If you need to transition into a gluten-free life, I’m here to help. Find tips here on how to go gluten free so you can start enjoying the foods that will make you feel good instead of awful!
At the age of 28, I found myself in the office of my gastrointerologist (GI doctor) after complaining of feeling sick every time I ate and suffering from symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and bloating. By this point, I had been to so many doctors, I had lost count. Desperate for answers, I felt disappointed when the doctor said, “You have irritable bowel syndrome, otherwise known as leaky gut”.
My first thoughts were…What the heck is leaky gut? No way, that can’t possibly be me. I’m still in my 20’s, my body shouldn’t be falling apart yet!
The doctor said IBS (or “leaky gut”) is fairly common and prescribed medication (which is commonly used to treat depression), sending me on my way. I had so many questions which went unanswered. What caused this? How can I get it to go away? I just want to eat without getting sick!
How could this happen? I was young, relatively healthy, worked out, watched my diet, and felt I had a normal life. Determined not to accept this, I felt like the doctors failed me and started down the path of researching everything I could get my hands on. Little did I know, I would have to figure out how to go gluten free.
Elimination Diet – Find the Cause
The most effective method I tried on my path to wellness was the elimination diet. This was not an easy thing to do, as it meant ceasing to consume all of the foods I loved (good bye, cakes, cheese, french fries, and steak)!
An elimination diet is a short-term diet that eliminates the top 8 allergens (or anything else you might suspect) for 3-6 weeks and then re-introduces them, one at a time, which allows you to determine which foods are not well-tolerated. The duration is important, as it takes antibodies, the proteins in your immune system that are created when it negatively reacts to foods, at least this long to dissipate.
During this elimination diet, I cut the following food from my diet:
- Gluten (adios, wheat, barley, hops (beer!), rye, and everything else I loved)
- Dairy (so long, cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream)
- Soy (soy is in everything)
- Red meat
- Tomatoes (tested positive during allergy testing)
Before you freak out and ask, “WHAT DID YOU EAT?!” don’t worry, there are plenty of healthy and naturally gluten free foods that I ate during this time (and continue to do so), though it didn’t feel like it at the time. Most of the foods I ate fit within the paleo diet, including:
- Poultry & Fish
- Sweet Potatoes
Before the elimination diet, I struggled with fluctuating weight despite “diet” and exercise. During and after the elimination diet, I lost 30 pounds and kept it off, while maintaining that important balance of not eating foods that were destroying my gut and exercising regularly. I felt a whole. Lot. Better. No longer fearing getting sick after meal times, healthier, like a new person.
After re-introducing each food at a time, I had negative reactions to gluten, dairy, red meat, and tomatoes. My life was over, I thought. Of course, my favorite food at the time was lasagna (which I now call yummy death food). Good bye, Italian food?! Nice to know you. It was fun while it lasted.
Grief – The Struggle Is Real
No more lasagna? So much grief. The pain and suffering was real.
I was in Denial. I want Italian food and I want it now.
So Angry! Why did this have to happen to me?! There is no way I’m going to stop eating bread and cheese. Forget it.
Then, Rationalizing. Can’t I just rush out and have one last bowl of spaghetti? One little “cheat” meal won’t hurt me.
This is so Depressing. No, I will never have Italian food again. Going out to eat is going to be a nightmare. In fact, I will probably lose my social life and never go out again.
Might as well Accept it! Since this is actually real, it’s time to figure out some alternatives.
Over time, the grief went away. These dietary restrictions opened up a whole new world of food. I started enjoying real food. Healthy, unprocessed food made me feel amazing, and I wanted more of it. And I’ll tell you a secret…it’s not hard to eat this way.
How to Go Gluten Free?
First, it’s important to understand why you are going gluten free. For those with Celiac disease or Hashimoto’s, gluten is destructive to the intestines and thyroid, respectively, and can cause serious health issues to those that continue to consume it. It takes months, or years, to heal. It also takes at least 6 weeks for your body to rid itself of those gluten antibodies, so there is no such thing as a “cheat meal”. It’s all or nothing. If you want that piece of cake, ask yourself if it’s worth risking damage to your body and starting all over again.
