So You Want To Go Gluten Free...
As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor. I am just someone with Celiac Disease, who knows a decent amount about being gluten free and my own body. I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old, so my body was used to eating gluten as a result, so I can still tolerate a decent amount of gluten (for example, I ate a Taco Bell Crunch Wrap Supreme the other day, and I was only mildly gassy as a result of eating the flour tortilla). If you are reading this because you are trying to figure out if you have a gluten intolerance, I 1000% suggest you see a doctor. I think it’s important to read about other people’s experiences and take note of similar symptoms (that’s how I learned about the disease) but please always take my symptoms, tolerances, and lifestyle choices with a grain of salt because this is just what I do for my body and you should to do what is best for your own body!
Part 2 Of My Celiac Diagnosis: Meeting With A Dietician
After I got my blood work results back, indicating that I had Celiac Disease, I stopped eating gluten. My doctor simply said to stop eating gluten and to see a nutritionist or a dietician if I needed help with navigating that transition. Coincidently, one of my littles in my sorority has a gluten intolerance, so I had some general knowledge about gluten free food restrictions from going out to eat with her. I also was never a huge fan of gluten products to begin with anyway, and I just wanted to stop having diarrhea so I didn’t really care that much about having to give up gluten.
However, after a month of cutting out gluten, and without any guidance from a trained professional, I had a lot of questions. ”Why can’t I eat soy sauce, but other soy products are okay? Are not all soy products gluten free? Is it okay if I eat gluten sometimes or will it eventually kill me? Do I have to use gluten free skincare and make up products?” Surprisingly, the internet has a lot of holes or vague information when it comes to gluten free living. I had found a lot of people’s personal accounts of their Celiac stories very helpful (hence why I am here talking about my own), but I wanted concrete answers! Finally after maybe 6 months of sticking to a gluten free diet, I met with a dietician to ask her all of these persisting questions. I would highly recommend anyone with Celiac (or any other gastro issues) to see a dietician, especially one who specializes in your particular ailment. Here are the answers to some of the questions I asked my dietician, along with commonly asked questions about gluten free living.
Celiac Disease and Gluten Free Living FAQs
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. It occurs in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease, although the exact cause is unknown. It’s easily treatable (although not curable) by simply sticking to a gluten free diet. If left undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to more serious long term health issues such as diabetes and hypothyroidism.
So basically you have to have the gene for it. If it doesn’t run in your family, you probably are not at risk of suddenly developing Celiac (although I could be wrong about this). But also remember that while you have to carry the Celiac gene, it may not be apparent, aka it can lay “dormant,” until your body encounters an environmental factor that triggers the gene to activate (aka trauma, severe stress, illness, etc.). I am fairly certain this is what happened to me...I also think my family has a history of undiagnosed Celiac Disease because a lot of my elder relatives developed diabetes later in life. Whoopie.
Are oats gluten free?
According to my dietician, oats are naturally gluten free. Despite that, some gluten-intolerant and Celiac patients may still experience bad reactions when eating oats. My dietician said this is probably due to the fact that many oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat/gluten. An oat product may not be able to be labeled as certified gluten free because of that. But I have also read that there is a protein in oats that can trigger a similar response to gluten in people with Celiac (and those that are just generally gluten intolerant).
To be on the safe side, it is probably always best to just get oats that have been certified by a third party as 100% gluten free. If cross contamination doesn’t bother you as much, oats should be okay for you to eat, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.
Similar to oats are granolas (either as trail mix, cereal or in something like an acai bowl). I would be cautious with granolas because a lot of the time they do contain wheat products that might upset your stomach. Make sure your granolas are certified gluten free and don’t contain any sneaky wheat.
Do I need to use gluten free skin and make up products?
The long and short of it is that it depends. If you are highly sensitive to gluten, you might be better off using gluten free products. According to my dietician, the amount of gluten that most products use is very very small, that it won’t have an effect on most people. That being said, we end up digesting most of the products we wear on our lips (Chapstick, lipstick, etc.) so she said that it could be a good idea to switch to gluten free lip products if I noticed any sort of stomach issues. Considering that I am often “okay”* after eating a slice of cake, I have not switched to exclusively gluten free skin and make up products, but it is something I am mindful of. Do what feels best for your body. Although I will say, after writing this blog post I am going to make sure the lip products I buy from now on are gluten free.
*okay as in I don’t get sick, there’s still probably damage being done to my small intestine.
Is it okay to eat gluten sometimes?
This could potentially be very controversial among gluten-free eaters/Celiacs, but I still eat gluten sometimes. With being diagnosed so late in life, there are just some gluten-foods I haven’t found a “dupe” for; there are some foods that bring me so much joy, I really do not want to give them up. For example, the birthday cake that I have every year for my birthday is most definitely not gluten free, but it’s my favorite cake in the whole wide world so yes, I will be eating it thank you very much.
When I talked to my dietician about this, she was very understanding. She told me that while gluten isn’t good for my body, I also shouldn’t torture myself, and that a little gluten every now and then will definitely not kill me. As long as the symptoms aren’t too bad, she thought it was okay. So that’s what I do. If there’s something that is gluten-y that I just HAVE TO HAVE, I don’t deprive myself and will let myself have some.
I fully acknowledge the fact that even if I don’t feel physical symptoms on the outside, damage is being done to my small intestine when I eat gluten. But the way I see it, is that everyone has to die somehow one day. And if I die because I couldn’t resist good food, then so be it. Life is for living, so I am going to live eating the food that I want.
