New to the Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Because that’s what it is – a lifestyle, not a diet.
If you are newly diagnosed and wondering what to do, there are plenty of sites to peruse. But be very careful what you choose to read. There is a lot of misinformation out there, some of it harmful to your health.
First, I want to touch on the idea of “cheating” on a gluten-free diet. If you have Celiac Disease, “cheating” is not allowed! It’s not like woops – a few more calories (like on a weight loss diet), but it is serious business with Celiac Disease. If you “cheat,” you are stimulating your immune system to attack your body. Anyway you look at it, that’s bad. And if you do have Celiac Disease or are just gluten-intolerant or sensitive, and people see you eat gluten-free sometimes and sometimes you eat some gluten, then what you are doing is ruining all the work that those of us who are gluten-free for real are doing to educate people. This is the main reason that other people think “you can have a little.” They’ve seen someone else who is “gluten-free” do it. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. (Now I’ll remove myself from my soapbox and get back to the task at hand). You can’t pick the toppings off a gluten cracker, or take the fillings out of a gluten sandwich. Zero gluten = that is our goal.
GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) has some really wonderful health information available. They work hard to keep up with all the latest information so as to keep us safe. GIG is also the organization that brings us the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program, and some gluten-free children’s camps. If you join GIG, your membership fees are going to fund these wonderful programs.
Three reference books that I suggest are Healthier without Wheat: A new understanding of wheat allergies, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten intolerance by Dr. Stephen Wangen, Living Gluten-Free for Dummies by Danna Korn and Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Dr. Peter Green and Rory Jones. Dr. Wangen’s book discusses not just celiac disease, but various forms of gluten intolerance, and how they, too can affect your life (read the review). Danna Korn really explains the gluten-free diet in-depth, and the various aspects of how it will affect your life. Dr. Peter Green explains so much about the medical side of life, including complications and other autoimmune diseases associated with Celiac Disease.
There are so many gluten-free cookbooks available today that most people don’t know where to start (but that’s a good thing, too). I have been selling (or helping sell) the books for my support group for a long time. We carry a good variety of cookbooks, but if you’ve done a search on Amazon.com for gluten-free cookbooks, you can see that there is no way we could carry them all. Some of the books we phase out because they do not sell well.
Some of the books always sell. One of those books is Roben Ryberg’s You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free. Not only is it a great collection of recipes, but it is also highly useful to people with multiple intolerances (yes, even to corn). It has some of the best recipes I have tried. I tested recipes for her and have made about 150 or so of the 500+ recipes in this book, so I know what I’m talking about. :) Plus, the recipes are easy to follow and don’t require a lot of crazy ingredients or a whole bunch of flours. Roben has a new cookbook coming out soon.
Some of my other favorite cookbook authors include the awesomely cute Canadian duo Donna Washburn and Heather Butt. They currently have a number of cookbooks on the market.
Removing the gluten from your kitchen is extremely important. Different levels of this work for different families. When I was first diagnosed, I was in a rather strange position – living with my parents as a young adult. I would often get glutened because someone would touch communal food with gluten hands. One evening, after I had been gluten-free for a few months, someone set the spoon from the corn on the counter, right on top of a few crumbs, then put it back in the corn. I totally freaked out! That’s when someone said, “I’ll be so grateful when you have a completely gluten-free house.” It is a lot of work to keep the crumbs cleaned up all the time, and keep all the surfaces gluten-free.
Here are some variations that work for different families:
- Completely Gluten-Free House
- Mostly Gluten-Free, except for gluten bread (and a few items) and a toaster somewhere else (i.e. basement or garage)
- Half and Half (but no gluten baking). This generally requires 2 sets of meals to be made, different pans and utensils (and colanders and cutting boards), different condiment jars. This is really hard on the main cook (and can be on everyone else, too). Honestly, it’s not worth it.
- Gluten Everything Allowed. This can be hazardous to your health. Flour gets in the air, and can stay up to 2 days. It floats down and lands on whatever it darn well pleases. It is nearly impossible to not ingest gluten when you are constantly in this situation.
A very good resource for removing gluten from your kitchen (or your area of the kitchen), finding gluten-free mainstream products, lots of recipes, and a place to ask questions (or the occasional complaint) is the On-line Celiac Support Group at Delphi Forums. Occasionally, you might get false information (just like from almost any other source), but there are lots of people reading who will quickly correct an error in someone’s answer.
So, sit back, take a deep breath, drink some 100% juice, and keep reading. In no time, you’ll be a pro at the gluten-free diet, and people will be asking YOU for information and recipes.