Excluding gluten from my diet has been one of the best lifestyle decisions I have ever made. I say this with all the confidence and joy that I have. It truly has given me a new lease on life. Instead of feeling sluggish and slow at many points in my day, I feel sprightly and energetic. My mind is clear and my emotions are stable. I am less irritable with my children and am more available to them and my husband mentally and emotionally. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I also KNOW that my MS symptoms have improved and that my gut is healthier.
If you have read part one of this topic,' Gluten's Role in Brain Inflammation and MS Symptoms', You will know the scientific facts about what gluten can do to your body. This sticky protein actually causes an auto-mimmune response. As MS'ers this is something we avoid at all costs. Gluten is inflammatory for the body and when too many inflammatory foods are eaten, disease can start to develop. Gluten is also addictive, causes weight gain and has even been linked with pre-diabetes. The scary thing is that even, if you don't have a gluten sensitivity now, the chances of you developing one over the years is quite high.
Gluten has a sneaky way of making its way into nooks and crannies it shouldn't and this is when the body starts saying, enough is enough. Celiac disease now affects 1 in every 133 people in the western world. There has also been a 400 fold increase in CD in the last 50 years as we have become a 'wheat focused' society. The gluten sensitivity statistics are far higher with some estimates being 1 in 2 people are affected.
I'm not going to rehash all that was said in the previous post because this article is all about helping you get rid of gluten. It is no easy task to stop buying and eating staple foods that you have always had in your house. These foods have been your friends and saying goodbye to them is hard. However, when you start to realise how good you feel when you are not eating them then you will stop missing them very quickly and you will never be tempted to take another bite. Here is a brief reminder of which foods contain gluten and which don't.
Foods Containing Gluten
- Wheat Bread/Flour
- Wholewheat Bread/Flour
- Spelt Bread
- Durum Wheat
- Graham Flour
- Cookies & Biscuits
- Some Dressings
- Some Sauces
- Soy sauce
This is quite a long list and you must be thinking, how am I supposed to give up all of these? Well, the good news is that pretty much all of these foods has a gluten-free alternative. You do, however, still need to be careful that the product is free from other nasties such as sugar and bad fats. Just because it is gluten-free, it's not necessarily healthy.
When you are new to the gluten-free diet, the simplest and healthiest approach is to start with naturally gluten-free foods. This will help to replenish any lost nutrients in your body. The wonderful thing about giving up gluten is that you are introduced to a whole new world of delicious food possibilities. You have been stuck in the same old way of eating your whole life and you now have a great excuse to spread your wings and discover foods you didn't even know existed. Here is a list of these gluten-free foods (soya products, legumes, dairy & meat have been excluded from this list) :
Cereals & Grains:
- rice flour
- potato starch
- modified starch
- potato flour
- gram flour
- polenta (cornmeal)
- urid flour
The Wrong Products
There are so many gluten-free products on offer these days with entire grocery store aisles dedicated to them. Many of them, however, are not exactly what you would call a healthy food. Yes, they do not contain gluten and many of them have also given dairy the boot but they contain other, even more toxic, substances such as preservatives. They are also jam-packed with sugar and bad fats which are just as bad, if not worse than gluten. For example, a typical gluten-free product is a packet of gluten free brownies. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, it is. Here is the list of ingredients:Sugar, Dark Chocolate Chips (21%) (Cocoa Mass, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier: Lecithins), Egg, Rapeseed Oil, Ground Almonds, Rice Flour, Humectant: Glucose Syrup, Water, Acetic Acid; Tapioca Flour, Cocoa Powder (1.5%), Acidity Regulator: Ascorbic Acid; Raising Agents: Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Calcium Phosphate; Preservatives: Calcium Propionate, Potassium Sorbate; Vanilla.
I have highlighted all the ingredients in this product that are going to cause problems in your body and they will probably make you feel just as bad as the gluten does. So, what's the point?
The Right Products
You need to be looking for gluten-free products that are also free from sugar and preservatives. These are the right ones! Most often, these good quality gluten-free foods are found in health stores. They can also be a bit pricey, unfortunately. But wouldn't you rather be eating a slightly more expensive product that is going to leave you feeling good instead of paying less and injecting all those harmful ingredients into your body? There really is no choice when it comes to eating high quality food. I'll give you an example of the ingredients found in a similar pack of gluten-free brownies:Dates, Cashew Butter, Raisins (14%), Raw Cacao (10%), Almonds (8%), Brown Rice Malt, Cacao Butter (4%), Brown Rice Powder, Vanilla Pods, Sea Salt, Green Tea Extract
All of these are fabulously healthy ingredients and there are so many other products out there like this. You don't have to settle for second best. Some of the gluten-free products I currently use are:
- gluten-free pizza bases
- gluten-free bread: Some varieties have a little sugar in them but it's best to find those that don't. Home made bread is still the best!
- gluten-free pancakes
- gluten-free flour
- gluten-free oats
- gluten-free pasta: there are so many different kinds! Rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat. Take your pick!
- gluten-free health bars
Do a bit of shopping around until you find the products that work for you and your family and then stick to them! Also Remember that "wheat-free" does not automatically mean "gluten-free." While a product may not contain wheat, it can still contain rye or barley in some form.
Gluten-Free Meal Ideas
I wanted to give you some ideas for gluten-free meals so that you can start eating gluten-free right away! You can also get some ideas from the meal plans on offer. All the recipes are gluten free and you will have a whole community of women to support you and help you adjust to your new lifestyle. Here we go:
I usually like to keep breakfast pretty light and simple with a raw juice or smoothie mixed with 2 teaspoons of ground flaxseed. However, for those used to eating quite a substantial breakfast, this can be an adjustment so here are some other ideas:
- Gluten-free oats porridge with almond milk & honey (you can also add cinnamon, berries, apple, banana or anything else)
- Chia seed porridge: soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk and in the morning they will be swollen, soft and delicious
- Quinoa porridge: a nice alternative to oats and cooks up just the same. Add in whatever takes your fancy.
- Gluten-free cereal or muesli: this can be found at health shops and is great for a quick and yummy breakfast.
- Gluten-free toast with almond butter
- Gluten-free pancakes
- Rice cakes topped with mashed avocado and tomato.
- Gluten-free sandwich with avocado and salad (Home made gluten free bread is the best)
- Green Salad with buckwheat crackers on the side
- Gluten-free oat cakes & toppings (My newly gluten-free friend just reminded me about them yesterday. Thanks Roberta!)
- Sweet potato salad: steam a sweet potato and add it to a bed of spinach and lettuce leaves. Add in olives, tomatoes, cucumber and any other salad ingredients.
- Mediterranean Rice Dish
- Salmon & Pumpin pasta
- Jacket potato with extra virgin olive oil and salad
- Quinoa with steamed vegetables
- Salmon with soba noodles
- Cauliflower cous cous
Living the Dream
So, if you're serious about living gluten-free then there is no time like the present to begin. I have a put together a few steps to get you started:
- Rid your house of all foods containing gluten. Do a proper clean out of sauces, packets, spreads and the lot! Or, if your family hasn't quite got the revelation yet, put all the 'offending' foods in one cupboard, out of your line of sight.
- Plan out some meals to get you going on your new gluten-free lifestyle. This can include some of the ones above or there are literally millions of good recipes on the internet. This step is important because it can be very overwhelming to step into a health shop and be confronted by so many wonderful products. You don't know where to look first!
- Fun part: Go shopping for all your exciting new ingredients. Experiment with a few new things you find on the shelves but for the most part, stick to the ingredients in your planned meals.
- Even funner part: Make your meals and experiment with your new ingredients. Some of them may take a bit of getting used to and may need to 'grow' on you but give them time to do this. Having said this, there will be meals that you just don't like, at all! At least you tried and you know that you won't eat THAT again.
- Keep Refining & Experimenting: This lifestyle is a process of experimentation and refinement. You will soon find your groove and your favourite staples again. You also don't need to stick to tried and tested recipes. Try out your own combinations. Who knows what you will probably come up with! My best meals have actually been my own creations because I know what I like!
Summing It Up
I realise that this is a scary step to take. Yes, it is a big change and you will find it very difficult to stick to at times. However, when you start noticing the difference in how you feel, you will never look back. You will notice subtle changes at first. More energy and less tiredness are probably the first indicators that something is different. Before long, however, you will realise that quite a few things have changed and that you just feel better overall: physically, psychologically and emotionally. Once your body has been gluten free for a few weeks, you will become highly sensitive to anything containing gluten. This will be another indication of how much your body cannot function effectively in the presence of gluten. Remember that when inflammation levels in the body are low, disease cannot exist. My encouragement to you is give it a go! You have absolutely nothing to lose, except the symptoms you may be experiencing as a result of eating a diet filled to the brim with gluten containing foods.
As always, I really enjoy reading your feedback and connecting with you. So drop me a line when you have a chance!