How to go Gluten-Free – Part 2

Please share:

This is Part 2 of a two-part blog. Part 1 discussed the many affects of gluten on the body and why you may want to eliminate gluten from your diet. If you are ready to eat gluten-free, this article will show you how, including suggested steps to take and alternate food options. It will also explain what to consider when eating out, selecting body products, and even purchasing vitamins and medications.

Two key things to remember before we get started:

ONE – Just because a product says “gluten-free,” does not mean it is good for you. To make up for the lack of gluten, which usually provides the fluffiness and texture of a baked good, many additives are typically used, including genetically modified (or GMO)  and other cross-reactive ingredients. More sweeteners are often added as well. As you remove gluten from your diet, you want to make sure you are replacing it with good nutritious options, not more processed foods.

TWO – To really get the benefit of eating gluten-free you need to be 100% committed. If you remember from Part 1, eating gluten just once will cause your body to make the antigliadin (or other protein) antibodies all over again and it takes a minimum of 3 to 6 months to get rid of them once more. This includes exposure to hidden gluten, cross-contaminated foods, body products, etc.

Start with Baby Steps
Going gluten-free does not need to be difficult. Admittedly, it can seem overwhelming at first, but if you take a few steps at a time you will be there before you know it. Before eliminating all the gluten (and related foods) in your home, make sure you have alternates in hand. In many cases, if you are already cooking primarily from scratch, it is a mater of knowing what to substitute for ingredients that you are already using. Below are a few examples. More ideas and meal suggestions are described later.

  • Replace standard or whole wheat pasta with brown rice pasta.
  • Replace white flour or whole wheat flour with rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, and quinoa flour.
  • Replace bread crumbs in recipes with almond meal.
  • Replace breakfast cereals with prepared eggs and smoothies.
  • Replace processed snack foods with vegetables and fruits.
  • Replace milk with milk alternatives such as almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk.

Before we go any further, let’s review the gluten-containing grains. As explained in Part 1, all grains contain gluten; some glutens are just more difficult to digest than others. There are also a few other things to consider as you start eliminating foods. How much you will want to eliminate will depend on the status of your health and how far you want to take the healing process.

  • Gluten – Grains that contain wheat-like gluten include wheat, barley (including malt), rye, spelt, durum, semolina, kamut, einkorn, brewer’s yeast, bulgur, couscous, and most commercial oats. Grains (or seeds) considered safe when eating gluten-free are rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth.
  • Soy – The protein in soy is broken down in the digestive system by the same enzyme as gluten so it should also be eliminated.
  • GMOs – One of the main pesticides, glyphosate (Roundup) used on genetically modified (GM) plants can mimic gluten sensitivity so all GM foods should be removed from the diet as well. Corn and soy typically contain the Bt-toxin as well. (See previous blog post on GMOs.) Many gluten-free products use corn or soy flour as a substitute for wheat. Soy, corn and canola oils are also often used. If a product does contain one of these products or other GM foods, such as cotton seed oil, sugar beets, or alfalfa, be sure you are buying organic, which should be GMO-free. Even better, make sure the package has a “NON-GMO Project” verified label. (You can find a list of non-GMO verified products here.)
  • Dairy – Casein, the protein in dairy, is broken down in the gut by the same enzyme as gluten. So, if your digestive system is already compromised it would be beneficial to eliminate dairy too.
  • Oats – For those extremely sensitive to gluten, oats are often a problem. Oats do contain gluten but it is not the same as wheat gluten. However, oats are often processed in a wheat processing facility so they can easily become cross-contaminated. Groats, oats in its most natural state, should be free of wheat gluten. “Gluten-free” oats are also available. (If you do use oats, the key is to soak them overnight. More about that later.)

