CELIAC DISEASE VS. GLUTEN INTOLERANCE
When gluten intolerance hit two members of our family it was rough. The symptoms included severe hair loss, mouth sores, joint pain, rashes, and worst of all GI problems. Gluten intolerance won’t permanently damage your system the way Celiac Disease can, but it has the ability to make you horribly sick. I kept losing weight and my hair kept falling out and my doctor just sort of shrugged his shoulders. It took a lot of digging to discover the cause, but once I did, a gluten free diet began to help immediately. It has since spread to other members of my family. My mom’s symptoms are far worse than my own and a gluten-free diet has helped her tremendously. Although gluten intolerance is not an allergy like Celiac Disease it can make you horribly sick. Make no mistake; it is no “fad” diet. If you are newly diagnosed with one of the two mentioned conditions it can be great to join online support groups so you can keep current with new matters relating to all things gluten free.
EDUCATION VS. IGNORANCE
If you are newly diagnosed you will soon be bombarded with ignorant jokes in the media and worst of all, from your friends and perhaps even family. You may be told that your gluten free diet is a joke, a bid for attention, and nothing more than the latest “fad.” Some that I have heard lately include suggestions like sending all gluten intolerant folks to live together on a deserted island so the “normal” people don’t have to be bothered with their dietary restrictions. Or the ever popular “a taste won’t hurt”. It is important to combat ignorance with education so jokes like these end. If your congressional representative is considering positive food allergy legislation, please encourage him or her to support it. If you are getting together with friends bring a great gluten free dish for everyone to share. If your friends think your gluten-free diet is a bid for attention, make sure they are educated about food allergy issues.
Eating Gluten Free:
READ THE LABELS… A time consuming proposition for sure. But a totally necessary one when your health is on the line. There are a lot of products out there that are labeled ‘certified gluten free.’ Some supermarkets have a larger section of gluten-free products than others. Some spread the g-f items throughout the store. However, buying only the items labeled g-f can be an expensive proposition. So, learn to read the labels very carefully.
There are so many hidden sources of gluten, like barley and malt. Some of us are particularly sensitive to both barley and malt, so read the label to discover if those culprits are included. Soy sauce is another item that you need to avoid. Soy sauce, in general, contains wheat. You can purchase gluten-free soy sauce at the supermarket, but so many ready-made items contain soy sauce, and you can almost bet that they have used the soy sauce that contains wheat – so read the label.
WHAT ABOUT OATS?…On our site we recommend only eating certified gluten-free oats. Yes oats are gluten free but they can be heavily cross contaminated with gluten if they are processed on the same equipment that processes wheat.
BE CAREFUL IN RESTAURANTS…This is a very important one. Some things should always be avoided: salad dressings unless the staff can unequivocally state that they are gluten-free; anything with soy sauce; gravy and sauces, which are usually thickened with flour; anything breaded; and deep fried foods, unless they are fried in a dedicated gluten-free fryer. And, DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK about any item on the menu that you are not sure of. If the waiter or waitress says, “What’s gluten?” or “None of our dishes have that in it,” or can’t answer questions about ingredients in their dishes, that is NOT a good sign you will be safe eating there.
DO YOUR RESEARCH…Keep handy lists of all of the grains that contain gluten. After a while you will be able to easily identify them by heart. There are apps for your smart phone that can help you find restaurants that have gluten-free menus or gluten-free items annotated on their menus; but it is always best to call ahead to make sure. We have learned by unfortunate experience that the smart phone apps work about 60 percent of the time in correctly identifying safe places to eat. Many ethnic cuisines contain naturally gluten-free food. For example, Vietnamese food is largely g-f. They use little, if any, soy sauce. Make sure you order dishes with rice noodles and if a dish is breaded, ask to make sure they have used something other than flour for the breading. Mexican restaurants also usually offer a number of naturally g-f items – fajitas with corn tortillas, enchiladas, and tamales, to name a few.
MAKE YOUR OWN… Since gluten free products at the grocery store cost, on average, three times their counterparts, cooking and baking items yourself can be a great way to reduce your grocery bill, although finding the time can be very difficult.
Make sure to check out our new gluten free cookbook at www.thewhiskandthespoon.com/cookbook.