In February 2014 I made a doctors appointment to discuss stomach pain that had become unbearable; a daily occurrence and a real downer on my quality of life. I was taking Tylenol all the time, having baths twice a night to ease stomach cramps, drinking pro-biotic yogurt to help my digestive system but nothing was making the pain go away. After I filled my doctor in on the pain I was having along with other symptoms like constipation, headaches, irritability and nausea, he decided blood work and stool samples where necessary to see what was up. He thought it sounded like I might have celiac disease, something that we have seen a great rise in lately. He suggested that while we are waiting for the blood and stool sample results I might want to consider cutting out gluten.
As I drove back to my office that morning, I went through a check list of all I knew to be true about being gluten intolerant and decided to heed his advice and eliminate it from my diet. I basically went cold turkey; that night I went to the grocery store and bought all my normal foods in the gluten free versions. The bill was the most shocking part of the experience. Gluten free food is expensive. I picked up cereal, bread, pasta, lunchmeat, soup, a g-free TV dinner that was $7 (I almost cried) and some other items like soup and crackers. It wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it might be, and I am really lucky I live in a city that has a wonderful natural health store that is also locally owned. They have TONS of selection; you can really get anything you might want in a gluten free version without too much compromise on taste. I notice more and more companies are putting the gluten free symbol on their products to make it easier for those with celiac or sensitivities to identify what they can and cannot take home. As a shopper I cannot tell you how much that symbol is appreciated as it saves having to read every single ingredient list.
So, I have been eating gluten free for five months now, and while I am nowhere near the pro level of eating g-free as some people I have however learned some tricks and tips along the way.
One difference I picked up on right away was that gluten free foods have A LOT of ingredients. This is because gluten free flours require ingredients to hold them together. If you have read any gluten free recipes for baked goods, you will notice that xanthan gum is called for almost always. Xanthan gum is a gelling agent, and its going to help hold your bread and cookies together so they don’t crumble apart and become dust in your hands. Early on in the gluten free days I saw a picture on a web site that said “your grandmothers bread didn’t have xanthan gum in it.” I laughed at this quote because it’s so true. My grandmother would never have had more then the basic ingredients in her bread, but she pretty much only ate food her family grew. There were no whole foods or drive thru’s for her to use; the food she and her family ate was natural, it didn’t come from a big corporate plant, it came from a plant they grew on their own land.
Could the recent up-rise in gluten sensitivity be due to the changes in the food we eat? I think this would be a great question to pose to the makers of our food.
I was really fortunate when I started eating gluten free because I also know several people who also eat that way, and they gave me lots of tips:
1. Use the Internet. There are tons of charts on-line that show comparisons, like for example what candy bars are G-free and what ones aren’t.
2. Talk to everyone you know who eats g-free. They will know the best places to buy gluten free food in your city. They also will know who has the best prices.
3. Go to company web-sites. Most companies want you to know they accommodate to gluten sensitive persons and will have a section on their site for gluten free products they manufacture.
4. Be vigilant. If you cannot tolerate even trace amounts of gluten do not take a chance and buy things that are not certified G-Free.
5. Tell your friends/family. They will want to know you can’t eat the birthday cake they made you. If you’re changing your diet, let them know.
You can easily eat out and enjoy yourself while maintaining your g-free diet, just be sure to read the menu, tell servers about your sensitivity and ask for tons of advice from friends or sales staff at local food stores.