Gluten Free Living Questions from Instagram
I asked my lovely followers what questions they have about gluten free living and these are all the ones I haven’t answered already in this blog post.
1. Is it hard going gluten free? Do you find enough alternatives?
In regards to the first part- not really! I know I was a little alarmed at first at the thought of not eating some of my favorite foods (cake, cookies, cookie dough ice cream!) and I think a lot of people find this daunting at first. But what I quickly learned is that there is usually always a gluten free equivalent for all your favorite foods! And at the end of the day it’s easy because you know you’re doing what is best for your body and health.
Another thing that makes it way easier to be gluten free is that more people than you realize are gluten free! Once I was diagnosed, I realized a good handful of the girls in my sorority were also gluten free and it was actually so much fun to bond with them over that! We started a gluten free group chat for all of us, and we always got our own pizzas at sorority events!
It’s also helpful that Kourtney Kardashian really made gluten free eating “trendy” and more normalized, so now there are a lot more gluten free food options than there used to be.
2. I never know what to substitute for baking/cooking.
This can be tricky when you are first starting to cook gluten free! In general, as long as you remember to stay away from the main culprits containing gluten, wheat, barley and rye, you should be good. Luckily, there are gluten free alternatives you can use for each of these ingredients! I would recommend looking up specifically gluten free recipes when you’re first starting out how to cook gf so you don’t have to worry about figuring out substitutes. For baking, I recommend “measure-for-measure” gluten free flour, so you can literally use the exact same amounts of flour a not gf recipe calls for. Keep in mind that gluten free alternatives are all going to act a bit different than their gluten equivalents, so sometimes mastering a gluten free recipe takes a bit longer as you adjust to the new temperaments of the gf ingredients. For example, gf flour is just not going to rise as much, so learning how to work with that takes some time. Additionally gf flour is not as sticky as regular flour, so you have to learn how to balance that out. I’m not a huge baker, so I don’t even think I’ve mastered it myself, I usually just stick with gluten free recipes!
3. Favorite Trader Joe’s gluten free snacks?
Lara Bars before they stopped being sold at Trader Joes! I also love their Blue Corn tortilla chips, and their version of Pirate’s Booty! And they have amazing chicken nuggets! You can see a more complete list of what gf things I buy from Trader Joe’s here.
Some of my favorite gluten free snacks that can be purchased at most regular chain grocery stores include Tate’s Chocolate Chip cookies (my ULTIMATE favorite cookie, even before I was diagnosed I loved these), Goody Girl Cookies (they’re basically the gluten free girl scout cookies. The Oreo one is my favorite), Glutino pretzel sticks, Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, and Enjoy Life dark chocolate bars.
4. If you’re gluten intolerant and eat gluten, what happens to your body?
I have heard from those that are gluten intolerant (those whose bodies can’t handle gluten but do not have Celiac) that when they eat gluten their symptoms are very similar to someone with Celiac who has eaten gluten. Bloating, gassiness, bad poops. Stomach problems basically. I haven’t done any research as to why some people are gluten intolerant but also don’t have Celiac. If you know, please hit me up because I’m curious.
5. Is soy gluten free?
Soy itself is gluten free. Regular soy sauce is not gluten free because it’s actually made from wheat. Other soy products like soy milk, should be okay for those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, BUT you should always investigate because sometimes manufacturers use preservatives that may contain gluten.
6. Do you still eat foods that could have traces of gluten?
Me personally, yes. I know it’s not the best for my body, but sometimes there are just some things I can’t resist! Like chocolate cake!!! I try to not have too much of whatever it is and then I make sure I am good about not eating gluten for the rest of the week and eat things that are good for my body/make me feel nourished. I have also read that eating fermented things such as pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut can help heal your gut by restoring gut bacteria! Which is actually wild because I have always loved vinegar-y/pickled things and often crave that. Now I wonder if those cravings are my body trying to heal itself.
7. Gluten Free pastry recipes?
I will work on this! I’m not a huge pastry maker but after watching one season of the Great British Baking Show, I am inspired!
8. How do you live without gluten?
Easily! The hardest part initially was getting used to eating out at restaurants with my new dietary restriction. When I was newly diagnosed, I would often find myself on the brink of tears when the restaurant I was at couldn't make a gluten free version of the meal I wanted or they had very limited gluten free options. And then it would be absolutely heartbreaking to watch the person across from me order and eat whatever they wanted. Of course, all of this was amplified in my head because of my hanger (hunger induced anger). I think also traveling and staying with other people was a bit of an adjustment, but I’ll probably do a separate blog post on gf traveling. Yes, this is a whole new lifestyle change and it is an adjustment, but I really promise anyone can do it*. With time, it becomes your norm and your body will thank you for that.
*Please don’t eat gluten free if you don’t have some sort of intolerance to it because your body is still meant to intake gluten and there are still nutrients to be absorbed from glutenous foods! But as always, talk to a doctor about this.
Whether you were just recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, are gluten intolerant or just wanted to read more about this stuff, I hope you found this post informative and reassuring. I recently passed my two year mark of being diagnosed with Celiac and eating gluten free and my body feels SO much better. You never appreciate a healthy gut until you experience stomach issues, and trust me- they’re not fun when they aren’t being managed properly. So here’s to your gut health, may it be happy and healthy!