Where Gluten is Hiding
Most of the gluten-related grains and other suspect foods listed above are easy to spot when reading labels. However, wheat can be a little trickier. Derivatives of wheat are used in a number of foods and may be more difficult to find on a label. Gluten-containing foods to avoid are:

  • Condiments, dressings, and sauces – Many condiments are thickened with gluten containing flours and grains and some use grain-based vinegar as a base. Examples include salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, gravies, bouillon, miso, and soy sauce.
  • Seasonings – Natural and artificial flavors, smoke flavors, natural and artificial colors, and caramel color and flavoring can all contain gluten.
  • Marinated meats – The marinade is typically wheat-based.
  • Turkeys – Whole turkeys are often injected with a vegetable broth that contains wheat.
  • Processed meats – Processed meats like beef jerky, hot dogs, sausages, bologna, pepperoni, and salami often have wheat additives, not to mention many other preservatives like nitrates and nitrites.
  • Conventional meats, fish and eggs – Most store bought meats, farm-raised fish, and eggs are from animals fed a grain-based diet, full of GMOs.
  • Snacks – Some manufacturers dust their potato chips or fries with flour during processing and it will not be listed on the label. Dry roasted nuts may also contain wheat.
  • Candies and chocolate – Many are sweetened with barley malt, corn syrup, etc. Even chewing gum can contain gluten-related ingredients.
  • Additives and thickeners – Other typical additives that typically contain gluten include MSG, starches, vegetable proteins, vegetable gum, extenders and binders, maltodextrin, dextrin, and maltose. Many canned soups and creamed vegetables contain these.
  • Processed cheese – Cheese sprays and other processed dairy, including non-dairy milk creamers, can contain wheat.
  • Herbal teas – Some teas may have barley or barley malt added.
  • Beer and alcohol – Most beers are made with barley which is derived from wheat. (There are a few beers that advertise they are gluten-free.) Most alcohols are grain based, and although the grain is distilled, it can still cause problems. (Drinking beer and alcohol can also slow down the healing process because of the extra stress it puts on the liver.)
  • Sprouted breads and grains – It is believed that the process of sprouting a grain, including wheat, changes the composition of the gluten. However, I have found that sprouted breads can still affect gluten-sensitive people.

If you are unsure about a product or want to confirm that all the ingredients are truly listed on the label, you can usually call or email the manufacture to get more details.

Food and Meal Suggestions
When it comes to preparing meals that are gluten-free, it is typically best to cook from scratch. This may sound daunting for some but once you get in the habit of doing this, you learn short cuts. For example, I often make larger batches of certain meals so that we can either have leftovers the next day or I put the leftovers in the freezer for a quick meal on another day. This works for everything from pancakes to cooked meats and soups. It is not unusual for me to create a big dinner salad with lettuce and left over meat or stir fry from the night before – just add some other cut veggies, nuts or seeds, etc.  (Click here for an available Freezer Cooking Guide e-book.)

Some basic meal suggestions are shown below with links to products I trust and currently use with my family. Use these suggestions to create your own meal plan. Begin with a week of meals and snacks and you will start getting the hang of it. These suggestions are gluten-free, GMO-free, dairy-free, corn-free, and soy-free. Use good quality meets and eggs and organic whenever possible.

Breakfast –

  • Farm/organic boiled eggs, scrambled eggs or omelet with veggies (without milk)
  • Homemade meat patty (using pastured, farm-raised, organic meat)
  • Organic turkey bacon (without nitrates or nitrites)
  • Organic fruit
  • Homemade non-dairy milks for smoothies – look for “Dairy Substitutes” products and recipes here
  • Homemade smoothie with fruit (banana/blueberries/mango), green leafy veggie (spinach or kale), avocado, sweetener (soaked dates or honey), liquid (water or non-diary milk) – play with measurements for favorite flavor. Add soaked chia seeds for more calcium or a raw egg for protein. Add some water kefir or kombucha for good source of natural probiotics.
  • Gluten-free waffles or pancakes – here is a good tasting mix and be sure to use the darker grade  maple syrup (what used to be called Grade B), because darker contains more minerals than the original Grade A.
  • Gluten-free toast like this one which is good if double toasted and used open faced with nut butter or a fried egg on top
  • Homemade gluten-free muffins (store bought are not very nutritious and can have questionable ingredients) – see “Baking Suggestions” below
  • Homemade coconut yogurt (since store bought is often full of additives) – one recipe can be found here
  • Some can tolerate gluten-free oatmeal but only use if soaked overnight before cooking in the morning, since soaking helps to break down the phytic acid for easier digestion

Lunch/Dinner –

  • Grass-fed/pastured meats such as beef, buffalo/bison, lamb, etc., you can find good local sources here
  • Burgers made from ground grass-fed pastured meats served on lettuce or you can use with homemade Grain-Free Sandwich Rolls
  • Pastured/GMO-free feed poultry such as roast chicken, turkey legs, etc.
  • Homemade chicken nuggets using good quality chicken and almond meal instead of bread crumbs
  • Brown rice or quinoa cooked in homemade bone broth (using bones left over from roasted chicken and other quality meats), see links to “Bone Broth” recipes and videos on how to make here
  • Homemade soups and stews, look for “Soups and Stews” recipes in the blog posts
  • Green salads with multiple vegetables, avocado, nuts/seeds, etc., add ground flax seed for extra texture (no croutons) and use a non-grain based vinegar (like apple cider vinegar) in the dressing
  • Pasta dish, like spaghetti, using gluten-free brown rice pasta (watch out for quinoa pastas since they typically include corn)
  • Steamed or baked vegetables topped with coconut oil and good quality salt
  • Stir fry using coconut oil, a variety of chopped vegetables, shredded meat, and cooked rice or quinoa
  • Fruit salad using fresh fruit
  • Baked sweet potato
  • Homemade fries from sliced sweet potato and coconut oil with salt
  • Organic lunch meat like chicken breast rolled up with lettuce and tomato or cooked beef hot dog (Sometimes I chop these hot dogs into chunks and add to prepared bean or lentil soup for a quick meal.)

 Snacks –

  • Cut up veggies with hummus
  • Celery sticks or apple slices with nut butter
  • Baked apple with a little honey and cinnamon sprinkled on top
  • Homemade kale chips, using a recipe found here
  • Roasted seaweed snacks (make sure it is not made with canola oil)
  • Rice cakes (preferably brown rice) with nut butter or egg salad
  • Bean chips (without corn) with guacamole or naturally fermented sauerkraut
  • Naturally fermented veggies pickles, carrot sticks, etc.
  • Gluten-free (and corn-free) crackers with nut butter – recipe for some delicious homemade crackers can be found here
  • Frozen popsicle made from smoothies (see above)
  • Homemade vegetable juice
  • Gluten-free, plain potato chips (without flour coating or canola oil)
  • Black olives
  • Handful of nuts (preferably raw nuts soaked and dehydrated, see “Soaking Raw Nuts/Seeds and Dried Legumes” here for more information)
  • Homemade trail mix with pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds, coconut strips, cranberries and raisins
  • Homemade Crispy Snack Pretzels or store bought pretzel sticks

Be sure to replace the gluten-containing foods with healthy alternatives, not a bunch of gluten-free junk foods. Remember, just because something says “gluten-free” does not mean it is good for you. Limit overly processed foods and avoid products with preservatives. You want to supply the body with more nutrition for healing. It will be critical to read ingredient lists and not blindly trust “gluten-free” products. Many of the gluten-free breads, for example, have soy, corn, or canola (all GM-foods) on the list.

Ultimately, you want to work toward eating organic, locally gown veggies and fruits and good quality meats/eggs from animals that are pastured/free-range and not fed or finished with grains.

Baking Suggestions
When I bake gluten-free, I tend to make it as simple as possible. If I have an older recipe that I like, I will substitute the whole wheat flour that I previously used with a gluten-free flour such as rice flour, quinoa flour, garbanzo bean flour, or a combination of more than one. Lately, I have been experimenting with ground millet in place of corn meal in some recipes.

You can also substitute milk with almond milk or rice milk. Other people may add binders such as tapioca starch, potato starch, or guar gum (made from a seed) to help hold the ingredients together better, since gluten-free baked goods tend to be more crumbly. Xanthan gum is another common binder, however, it is typically made with corn and is highly processed. If you want to avoid the binders, making mini-muffins helps to eliminate crumbling issues.

