As many of you know I'm a gluten-free girl. Not by choice but by necessity. Seven years ago I went on a medical missions trip to the Panama Jungle. The trip was life altering in more ways than one...spiritually, emotionally, and physically. After returning to the states, sick as a dog for months, I was finally diagnosed with parasites. Yurrrrp, turns out I drank some unfiltered water along the way which resulted in a slew of doctor visits. Diagnostically, it was a mess, but I can confidently say that I wouldn't have traded the experience for the world. So here I am, today; happy, and as long as I avoid wheat like the plague, healthy. Praise Jesus. Should everyone go gluten-free? No. In fact, I'd prefer it if ya'll would stay out of the allergen-free isle at the supermarket and leave the shelves stocked for me. Are there some people that should go gluten-free? Yes. Are you one of those people? Perhaps.
The symptoms are different for everyone. I get a really sick belly if I accidentally eat something with gluten in it. Other common side effects include gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue or 'brain fog', malabsorption of nutrients, migraine headaches, inflammation, and even mood issues such as depression or anxiety. Now, just because you have an occasional migraine certainly doesn't mean you're allergic or intolerant (yep, they are two different things) to gluten. But there's an easy way to find out. You could see your doctor and have a blood test done for allergies and food sensitivities or, you could eliminate foods containing gluten for two weeks and assess whether or not your symptoms improve.
Will going gluten-free make me healthier? Not necessarily. Many gluten-containing foods are far from healthy (e.g. bagels, breads, cakes, pastries, cookies, pasta, cereal, etc.) so you would think that by eliminating them you would become healthier. Well...what are you replacing those items with? If you're substituting those items with lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables then YES you will be healthier - although you certainly don't have to go gluten-free to do that. On the other hand, if you're simply substituting those items with gluten-free varieties, then no, you won't be healthier, you'll just be eating something made with rice flour instead of wheat flour. It's 2013. You can find just about anything made gluten-free if you look hard enough.
So if you were looking for a "gluten-free" diet to help you lose weight you can stop reading here. Seriously. Just stop. BUT, if you were reading because you really think that abstaining from gluten could have a positive impact on your digestive system and overall health, then keep reading...
Popular Foods Containing Gluten: avoid these at. all. costs.
Anything with the following ingredients: wheat, rye, barley, yeast and triticale (rye/wheat)
- French fries
- Imitation meat/seafood
- Processed lunch meat
- Salad dressing
- Sauces (e.g. soy sauce)
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods (e.g. potato chips, beef jerky)
- Soups/bouillon cubes
- Vegetables in sauce (e.g. Lean Cuisine meals)
- Veggie burgers/hot dogs
Naturally gluten-free foods: these foods should make up most of your diet
- Seeds and nuts (unseasoned)
- Fresh meats, fish, poultry (not breaded or marinated)
- Most dairy products
Gluten-free starches: use these as substitutes for wheat
Whew. That's a lot to absorb! My suggestion to you: before you start, go grocery shopping, pre-plan your meals, get rid of the gluten in your pantry and set yourself up for success. You can't be half gluten-free and expect this to work (eh hem, daaaad). You're either committed or you're not. If you encounter any questions or road bumps along the way shoot me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - or post a comment. After all, this is the life I lead.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.