This is a guest post by Joy How. She is an Integrative Health Coach and Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. Learn more about her here.
My daughter used to come home every day from Kindergarten and lay on the floor and roll around, saying her stomach hurt. It NEVER occurred to me that gluten was the issue. I figured she had to poop.
As someone who likely has celiac (I won’t consume gluten long enough to go get tested) stomach aches were my normal for many, many years.
In fact, in my younger years, my friends were so used to them they would have bitters and soda water waiting for me when I got to the bar.
Sometimes I had to leave my date sitting inside the restaurant alone and go lay down in the car.
It was really a terrible way to live, but at the time I had no idea I could change it.
Celiac or gluten sensitivity is insidious and shows up differently in everyone. What I can tell you is that removing it for myself and my children changed our health for the better.
Yet, it wasn’t a straight path for me, and it certainly didn’t feel easy.
I hope in sharing my own journey, I can save you some time and discomfort.
I think before anything else, you have to get your mindset right. You have to pivot out of, “OMG, I can never eat yummy food again,” and into, “This is going to make me feel better and I deserve that.”
You aren’t deprived.
You can choose to eat gluten anytime you want.
But you have to understand eating “a little bit” of gluten is the same as eating gluten. Just like you are either pregnant, or not pregnant, you are either gluten free or you are not.
So the first step is to DECIDE. Pick your path. Do you want to feel better, or not?
Once you’ve made your choice to become gluten free, decide that it can be easy. And, it really is. Yes, there will be a learning curve, but these days it isn’t actually HARD. I promise.
Your next step in the pantry clean out. Take inventory of everything in your fridge and pantry. Look at your supplements and medicines. Learn how to read labels. Not everything is going to have the words gluten or wheat. Be wary of “hydrolyzed plant protein” or “Hydrolyzed vegetable protein” as the source might be wheat. Anything with the word “malt” also is likely a source of gluten, especially when it says “barley malt.” Another culprit is “modified food starch.” When in doubt, focus on items that are certified gluten free, and only have ingredients that you recognize. Please reference our gluten free guide.
The third step is to get yourself some staples. I am always going to advocate for consuming real, whole foods, but I get that people also want convenience foods. Gluten free has come a long way in even the last five years. You can get pretzels, bagels, donuts, pizza or pasta. Pretty much anything you want, you can find online or a decent health food store. That said, I encourage you to use this an opportunity to step up your food game. Focus on eating nutrient rich foods and the staples you need to do that are GF flours like coconut, almond and garbonzo. Buy some quinoa, tamari, lentil pasta, and a decent bread (we like Canyon Bakehouse). Please don’t overthink it. You are not dying, starving or never going to eat good food again. Pivot, remember?
The fourth step is to focus on filling up on protein, healthy fat, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables. You would be surprised how much variety is still available to you. There are zillions of bloggers and Pinteresty-type folks dying to have you use their recipes and resources. So, please, take a breath and know that you are not alone. You CAN do this. You might actually discover you WANT to do this.
Finally, you need to know what to do in the case of a cross contamination. On the day you accidentally eat a French fry that was cooked in the same oil as thing with gluten. It’s going to happen. It’s not the end of the world. Activated charcoal and digestive enzymes are going to be your new best friends! Read this blog post about traveling with food allergies to learn more about how to handle cross contamination.
I promise you, if I can do this, anyone can do this. I used to love McDonalds. I love bagels and cream cheese. I love deep dish pizza and really good bread. But you know what I love more? FEELING GOOD. Focus on what you want. It’s the secret sauce, you guys.