There are other grain-free flour options as well, such as almond flour and coconut flour. Coconut flour is a little trickier to use since it really absorbs the liquid in a recipe. When using these, it is best to use a grain-free recipe that has been proven.

The good news is that gluten-free and dairy-free (and grain-free) recipes are now easy to find. You can find links to multiple recipe blogs under “Gluten-Free Recipes” on the Healing Foods page. Many include cook books as well. However, remember, that not all gluten-free recipes (or cookbooks) are the same. Watch out for recipes that add milk, corn, soy, and other ingredients that cause similar reactions to gluten. In some cases, you can substitute the suspect ingredients with other things.

Food Rotation
As you start including gluten-free food options in your diet, you should also consider how often you are eating the same thing. For example, rice is an easy substitute in gluten-free products. Before you know it, you can be eating rice pasta, cooked rice, rice milk, rice cakes, rice crackers, etc.

It is important to rotate your foods daily so that you have variety. Begin by trying not to eat the same thing two days in a row and work from there. When you include an assortment of gluten-free grains and a good variety of other foods, like vegetables, nuts, meats, fats, and fruits, your body gets a better balance of nutrients. It also prevents your body from becoming reactive to a new food.

What to Do When Eating Out
Eating gluten-free away from home is more difficult. The first thing to consider when eating out is the type of establishment. Although some fast food restaurants are now offering gluten-free items on their menu, the substituted ingredients can still be questionable. If you do find yourself in this situation, it is best to ask for the list of ingredients. For example, if they offer gluten-free bread, ask to see the package. If they offer gluten-free pizza, ask for a list of the ingredients used in the pizza crust. Typically, you will still find GMO ingredients like corn, soy, and canola oil listed.

It is typically better to eat in a nicer restaurant where meals are made from scratch. You can ask specific questions of your server who can talk to the chef if necessary. Certain entries may be able to be modified to be gluten-free. To find a list of restaurants that are more conscious of what it means to be gluten-free, click here.

Some things to consider or ask about include:

  • Ask if they use a separate surface to prepare their gluten-free meals so there is no cross-contamination.
  • Certain thickeners used in salad dressings and marinades can include gluten.
  • Flour is often used as a base for soups and sauces and this flour can contain gluten. Soy sauces also typically contain gluten.
  • The oils used to fry foods can be used multiple times for breaded and non-breaded items, causing cross-contamination. If eating French fries, ask if they are cooked in a separate fryer and make sure the fries are not dusted with flour.
  • Marinated meat seasonings often contain textured vegetable protein (TVP) which may contain gluten. Some restaurants may also cook meat using a hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) which could contain gluten.
  • If non-dairy products, such as creamer or whipped cream, are used some ingredients may be questionable.
  • Wheat and/or barley is often used to make soy products such as tempeh or seitan, both of which are often used in oriental dishes.
  • Flavored rice and other side dishes like hash browns by contain wheat products.
  • Flour is sometimes added to sushi rice to make it stickier.

You should always confirm your special order is correct when it arrives. And, refuse the bread when offered. Often, one of the safest meals is a large salad, but be sure to eliminate the croutons and the salad dressing. Ask for olive oil and wine or balsamic vinegar instead (since regular vinegar is typically make from corn) or bring your own salad dressing with you.

What to Look for In Other Products
Would you have thought to look for gluten in body products? If you are gluten sensitive, you will want to look at the ingredients in soaps and shampoos, skin lotions, makeup, sunscreens, nail polish, and tooth paste.

Your skin is an extension of your digestive system. The skin is actually considered your largest organ and what you put on your skin gets absorbed directly into your blood stream. Some molecules in body products may be too large to be fully absorbed, but as more products use nanotechnology, molecules are getting smaller, allowing better absorption. A common ingredient is hydrolyzed wheat protein. It is best to look for products that say “gluten-free” on the package. (Something that says “no gluten added” is not good enough.)

