tips & info to start your gluten-free journey
There are celiac and gluten intolerant people. I am gluten intolerant/sensitive as far as I know (I have a sneaky suspicion I am celiac but I have way too bad of a reaction to gluten to even think about reintroducing it to get tested).
I knew of my intolerance (from naturopath testing) years before I fully committed to keeping gluten out of my life. I thought a little bit here and a little bit there was okay because I was JUST intolerant-not celiac.
It was not okay. A little bit impacted me A LOT. The symptoms would come days later, they would affect my moods too. The symptoms progressed and changed day-by-day so it was hard to pinpoint it to being from gluten. It took actually cutting it out and re-introducing it to figure it out.
However, if you aren’t gluten intolerant, or celiac you don’t need to eat gluten-free! The choice is up to you.
Just make sure when you eat gluten containing products they are from healthier unrefined sources. For example, choose whole wheat bread, or sourdough over white bread, whole wheat pasta over white pasta – etc. Stay away from packaged junk food containing gluten ingredients. That ain’t good for anyone.
I only actually felt the difference once I cut it out completely so if you know you are gluten intolerant make the commitment to yourself. Your life will improve drastically! The pizza, cookies and pieces of cake will get easier to say ‘no’ to as time goes on- plus there are so many gluten-free alternatives (that actually taste good) now-a-days!
what exactly is gluten?
‘Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye.’
– Celiac Disease Foundation
When celiacs ingest gluten the body sends out an immune response- the body sees gluten as a foreign invader and all hell breaks loose as the body starts to attack itself and a myriad of unwelcomed symptoms overtake the body. Untreated celiacs disease can cause long term damage to the body.
When gluten intolerant/sensitive people ingest gluten they can get many similar symptoms but it doesn’t elicit an immune response and cause long term damage to the small intestine like with celiacs disease.
what does an intolerance feel like?
These symptoms include but are not limited to:
- abdominal pain
- symptoms mimicking irritable bowel syndrome
- acid reflux
- mouth ulcers
Individuals may have non-intestinal symptoms such as feeling generally unwell
- foggy mind
- joint pains
- skin rash
-Canadian Celiac Association
creepy little symptoms
I noticed that for me, not all the symptoms arise at once. It starts with gastrointestinal pain, then progresses to extreme bloating and gas, then diarrhea one day, then constipation the next. From the day I first eat gluten it feels like my intestines have been sun burnt to a crisp inside and everything I eat onward from that day hurts when it’s digesting and leaves me super gassy and uncomfortable. It also makes me super irritable, brain foggy, and it becomes hard to sleep and I get really sad. I honestly once thought I woke up with depression. It happened the day after I ate a burger bun after having 3 months totally gluten-free. It took me a few days to realize this is what it was from. The depressive feeling went away after a week or so as my gut started to heal. The symptoms start the first night I eat it and get worse for a few days before they start to improve. The thing is I only noticed how massively gluten had been affecting me when I cut it out and reintroduced it months later (and one or two more times in the last few years on accident). The latent way the symptoms develop make it hard to pin-point it to gluten so it’s best to cut it out for month or so and then eat it and see if your body can handle it- or if it makes you feel shitty.
Because I had finally learned what it felt like to feel good (thanks to this gluten-free/plant-based combo) I could isolate the symptoms but before I was always bloated, constipated, tired, brain foggy and irritable from having little bits of gluten all the time. I was so used to feeling shitty for so many years that I didn’t realize how much it affected me. Feeling shitty was my normal.
benefits of gluten-free
Gluten intolerant people vary. Some have very few symptoms, some may have a lot. The biggest benefits are the relief of these symptoms that have been consuming your life so much you forget that they are even symptoms.
My brain fog, chronic fatigue, abdominal bloating, constipation and diarrhea REDUCED substantially when we went gluten-free and our energy levels and mood improved! These same symptoms disappeared entirely and our energy got even better once we also combined it with a plant-based diet.
