Earlier this week, a reader wrote to me about going gluten free. I usually don't mention the questions I get (and please, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, and cannot help you with a personalized plan or give you personalized advice due to my really busy schedule) but thought this question was worth repeating for everyone's benefit
"I have a question for you regarding your GF diet. I won't bore you with details, but I'm having severe digestive issues and am seeing several different specialists for their opinions. I will be tested for celiac disease (among many other things being tested for) and in my research I have come across different schools of thought regarding going gluten-free. Some say you must keep an entirely gluten-free household if you are celiace or gluten sensitive, while others say just don't eat anything with gluten in it. The former groups says you can't even touch it yourself (or say, pick a tomato off a slice of whole wheat bread because the tomato is contaminated), and the latter group seems more lax. From what I've read you do not keep a GF household since your husband and daughter are not GF. My boyfriend does not have to be GF, so he and I are curious to know if we can keep wheat/gluten in the house for him. I think I'd be fine cooking with it, as long as I use washed/sterlized pots and pans that were used to cook gluten products. "
This was my off the cuff response, and after re-reading it, it still stands and I am not editing a word of it.
"Going GF. Just stop eating all gluten. You dont have to keep a GF home or kitchen. Wash your stuff, be careful about cross contamination but dont obsess. 99% of all ppl are not sensitive enough to that level of gluten. Just get rid of the major gluten in your diet and the lil tiny traces you come across, unless you are the 1 in a million, arent going to matter. Celiac and western MD testing is notoriously false negative. If you think you're gluten sensitive, you are. Stop eating it. Dont worry what "the tests" say :) You already have all the answers in your head, heart and soul. Who cares what the tests say...."
Here's some Tips, Suggestions, & Advice for Tackling Food Allergies in General
Don't put too much stock into "testing". The gold standard for food allergies is Food Elimination and Re-Introduction which works as follows:
Keep a food diary with everything you ingest written down.
Keep a suspect list of foods you feel "bother you" in some way. Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Tree Nuts, Shellfish, Fish are some common allergens to consider.
Stop eating your suspect list foods
If you still feel that you're having "symptoms" of any kind from insomnia, headaches, rashes, GI issues, irritability, moodiness, joint pain, etc., then eliminate more suspect foods.
Once you get to baseline (symptom-free) for at least 2 weeks, you can re-introduce one food at a time. Reintroduce what you feel is the least offending food.
After you've reintroduced the food and waited about 5 days, as long as you're still at baseline (symptom-free), you can re-intro another food. Wait 5 days. Repeat.
If at any point once re-introducing foods you are seeing a return in symptoms, you have likely "found" your offending food. This may be allergy, intolerance, sensitivity.
Don't get hung up on terminology, i.e. allergy, intolerance, sensitivity. If you feel like crap after eating that food, it's not worth it. Don't eat it. Who cares what the label is.
Don't get hung up on medical testing. Doctors and western medicine are notoriously dismissive of food allergies and blood testing, stool testing, saliva tests, muscle testing are all notoriously inaccurate. Again, the gold standard is your own detective work through food challenges that I just outlined.
It's a lot of work, it's a long process. It's worth it in the end to have your life back, symptom free.
I repeat: Only you can do this. No doctor or testing or other person can do this work for you. You have to want to heal yourself badly enough and your life will be miserable enough that the "work" of figuring this out will seem easy. For those of us who've been on the wrong side of food allergies, we all know this feeling when you just have to make massive changes.
1. What's on tap for you this weekend?
I'm working, time with the family, maybe trying to make a few things in my oven. Honestly, it's been so hot that I have not wanted to make or eat anything than mostly raw foods. I did come up with a winner in the oven though that I plan to blog about soon.
2. Have you ever contemplated going gluten free?
I talked here about being Gluten-Free even if you don't "have to be" because wheat & gluten are inflammatory & hard to digest .
Try not to think about "giving up" anything. Don't think of it as what you're giving up, but what you're gaining, in health!
I also don't advocate specialty products that are gluten-free. Last I checked, all fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and many grains are already naturally gluten-free. Look to nature for naturally gluten-free foods; not to foods that are processed in order to get them into a gluten-free state. No!
The gluten-free aisle of the store? I never go into it. I just need to go through the produce aisles. Everything in that section is naturally perfect for me, naturally gluten free.
Plus, even if you're GF, you can still have pancakes like my Vegan Gluten Free Pancakes with Real Maple Syrup and Fresh Blueberries.
Vegan Gluten Free Pancakes
Vegan GF Crackers
i.e. Homemade Mary's Crackers! Vegan GF Crackers i.e. Homemade Mary's Crackers!
Or muffins! Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffins One bowl and a spoon, pour into muffin liners, bake, and you're done. Almost no dishes, no mixer, no Vita-Mix needed. Vegan Gluten Free Blueberry Streusel Muffins Have you thought about going GF? Or reducing the amount of processed grains in your diet?
3. Do you have any foods you're allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to?
For example, that rash in your mouth after you eat bananas, that headache you get after you eat tomatoes, that insomnia after you eat peanuts. These may all be coincidence. They may not be. After awhile the little things turn into big things, which you can't ignore anymore. That's what happened with me and after much detective work and years in the making, I've realized what my intolerances are and I don't eat gluten, dairy, and closely watch my soy consumption.
I've posted Here about my Food Allergies
And also see my Dairy FAQ's, Calcium, Myths, Recipes Post
4. Do you eat differently now than when you were younger, whether you're "allergic" to foods or not? You just make different choices?
As a kid, I always ended up with a stomach ache after eating dairy, especially ice cream, but ate it anyway and suffered. By the time I was in high school I chose more wisely and didn't eat dairy or ice cream. And now, aside from trace dairy that may inadvertently enter my diet, I don't consume dairy.
And of course, the older I get, the more I have to have and just crave fresh produce and couldn't survive without it.
With age comes some food wisdom. We all learn what works for our own body, needs, and life path. What works for you?