12 Truths & Essential Tips Revealed from a Long-Time Celiac Sufferer on the REAL Gluten Free Lifestyle
Take it from a long-time Celiac, if you don’t have to eat Gluten Free (GF) – don’t bother. BUT if your stomach is always upset, you regularly feel bloated, tired and sluggish, your immune system is shot, and your mood changes with the weather, you might want to consider eliminating gluten from your diet.
Because I’ve been a gluten free girl since I was a teenager and before GF became trendy, I have discovered (out of necessity) some important things to watch out for, plus several key tips for anyone looking to banish the bastard (ahem) gluten, from their life.
- Be EXTRA Careful When Eating Out! Luckily, most restaurants nowadays are aware of gluten, unlike back when I was diagnosed with Celiac over 10 years ago. I would routinely be faced with the same reaction from restaurant servers, “Gluten??? Huh??? Glucose?? Sugar?? You’re allergic to sugar???” While everyone at my table, and all the neighboring tables in the restaurant, would stare at me like I was a diseased alien. But thankfully the world is now, for the most part, generally more educated on the topic of Gluten Free (GF). However, I still sometimes receive puzzled looks from servers when asked the more difficult questions (I GUESS) regarding gluten. For instance, when I ask if the sandwich I want to order (which although has GF bread) contains any gluten within its contents, i.e. the spreads or cold cuts; or if their soup of the day contains any gluten; or if the sauce which comes with my entree contains gluten. You HAVE to ask the questions – don’t rely on restaurant staff to know the details. With that said, they’re usually pretty good these days about checking with their kitchen for you.
- Watch out! Gluten Creeps its Way Into Many Unlikely Food Items. BE SURE TO CHECK OUT: The 15 Most Surprising Foods that Contain Gluten for a comprehensive list. Very Important!
- If you are Celiac, A Crumb of Wheat is Just As Harmful as Eating a Loaf of Bread. Umm yes. It’s sad but true. My nutritionist revealed this unfortunate fact when I began living a gluten free lifestyle. So be extra careful in your home if you live with non-GF family/friends because you will need to dedicate one area of the kitchen JUST for you to avoid any cross-contamination.
- Do Not Use the Same Toaster! Further to the last point – a crumb is just as harmful as consuming an entire piece of bread. So be sure to use your own toaster, dedicated solely to GF bread. This goes for toasted GF sandwiches at the deli too as they almost always use the same grill for non-GF and GF breads. Important: Even if you don’t feel the effects after consuming some gluten (a.k.a. get sick to your stomach). There can still be major silent damage to your digestive system occurring without you even knowing it.
- The “Pamela’s” brand has the Best Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour Mix. It is ESSENTIAL to use a good GF Flour Mix to avoid having your cookies turn out rock solid and crumbly or your muffins taste as dry as sandpaper. Seriously, GF baking is a whole other animal and it’s not anywhere near as easy as baking non-GF. Luckily, the Pamela’s brand which produces all GF products, has come up with an excellent All Purpose Baking Flour Blend which you can use to bake pretty much anything and it’s fairly fool proof! And the best news is, it’s available at Save-On Foods and most major grocery stores – so you don’t have to make a separate trip after your main grocery shop to a specialized health food store to find the product!
- Lemonade Gluten Free Bakery has the Best GF Baked Goods I’ve Tasted To-Date… Sorry Okanaganites, it’s in Vancouver… Since I’m still fairly new to town, I haven’t explored gluten free bakeries in the Okanagan as of yet, so I can’t comment on which ones are the best. However, I’ve heard there are some GREAT GF bakeries in the OK so I will most certainly write a post once I have completed my Okanagan GF bakery tour! Be sure to stay tuned for my future post on the Best Okanagan GF Bakeries! Or better yet, be notified by email by simply following Okanagan Elements!
- Gluten Is In Many Medications. Ugh yes, because gluten is a cheap filler and binder – some pharmaceutical companies STILL use it in their medications. Make sure to notify your doctor and your pharmacist of your gluten intolerance so that the pharmacy knows to always check the ingredients of your prescriptions. Note – it’s prudent to remind your pharmacy of this when filling any new prescriptions
- Gluten May Be In Your Vitamins and Supplements Too. Just like medication, gluten is used as a binding agent in these products as well. Supermarkets like Choices and Nature’s Fare have knowledgeable staff employed in their health food sections who are almost always helpful when it comes to advising on their GF health food products.
- Let’s Not Forget Beauty Products. Gluten exists in many beauty and skin care products. Now this topic is up for debate, because although skin is our biggest organ, some experts don’t believe that gluten can harm Celiacs when applied topically. However, there are many studies and a lot of solid information out there that points towards the opposite, claiming that gluten does in fact cause harm to those with gluten intolerance when absorbed through the skin. So my rule of thumb, based solely on my own experience and not on scientific data, is to avoid lip products that contain gluten. Burt’s Bees is a good brand to use as all of their lip-care products (EXCEPT RES-Q Lip Balm – according to their website) do not contain any gluten. Burt’s Bees also does not test on animals! Which is another HUGE, ENORMOUS A+++++++. Also avoid the obvious moisturizers which clearly state WHEAT or OATMEAL as an ingredient. For a complete list of GF beauty products, I refer to Very Well Health’s List: 11 Makeup Brands That Offer Gluten-Free Options
- Don’t Be Mistaken – Gluten Free DOES NOT Mean Fat Free. So be careful not to confuse it as a weight-loss regime… Yes, ok so cutting out gluten often means cutting out some carbs because gluten is predominantly present in baked goods. Which in general, is a popularly known contributor to weight loss (think – The Atkins Diet). However, if you’re like me, and enjoy a good pastry, you will probably seek out GF baked goods. Next time you’re in the supermarket, check out the calorie count and fat content in a GF cookie compared to a non-GF cookie. UGH, SO disappointing.
- It’s Not Just Wheat Folks, Gluten is in Whole Variety of Grains… A common misconception is that gluten only exists in wheat. WRONG. It’s also in several other popular grains too. As per the Celiac Association, gluten is also in: wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye.
- Last But Not Least: If You Are Faced with an Ignorant Restaurant Staff – WALK THE F OUT And Don’t Be Nice About It Either. Sorry not sorry but there is absolutely no excuse for being uneducated on gluten nowadays if you work in the food industry. Take it from someone who’s served in the past at a few trendy restaurants/lounges; there’s straight up no excuse for ignorance when it comes to your customers’ food allergies. ESPECIALLY since by now everyone and their dog has at least heard of the term “gluten-free”. So whenever I’m still faced with a negative reaction from a restaurant staff which errs on the side of annoyed, burdened, bothered, bitchy, critical or outright dumbfounded by my legit and polite questions regarding the GF items on their menu – I get up and WALK OUT – while also being sure to subtly (and often NOT so subtly) express my dissatisfaction with their lack of food knowledge and sub-par service. Pffft.
By Melissa Tocheri
Gluten Free Resources
Canadian Celiac Association
Non-profit Canadian Association providing up-to-date information for celiac and gluten related conditions.
Kelowna Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association
The Kelowna Chapter, serves the entire southern interior of British Columbia, Canada including Shuswap, Okanagan, and Kootenays.
Assisting the newly diagnosed Celiac, and anyone avoiding gluten, with transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle.