, silicon dioxide, starch, food starch and vinegar (only malt vinegar might contain gluten). Also citric, lactic and malic acids as well as sucrose, dextrose and lactose; and these baking products: arrowroot, cornstarch, guar and xanthan gums, tapioca flour or starch, potato starch flour and potato starch, vanilla.
The following foods:
- Milk, butter, margarine, real cheese, plain yogurt, most ice cream without gluten-containing add-ins.
- Vegetable oils, including canola.
- Plain fruits, vegetables (fresh, frozen and canned), meat, seafood, potatoes, eggs, nuts, nut butters, beans and legumes.
- Distilled vinegar is gluten-free. (See malt vinegar under NO below).
- Distilled alcoholic beverages are gluten-free because distillation effectively removes gluten. They are not gluten free if gluten-containing ingredients are added after distillation, but this rarely happens.
- Mono and diglycerides are fats and are gluten-free.
- Spices are gluten-free. If there is no ingredient list on the container, it contains only the pure spice noted on the label.
Wheat in all forms including spelt, kamut, triticale (a combination of wheat and rye), durum, einkorn, farina, semolina, cake flour, matzo (or matzah) and couscous. Wheat is found in many bread, cakes, cereals, cookies, crackers, pretzels, pasta, and pizza crusts, but it can turn up in other products, too. Read labels to be sure.
Most ingredients with “wheat” in the name including hydrolyzed wheat protein and pregelatinized wheat protein. Buckwheat, which is gluten-free, is an exception.
Rye, which is most often found in bread products. It is not typically used to make ingredients.
Breaded or floured meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables, when the breading is made with wheat. Also meat, poultry and vegetables when they have a sauce or marinade that contains gluten, such as soy and teriyaki sauces.
Foods that are fried in the same oil as breaded products are not considered to be safe on the gluten-free diet.
Licorice, which is made with wheat flour, and other candies that contain wheat or barley.
Beer is gluten-free when made from gluten-free grains. Beer made from barley and processed to remove gluten is not considered to be gluten-free.
Dextrin can be made from wheat, which would be noted on the label, and would not be gluten-free.
Flavorings are usually gluten-free, but in rare instances can contain wheat or barley. By law, wheat would have to be labeled in foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Barley is usually called malt flavoring. In extremely rare instances, neither barley nor malt is specified when used in a flavoring.
Modified food starch is gluten-free, except when wheat is noted on the label, either as “modified wheat starch,” modified starch (wheat) or if the “Contains” statement at the end of the ingredients list includes wheat.
Wheat starch is allowed in gluten-free foods if the wheat starch has been processed to remove the gluten protein. In addition to a gluten-free label, the packaging of any product using safe wheat starch will note that it has been processed to meet FDA gluten-free standards. Wheat starch in foods that do not also have a gluten-free label are not safe on the gluten-free diet.
Oats are considered safe on the gluten-free diet if they have been specially processed to prevent cross-contamination by gluten-containing grains. These oats are labeled gluten-free. Mainstream oats, including those commonly used in breakfast cereals, are not considered safe unless they are labeled gluten free.
Oats are allowed as an ingredient in products labeled gluten-free as long as the final food meets the FDA gluten-free standard. This includes granola, granola bars, cookies and other products. Products that are made with oats but do not have a gluten-free label are not gluten-free.
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can contain gluten, although most are gluten-free. Check with the pharmaceutical company, especially if you take the medication on a continuing basis.
Processed cheese (spray cheese, for example) may contain gluten. Real cheese is gluten-free.
Seasonings and seasoning mixes can contain gluten. Wheat will be noted on the label as required by law.
Soy sauce is usually fermented from wheat. Only soy sauce made without wheat is gluten-free. Look for soy sauce with a gluten-free label.
Caramel color is almost always made from corn, and most companies in North America use corn because it makes a better product. Malt syrup can be used but rarely is, so caramel color is almost guaranteed to be gluten-free.
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is a phrase that under federal regulation should not be used on a food label. Food processors have to identify the “vegetable.” So you might read “hydrolyzed wheat protein,” which would not be gluten-free, or “hydrolyzed soy protein,” which is gluten free.
Gluten can hide in unexpected places.
Look out for gluten hidden in: condiments, soup mixes, lunch meats, vitamins, other supplements, alcohol (malt beverages and grain alcohols), dressings, sauces, fried foods, pickles and even some teas. (Keep an eye out for these key words on the labels: MSG, modified food starch, textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, extenders and binders…the list goes on, which is why avoiding processed and manufactured foods with many ingredients and sticking with real foods is your safest bet!)
A word on gluten-free products: Gluten-free does NOT necessarily mean healthy. Let me explain. Food manufacturers have caught onto the fact that people are healing their health issues by going gluten-free. They know this means that people won’t be buying their gluten-laden grains, so they’ve come up with a simple, money-making solution: “gluten free” versions of everything! Cake mixes, granola bars, cookie dough, cereals, bread, muffins — you name the processed food; they’re going to have a gluten-free substitute.
By swapping a junk food lifestyle for a gluten-free junk food lifestyle, believe it or not, may still not allow you to feel the best you could feel. You can’t eat junk food and expect to feel good, even if it’s gluten free junk food! Gluten free products (processed foods) can help with the transition to eating gluten free, but we challenge you to do it the real food way. When starting out, it can be helpful to use a slice of gluten free bread in place of your usual whole wheat or a corn tortilla instead of a wheat wrap. Or, you could really go for it and use a huge slice of lettuce. You don’t need gluten free products to go gluten-free and ultimately, the goal should be real food (meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits and healthy fats).
You should also heal your gut. Consuming gluten causes an inflammatory response in your body, which negatively affects the health of your gut. Getting your body on the right track is a two-way street. You need to stop putting gluten in and also heal the damage the gluten has already caused. We recommend using probiotics, L-glutamine and fish oil supplements along with consuming healthy fats and fermented foods to support your body’s healing process. For more on this, you should read Heal the Gut No Matter What.