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Living With Gluten Intolerance

A woman pushes away bread because of her intolerance to gluten

Having a gluten intolerance is miserable; you may have a severe stomach ache, diarrhea or other symptoms. Maybe you knew that something just wasn’t right, and you took a test at home.

Receiving the news that you are gluten intolerant isn’t always easy; being sensitive to any food usually means eliminating that food so that symptoms don’t return. Limiting our diet can be frustrating and confusing. Gluten, after all, is in so many foods. How do you eat gluten-free?

It’s ok to be upset, worried or angry about your diagnosis, but you need to work through those feelings. And, ultimately, you need to take steps to feel better. For individuals with gluten intolerance, feeling better is all about eliminating gluten.

But what is gluten? Live Science explains that gluten “is a mixture of hundreds of distinct proteins within the same family” and that these proteins enable dough to rise and have a springy texture.  

To eliminate the dietary culprit that’s making you miserable, you need to know what common foods contain gluten. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is found in three major grains: wheat, barley and rye.  

You’ll find gluten in cereals, bread, beer (because barley and rye), and pastas, but the Celiac Disease Foundation also notes that you’ll find gluten (from common grains ) in soups, salad dressing and even food coloring!

Breads surround the words “Gluten Free” written in flour

While gluten may be found in a lot of foods, there are many foods that don’t have gluten at all! When you’re living gluten-free, here’s what you can eat:

1.   Anything labeled gluten free!

Gluten intolerance is so common that foods are often labeled as ‘gluten free’ to take the guesswork out of the selection. You’ll find the label on soups, breads, cereals , pastas and other foods.

Many grocery stores have a gluten-free aisle for those with GI. This often includes gluten-free breads, cereals and other baked goods.

2.   Oats

The Celiac Disease Foundation notes that those with GI may be able to eat oats…with a bit of caution. You need to look for a Gluten-free label on oats. Why? Like many foods, oats could be stored in a facility where the oats come into contact with other grains and this could cause cross-contamination…making those oats not gluten-free.

3.   Fruits & Veggies

Eat all the fruits and veggies your heart desires! Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. Make sure to wash them first, just in case they came into contact with any grains. Although, you should always wash your fruits and veggies!

4.   Meat

All meat is gluten free. But beware of any breaded meats and poultry. Before stocking up on chicken nuggets, read the ingredients list. Don’t see a gluten-free label? Don’t put it in the cart. There are many gluten-free breaded nuggets to feed your craving, though!

5.   Dairy

Unless you also have a lactose intolerance, dairy is safe. When buying yogurt, look for brands that are gluten-free and dye free…that way you don’t have to question it.

6.   Other grains and starches

The Celiac Disease Foundation lists rice, potatoes, beans, quinoa and soy as safe for a gluten-free diet. Quinoa also makes a great hot cereal…add butter or syrup (just make sure it’s gluten-free!).

What about Baked Goods?

If you loved to bake cakes, cookies, muffins and cookies before you were diagnosed, you can still indulge in those treats. However, you will need to make a few changes. Opt for rice flour or a nut-flour for a gluten-free treat

Remember to read the labels of all ingredients, too! Some ingredients could be processed in a facility with wheat or other gluten-laden grains. If you see a note stating that any ingredient may have wheat or was in a facility with an offending grain, don’t buy it! Of course, purchasing products bearing the gluten-free label is the best option!

The Challenges of Restaurants

Living with gluten free is a bit more bearable when you cook at home, because you can be assured that everything you purchase is gluten free. When you eat at a restaurant, though, you may have concerns.

Many restaurants offer gluten-free options. Before dining out, go online and review the menu (if possible), or call ahead to find out if the restaurant serves gluten free options.

Gluten Intolerance Group recommends arriving at the restaurant at an off-peak time so that you can discuss your needs and have a bit more help from staff. The group also recommends that you should explain your dietary restrictions…just keep it short and to the point.

Want a few suggestions for gluten-free dining options? Very Well Fit reports that those with a gluten intolerance can find gluten-free options at many restaurants, including:

  • Chick-fil-A
  • Wendy’s
  • Arby’s
  • Boston Market
  • Old Spaghetti Factory
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • P.F. Chang’s

Some of these restaurants may offer gluten free fries or buns, while others may offer more extensive gluten-free entrees or options.

Receiving a gluten intolerance diagnosis may be frustrating, and you may be concerned about how to eliminate gluten from your diet. While, yes, gluten is in many foods—especially breads and cereals—there are many, many options to please your palate.

Living a gluten-free lifestyle is actually incredibly common today, and some individuals do so voluntarily even if they don’t suffer from Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance.

An article on Forbes reported that “some 3.1 million people across the United States follow a gluten-free diet. 72 percent of them are classified as “PWAGs” – people without celiac disease avoiding gluten.”

When shopping at the grocery store, always look for a gluten-free label (or the gluten-free aisle!) so you know that a product is safe for you. Choose alternative grains and flours for cooking and stick to foods that are naturally gluten free like meats, veggies, nuts, fruits and dairy. 

However, some naturally gluten-free foods may still contain gluten if they come into contact with gluten-laden grains; when in doubt, always look for a gluten-free label. When dining out, research your options and talk to the staff.

In the beginning, your new diet may seem restrictive and you may feel frustrated. In time, though, you and your body will adjust to the new normal. Reading labels will become engrained, and you’ll become a master at hunting down gluten-free foods. The best part? Your new lifestyle will hopefully mean an end to any discomfort and pain.

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