How To Go Gluten Free – The First Two Weeks
This is not a recommendation to go gluten free. If you suspect gluten is causing you troublesome symptoms, talk to your doctor about testing. Celiac and other test results measure your body’s reaction, so results will be inaccurate in absence of gluten. This is for informational and discussion purposes and is intended to supplement information provided by your doctor or dietician.
However you arrived at this point, you’ve decided that you need to eliminate gluten from your diet. Easy enough, right? Bread and pasta are out, and you can just look for gluten-free labeling for everything else.
It’s not that simple. Knowing how to go gluten free is crucial for those with a serious intolerance or celiac disease. Most people do not know the extent of it. It takes experience, but a solid guide will shorten your learning curve.
How to go gluten free – your first two weeks
Deep clean your kitchen
Now would be a great time to wipe out your cooking utensil drawers, flatware caddies, shelves and cabinets. Check your cookware for baked-on food, and evaluate kitchen appliances for your ability to clean them thoroughly. Flours and food particles like to hide in hard-to-reach parts (think bread machines, etc.), so you may need to replace them.
At first, eat in and eat what you make yourself
This is hard, but restaurants and replacement foods may not be the best idea until you have the lay of the Land of Gluten Free. Trying to fit your restrictions into your current lifestyle could lead to unnecessary frustration and disappointment.
For now, think of it as a completely new way to eat, and add replacement foods and carefully evaluated restaurant meals later.
Think single-ingredient foods
Get used to cooking with whole, unprocessed foods in their most natural form.
If you’re having something with more than one ingredient, check ingredients against this Gluten Free Shopper’s Pocket Guide. (Notice very few use the terms wheat or gluten.)
Check every label, even if you can’t imagine how they would get gluten in there
Some unexpected gluten sources include soy sauce, bullion cubes, broth, salsa, sauces, drink mixes, fried foods, vinegar-brined foods (pickles, condiments), coffee shop beverages, dressings, and more. Gluten ingredients are often used as stabilizers, thickeners, anti-caking agents and more.
So we really, really need to check everything.
Do a detox
If you’re going gluten free, you’ve probably had some troublesome symptoms that led you to this point. To get all the yuck out and restore optimum health as quickly as possible, avoid all unhealthy foods and practices, at least in the beginning. Give your body a chance to recover from the burden it has endured for all these years. This might be a good time to do a full-on detox program to get everything tip top.
Cheating isn’t okay here
Especially in the case of a Celiac diagnosis, optimal recovery from damage and relief from symptoms requires complete absence of gluten. Having “just a little” or a “cheat day” can cause a more pronounced reaction after gluten has been absent for some time, and internal damage may occur even if symptoms are subtle.
Many with a gluten intolerance also cannot tolerate oats
Many resources advising on how to go gluten free claim that oats are okay, but a substantial portion of the gluten free population would beg to differ. People often experience a return of gluten-associated discomforts after consuming oats. Consider avoiding oats and foods containing oats for a few weeks, then consume them to see if you can tolerate gluten free oats.
Don’t forget to check the gluten status of non-food items
Cosmetics, personal care items, and even medicines can contain gluten ingredients. Get into the habit of checking everything that touches your body, and customer service hotlines are your friend.
After a few weeks in the thick of the gluten free lifestyle
Once you’ve grown accustomed to abstaining and label reading, you may try to venture into the world of replacement foods. Bring along your Gluten Free Pocket Guide to make shopping easier.
Or, even better, you may opt to scrap the processed foods forever!
There are apps available such as Find Me Gluten Free that can help you find a gluten-free meal out with a few taps. For areas or restaurants not covered by the app, you may have to do some detective work. Don’t be ashamed to ask management about cross-contamination, prep areas, cooking surfaces and substitutions. It’s best to call ahead with your questions when possible.
Within a few minutes of talking to the staff, you can tell whether or not they’re gluten literate. If you find yourself having to educate the staff on the basics, the restaurant may not be ready to accommodate a gluten intolerance.
Unless you have family members who are committed to learning everything there is to learn about gluten and cross-contamination (this is rare – there’s a lot to keep up with), it’s best to eat beforehand or bring your own food. Most often, families try to play along, but they do not understand the ins and outs of the gluten-free kitchen.
This feels awkward because you may not be willing to risk it, but you’ll feel guilty when you’ve seen the trouble someone went through to make something special for you. It’s easier for everyone if everyone knows you don’t eat what you don’t bring.
This seems like a lot at first, but it gets easier. You’ll find that you start remembering what you need to check up on before eating, and before long it’ll be second nature. The unfamiliar territory feeling you’re experiencing now won’t last long.