If you are taking vitamins and minerals or pharmaceutical drugs you will want to check their ingredients as well. Many include fillers (or excipients) that could contain gluten or derivatives of GM corn. Examples include:

  • Starch or cross linked starch
  • Dextrate
  • Cyclodextrin
  • Dextrin or Dextrimaltose (may be extracted from barley malt)
  • Maltose or Maltodextrin (can be extracted from wheat or corn)
  • Pregelatinized Starch
  • Sodium Starch Glycolate
  • Caramel color

Even certain whole food supplements that contain grasses can be an issue, such as wheat grass and barley grass. These are often found in “green” powders and supplements. Although not technically a grain when still in grass form, these greens can cause problems for some people.

Two other unlikely places to find gluten include the envelops (and stamps) that you lick to seal . . . and playdough. (You can find homemade recipes for playdough on-line. Just make it with rice flour instead.)

And, don’t forget your pets. Commercial pet foods often contain grains and GMO ingredients. Not only are they bad for your pets (many whom are not traditionally grain eaters), but you can be exposed to gluten when handling the pet food.

Cross Reactive Foods
As mentioned earlier, when eliminating gluten it is also important to eliminate soy and dairy/casein (due to similar protein digestion) and GM-foods like corn. The characteristics of these foods make them the most “cross-reactive,” meaning these foods create similar reactions in the intestines (or gut) as gluten.

However, other grains, typically considered gluten-free like millet, rice, and quinoa, can be considered “cross-reactive” in certain people.  What happens is that the body has become so busy attacking the gluten protein that it does not differentiate and starts attacking other proteins as well. The body gets confused and starts making gluten antibodies for proteins other than wheat gluten.

If you are not seeing the result for which you had hoped and you know that you have totally eliminated gluten, dairy, and GM foods, you may want to consider removing all grains for a while. More grain-free products continue to become available and there are many recipes now on-line using coconut flour, almond meal, etc. (Links can be found under “Grain-Free Recipes” on the Healing Foods page.).

For some people who are especially sensitive, there are still more foods that can be considered “cross-reactive.” These cross-reactive foods include dried beans, seeds and seed flours, coffee and coffee beans, and other legumes like peanuts. For those who have multiple health problems and/or food allergies, it may require you to remove some of these other cross-reactive foods from your diets temporarily.

An undetected virus or bacteria can cause similar cross-reactive effects in the body. (Other factors were discussed in Part 1.) This is where working with a holistic practitioner would be beneficial.

Getting Started
Some of you may be ready to jump right in. Others may want to experiment and discover which gluten-free options are best, especially for children, before removing too many existing foods. Remember, however, that certain cravings and food addictions will not dissipate until all sources of gluten and related foods are removed. For children that are especially picky eaters it will be important to remove gluten and dairy/casein from the diet at the same time. (See Part 1.)

Creating a support team around you will also be helpful as you try new foods and recipes. Your spouse or loved one, a friend, or parents with similar-aged children who want to go gluten-free can be very beneficial. Support each other, cook together, have a fermenting party, etc.

It is also a good idea to keep a journal. Record any health problems you hope to correct, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional. Keep records of when you started going gluten-free, GMO-free, casein-free, etc., and what changes occur as you move forward.

If you find that health issues improve for a while and eventually level out, it may be good to see a holistic healthcare provider who can determine if there are other issues that need to be resolved. Certain supplements can help accelerate the healing process. And, if you have been gluten sensitive for a while, you are most likely deficient in certain nutrients. The right practitioner can help you determine which nutrients are needed, as well as determine if specific toxins (environmental, viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic) need to be eliminated for optimal health.

Note: Life Design for Health strives to carry supplements that are gluten-free as well as corn, soy and GMO free. Many are also prepared using biodynamically-grown botanicals.

This article was written by Sharon Harmon, founder of Life Design for Health. She has a passion for helping people find their way back to optimum health. Please contact her if you would like to know more. There is a great deal of health-related information in her blog articles and on her website.

Please share: