Gluten Free for Beginners

You want to remove gluten from your diet, whether by personal choice or doctor’s orders, but you have no idea where to start. Welcome to Gluten-Free Lifestyle Blog! First, we’ll start with frequently asked questions about what gluten and gluten-related diseases are and then we’ll move on to next steps.

What is Celiac Disease?

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “Celiac Disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.” When starting a gluten-free lifestyle, it is imperative that those with Celiac Disease are very strict with their diet and mindful about cross contamination and the ingredients of products they are using.

What is Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance?

Those with non-celiac gluten intolerance experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease but it does not lead to damage in the small intestine and symptoms resolve when gluten is removed from their diet. This is the type of gluten intolerance I have and if I experience cross-contamination or ingest gluten accidentally my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis disease symptoms will flare up.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. It helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of food, beauty products, alcoholic beverages, and prescription medication. (Read more about products that surprisingly contain gluten).
Anything you are putting into or onto your body, read ingredient labels very carefully. Even if the product doesn’t contain gluten, it could be processed in a facility that has cross contamination.

What foods are naturally gluten-free?

The below foods are gluten-free in their natural, unprocessed form:
– Beans, seeds and nuts
– Fresh eggs
– Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
– Fruits and vegetables
– Most dairy products

Are any grains gluten-free?

Yes, the below are gluten-free if they are not processed or mixed with gluten-containing grains, additives, or preservatives.
– Amaranth
– Arrowroot
– Buckwheat
– Corn and cornmeal
– Flax
– Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
– Hominy (corn)
– Millet
– Quinoa
– Rice
– Sorghum
– Soy
– Tapioca
– Teff

What ingredients should I avoid?

– Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar)
– Rye
– Triticale
– Wheat
– Durum flour
– Farina
– Graham flour
– Kamut
– Semolina
– Spelt

What foods should I avoid?

Avoid the following unless they’re labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
– Beer
– Breads
– Cakes and pies
– Candies
– Cereals
– Communion wafers
– Cookies and crackers
– Croutons
– French fries
– Gravies
– Imitation meat or seafood
– Matzo
– Pastas
– Processed luncheon meats
– Salad dressings
– Sauces, including soy sauce
– Seasoned rice mixes
– Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
– Self-basting poultry
– Soups and soup bases
– Vegetables in sauce
– Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production.
– Food additives, such as malt flavoring, modified food starch and others
– Medications and vitamins that use gluten as a binding agent

Do I just need to worry about gluten in food?

Great question! Anything that touches or goes into your mouth needs to be gluten-free. If you get skin reactions from gluten, then you need to read the ingredients on anything that touches you, i.e. shampoo, soap, detergent, makeup, etc. A lot of products you wouldn’t expect to contain gluten, can. Check out this article on surprising things that contain gluten.

How Gluten Damages Villi in those with Celiac Disease

Now that you know what gluten is and the effects it could have, the next step is to clean up your environment from it and go shopping!

Clean Out Your Kitchen

If you will be sharing a kitchen with those who are not gluten-free, it is important to set ground rules to reduce cross contamination. Move all of the gluten containing ingredients, utensils, and cookware to one side of the kitchen.

  • Throw out your kitchen sponge or have a sponge dedicated to being gluten-free and check that your dish soap is gluten-free. (Read more about Gluten Free Household Items)
  • Replace wooden cutting boards, wooden spoons, plastic bowls and utensils, silicone spatulas, rolling pins, colander, and non-stick pans and muffin tins.
  • Buy a new toaster. You will not be able to designate one side of an existing toaster for gluten-free bread and remain uncontaminated. Several companies make heavy-duty, reusable bags that can allow you to toast your gluten-free bread safely in a toaster also used for gluten bread while traveling or in a pinch.
  • Get rid of gluten products or segregate them to one part of the kitchen. Be careful handling gluten ingredients like flour to avoid cross contamination.
  • Purchase new condiments to avoid cross contamination
  • Check the ingredients on spices, snacks, and beverages
  • Clean your oven, sink, drying mat, and refrigerator to remove gluten particles

Evaluate Skin/Beauty/Hair Care Product labels

Did you know that lip balms, hand wash, hand creams, makeup, and skin care products could contain gluten? Everything that you put on you skin has the potential to enter your bloodstream, due to accidental ingestion. With the number of cosmetics and beauty products that we use every day, even the smallest amount of gluten can cause a reaction.

Review labels of all products for gluten and hidden wheat ingredient names like Triticum Vulgare (wheat), Hordeum Vulgare (barley), Avena Sativa (oatmeal), and Vitamin E (sometimes derived from a wheat germ).

If you are still unsure, you can use to search for the product and it’s gluten status.

Go Grocery Shopping

It’s important to do your research and go in with a plan before heading to the grocery store so you don’t get overwhelmed.

  1. Learn how to save money grocery shopping
  2. Plan out your meals for the week
  3. Make a list
  4. Don’t get distracted looking at all of the gluten-free options before researching them!

Try shopping at different grocery stores to see what you like better and what store has the most gluten-free options in your area.

Join a Gluten-Free Online Support Group Support Group

Facebook Groups:

  • Gluten Free – Celiac Disease Support Group
  • Gluten + Dairy Free Living | Recipe Sharing + Support

Additional Gluten-Free Resources

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