How to live Gluten-Free

Gluten-freeWondering how to live gluten-free?

This is part 3 of a 4-part series of blogs on this topic, so check out What is gluten sensitivity?Gluten sensitivity diagnosis, and Why gluten sensitivity for more information.

Many people think that living gluten-free is impossible. While it can be difficult during the initial transition and to avoid gluten 100% (because it can be hidden in foods you don’t suspect – see below), for most people living nearly completely gluten-free is totally doable!

I’ve been avoiding gluten most of the time for many years, gradually getting closer and close to 100%. In my own life, I avoid gluten 100% in my own home and I make sure to avoid obvious gluten sources the majority of the time when I eat out. Because I am not celiac, this works for me, and I find this way of life quite easy, actually, as there are many other foods to eat.

In my practice, I have found that most patients that avoid gluten soon feel better, look better, lose weight more easily, and get into the habit of eating a wider variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods rather than bread, pasta, etc.

The most important key to success living gluten-free is NOT to just find substitutes for the gluten you used to eat (ie: replacing bread, pasta, cookies, cake, etc with gluten-free alternatives) but rather to rebalance your diet away from grains in favour of other food groups.

Treatment for gluten sensitivity

For those with celiac disease, it is very important to follow a strict 100% gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives in order to regain the health of their digestive tract and avoid further damage and associated diseases. There are some celiac disease patients who will react to even the smallest amount of gluten and must therefore use completely separate cooking tools and utensils to prepare food and who cannot even tolerate gluten in the environment (ie: in the air, in personal care products such as toothpaste and shampoo, etc).

However, if you are gluten sensitive (which is still a much more fluid and less defined diagnosis), I believe it may be possible to reduce your sensitivity such that the reaction to gluten is less severe or possibly even eliminated. I recommend strict adherence to a gluten-free diet for at least 1 year while continuing with other naturopathic treatments to see major improvement and continuing almost completely gluten-free for 3-5 years, after which patients may be able to eat gluten again (as long as they are not celiac). However, keep in mind that this depends on the severity of gluten sensitivity and symptoms and it is important to test at the beginning of treatment and do follow-up testing to compare.

In both cases, treatment beyond diet is key to healing the digestive system. This is best accomplished via:

  • Avoidance of other food sensitivities that may be a problem (which will differ by patient)
  • Supportive nutrition to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, rebalance gut flora, and support healing of the absorptive surface of the intestines
  • Concurrent treatment of any other health concerns
  • Whole body detox and improvement of elimination organ functioning

What should I avoid and what can I eat?

Here are some more detailed lists of gluten grains, places you may find hidden gluten (read labels and ask questions if you are not sure!), and gluten-free grains/starches:

Gluten grains:

  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Bulgar
  • Couscous
  • Durum flour
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • Faro
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Matzo flour/meal
  • Orzo
  • Panko
  • Rye
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Udon
  • Wheat

Hidden sources of gluten:

  • Ales, beers, lagers
  • Bouillon cubes, soup base
  • Breading/coating mix
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Communion wafers
  • Croutons
  • Candy
  • Chips/potato chips
  • Luncheon meats, hot dogs, salami, sausage
  • French fries
  • Gravy
  • Marinades, sauces
  • Pasta
  • Rice mixes
  • Seasoned tortilla chips
  • Stuffing
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soy sauce (soy sauce is made of wheat, tamari sauce is made of soy!0
  • Thickeners
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications (check out www.glutenfreedrugs.com)
  • Vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements
  • Lipstick, lip gloss, balm
  • Play Dough
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Toothpaste

Gluten-free grains and starches:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Montina
  • Oats (if gluten-free, such as Bob’s Red Mill)
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sago
  • Sorghum
  • Soy
  • Tapioca
  • Teff
  • Flours made from nuts, beans, seeds

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  1. How will you die? - Kate Whimster, Toronto Naturopath - January 21, 2015

    […] What is gluten sensitivity? and How to live gluten-free […]

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