Eating gluten free has become a natural way of life for me. I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 18, which was incredibly difficult for a young girl about to go into college, but eliminating gluten from my diet really did save my life. 

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Essentially, when gluten hits the small intestines of someone with celiac, it kills all of the villi, which then makes it really difficult to absorb any nutrients until those villi grow back. Since those villi are mainly responsible for absorbing all of your nutrients, the side effects from celiac disease vary greatly from person to person. I suffered from severe stomach aches, exhaustion, was very low in iron, had muscle cramping, bone pain and super foggy brain. Some other symptoms of celiac include skin reactions like eczema or acne, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, congestion, anxiety, moodiness or headaches and migraines. So yeah, it's not fun. 

Luckily for all of us celiacs, the gluten free world has exploded over the past few years. Most grocery stores carry a wide variety of gluten free options, restaurants have gluten free menus available and testing for gluten intolerance has become more common place. All of that said, a celiac disease diagnosis can be extremely overwhelming and without the right support, many people will continue to experience symptoms. So, for all of you celiacs out there, or those of you just trying to avoid gluten in general (which I highly advise for nearly everyone), here's your get started guide to avoiding gluten. 

1. Learn What Gluten Really Is : Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley but is also hidden everywhere in our food. It's not just in bread, pasta and cookies, it's also present in soy sauce, candy, drinks and even some meats. Use this list of food items as your guide to avoiding gluten. 

Foods/Products that May Contain Gluten : 

Beers, ales, lagers, breading and coating mixes, brown rice syrup, communion wafers, croutons, dressings, drugs & over the counter medications, energy bars, flour and cereal products, herbal supplements, imitation bacon, imitation seafood, marinades, nutritional supplements, pastas, processed luncheon meats, sauces & gravies, self-basting poultry, soy sauce or soy sauce solids, soup bases, stuffings, thickeners, vitamins and minerals. 

2. Always Ask Your Waiter Questions : Eating out can be really difficult as a celiac. Although there are so many more restaurants offering gluten free options nowadays, it's still really daunting to order out and not know exactly what you're getting. As a result, you have to be very vocal with your waiter. I almost always check out the menu online before I eat out and will even call beforehand to let the restaurant know about my allergy. I'll ask about items that I can order and if any modifications can be made. If I don't speak with the restaurant beforehand, then I'm very clear with the waiter when I order that I am a celiac. Do not be afraid to ask a ton of questions and make 100% sure that your food is free from gluten. The #1 thing that waiters miss when it comes to gluten contamination and food are sauces. Ask what's in the sauce and even ask for it on the side just to be sure. 

3. If You're in Doubt, Keep it Simple : Celiac disease is serious and will definitely take some adjusting to, but it's really no fun to feel crappy all of the time. So, if you're out to eat and can't get a clear answer on what's in your food, choose something else and go really bare. Try steamed veggies and add olive oil, go with sauces on the side or, suggest a different restaurant where you know that your needs can be met. If you're going to a cocktail or dinner party, offer to bring your own appetizer and be sure to have a big snack before you go. This way, if there isn't anything there for you to eat, you're not starving. 

4. Wheat free is not Gluten Free : This is incredibly important to remember! Products that are labeled wheat free and not necessarily gluten free. They may contain spelt, rye or barley ingredients which are not gluten free. 

5. Stock Your Kitchen : Most whole foods are naturally gluten free so take this opportunity to stock your pantry with simple, nutritious, unprocessed foods. Just because something says it's gluten free doesn't mean it's actually healthy! When you're healing from celiac disease it's even more important that you give your body as much nutrition as possible. Stock up on lots of green leafy vegetables, eggs, avocados, nuts, organic meats, kombucha, coconut oil, grass fed butter, sweet potatoes, squashes and other whole foods. 

6. Get Support : A celiac disease diagnosis is really daunting and scary for most people. It's important that you find support, connect with a like-minded community and team up with a professional to make sure that you can heal your body and learn how to live gluten free and happy! As a celiac gal myself, one of the focuses of my practice is helping newly diagnosed celiacs adjust to their GF lifestyle. If you're looking for support you can get in touch with me {here} 

7. Restaurants with Gluten Free Menus : Yes! There are so many big restaurants offering gluten free options on their menus. {HERE} is a list of chain restaurants that offer gluten free options. If you live in the Bay Area, then I highly recommend that you visit Mariposa Bakery in Berkeley and San Francisco as well as Mission Heirloom Cafe. Both all completely gluten free and rival the best bakeries around. Seriously! 

If you have questions, are newly diagnosed with celiac disease or know someone with celiac please post your questions below or share this post with your fellow gluten free peeps!

 

References : Gluten Free and More

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