1. Gluten Free Living
The first thing you should do is completely cleanse your house, top to bottom, from gluten. Remove all gluten containing products. Don’t rationalize about keeping it or eating the rest. Donate it, if you have to, or give it to family or friends. It’s GOTTA GO!
Clean your pantry and refrigerator/freezer, and wipe down the shelves. Clean out the microwave (boiling vinegar and water works wonders). Thoroughly wipe down the counters and inside the drawers (especially the silverware drawer). Buy a new toaster, since you won’t be able to clean the inside. Create a clean slate in your kitchen.
Tip: Check the labels on your food. If it has wheat, it will say at the bottom (with the rest of the allergens): CONTAINS WHEAT. Or, if you have to avoid contact altogether, This is processed in a factory that also processes wheat products.
2. Research What Has Gluten
Buy a book like Wheat Belly Total Health or, if you are like me and have hypothyroidism, check out Hypothyroidism Diet: 50 Hypothyroidism Meals For Naturally Reducing Inflammatory Levels-First Line Of Defense In Treating Hypothyroidism. This book talks about the science behind hypothyroidism and the link between “leaky gut” and hypothyroidism, and it offers delicious recipes to reduce inflammation in the body.
You are also going to want to check out this list of “sources of gluten“.
3. Check Out the Local Grocery Stores
More than likely, the grocery store you frequent has a little health food section that you may have completely ignored before. Check it out. You might be pleasantly surprised at the selection. Gluten free food has come SO FAR in the last 5-10 years alone. Honestly, it’s hard for not just me to tell something is gluten free, but my friends and family as well. For example, my mother made our wedding cake, which was a beautiful, delicious, and moist layered chocolate cake. No one could even tell it was gluten free (other than they saw me eating it). So don’t be a cynic and try new things!
If your little store is lacking selection, you can always check out Amazon. They have everything!
4. Remember Your Commitment
It’s not going to be easy to change your lifestyle. Going out to eat was very difficult at first, because there’s almost always a bread basket that gets plopped right in front of me. Or chips and salsa (which I can’t have either)! Or someone orders your favorite gluten-full dish and you just want one tiny bite. Follow these tips to survive eating out as a gluten free individual!
Just remember, it’s not worth it. Remember those belly aches, bloating, and whatever other unpleasurable symptoms you have, and stick to your guns!
5. Discover Gluten Free Restaurants
Before going out to eat, do your research. Look at the restaurant’s website. Do they have a gluten free menu? If they do, it’s a good indication it will be okay to eat there. When no gluten free menu is available, call during non-meal times and ask. If you get non-committal answers, or they say something like “We don’t really have one…a lot of our dishes have dairy”, it’s a good reason not to go. Here are more tips for eating out with dietary restrictions.
To get you started, here is a list and reviews of gluten friendly restaurant chains and another for gluten free restaurants in Wichita.
So…What CAN I Eat and How Do I Eat Out?
When I tell people my dietary restrictions, they ask, “For real, what do you eat?! Salad? No wonder you are so skinny.”
I’m not sure whether or not to take that as a compliment. But no, that is not why I am “so skinny”. Remember the “exercise” component I mentioned earlier? That is just as important as the diet.
If you decide to eat out, make sure you follow these tips on how to go gluten free while eating out to hopefully avoid any contamination of your food. You can also purchase a gluten sensor that will test your food to make sure it’s safe! This thing is seriously incredible. If you want to learn more about this gluten sensor, read this review and watch the demo/unboxing!
In case you were wondering, here is an example of dishes I can eat at Italian restaurants:
- Chicken Marsala served over a bed of spinach
- Salad from Olive Garden without croutons, tomatoes, or Parmesan
- Lemon chicken served over gluten free pasta or “zoodles”
- Lots of dishes with pesto!
5. You Can Do This!
You can dooooo it! The possibilities are endless, so don’t give in to temptation! Have you tried zoodles made from zucchini, sweet potato noodles, or cauliflower pizza? How about flourless paleo almond butter chocolate chip cookies? These cookies are absolutely incredible, and so chewy and soft!
Don’t have time to cook or need more recipe ideas? Check out these tips on how we saved $300 per month or more by using meal planning or a meal prep service. Freshly offers fresh (not frozen), chef cooked and gluten free meals delivered straight to your door!