I always used to seem constantly stoned, or out of it, losing my keys, wallet, basically, anything not attached to me, hitting my head on things all the time, lacking spatial awareness, falling asleep everywhere, and not remembering a thing. I literally used to tweet about every time I hit my head – it was that often. That chronic brain fog was real-time.
how do I go gluten-free?
To get started try to memorize these terms, print out my going gluten free list (below) or save the picture to your phone for quick reference .
Gluten is found in the following:
Kamut (khorasan wheat)
Oats (unless certified gluten free)
Derivatives of Barely:
- Malt Extract
- Malt Syrup
- Malt Vinegar
read every label
The key is to read literally everything. If any of the words from the list above are in the ingredient list don’t eat it. Often it will be labeled as ‘___ flour’ or ‘____ protein’- like this, for example: ‘wheat‘ flour’ or ‘wheat protein” .
Apart from being in more obvious things like breads, pastas, cookies, and cakes gluten will sneak into the most surprising things. Check condiments, (I found wheat in mustard in Portugal and was so happy I checked cause in Canada mustard usually does not have wheat in it), sauces, spices, broths, soy-sauce, candies, chocolate bars, licorice, sushi rice, etc. Also check your care products, like lotions, hair products and skin products.
Look for the words ‘Gluten-Free’ on the package or some variation of a gluten free logo on packaged products. If there is no symbol or words indicating it’s gluten-free it can still be gluten-free, just read through the ingredients and check that none of the things listed above are in it! Please note a lot of plant-based meat alternatives contain gluten so make sure to get your reading in. Be super mindful that lots of soy sauce contains wheat as well- so watch out for soy-sauce in products.
Tempura is another sneaky thing people forget about. Especially when it’s in sushi. Watch out for breading on fries/yam fries and in dips and sauces when you’re eating out. Sometimes there is even wheat in some brands of vegetable broths. SERIOUSLY, CHECK EVERYTHING!
All fruits, veggies and beans are naturally gluten-free. When it comes to grains, make sure you are double checking that they are gluten-free. Consult the list above or do a quick little google search.
what can I eat?
Main gluten-free staples for us are:
gluten-free bread (from time to time but usually it has a lot of things added to it so we don’t keep it on regular rotation)
+ tons of fruits, veggies, legumes, and nuts & seeds
There are tons of gluten-free products on the market now too! So if you’re looking for some little goodies check in your natural food section at your local grocery store. Remember to look for the GF symbol and then check ingredients if it doesn’t have it.
Please note that a lot of gluten-free products will contain egg or dairy so if you’ve made the full swap to plant-based be mindful of this when reading the label or out at a restaurant.
eating out gluten-free
Luckily it’s getting easier than ever to eat out! Most menus will have one or two gluten-free options. Start getting used to asking your server for gluten-free options and even if you order something that says it’s gluten free tell them you are gluten intolerant because sometimes the menus can be confusing. It’s time to try new restaurants to find ones that cater to your dietary needs! You might find a new favourite spot you never would have walked into before !
I have often seen where you have to actually ask for the ‘gluten-free option’ but it is unclear on the menu. I always double check with the server when I order that i’m getting the gluten free version and I ask again when they put my meal down confirm with the server that your meal is forsure gluten-free. I’ve been gluten-free for 3 years and to this day people still accidentally put the glutinous thing on my plate despite me asking! Remember to speak up, you’re a paying customer and them double checking is way better than you spending two weeks or more healing from a glutening.
All in all going gluten-free can be intimidating at first. Eventually checking ingredients, ordering gluten-free and bringing your own dishes will become second nature and you won’t even have to think about it- it’ll become normal to you. Let your friends and family know you are on a quest to feel good and going gluten-free is doing that for you! If you eat some gluten, just listen to your body, notice what symptoms develop and use that for inspiration to not eat the gluten next time.
YOU GOT THIS – let’s make gluten-free living your new norm !
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I am not a doctor or dietitian. The information on here is based on what worked for me. There is a lot of research out there on plant-based diets and the positive impact this diet has on health which really made me comfortable with my plant- based lifestyle choice! If you want to dive more into the science/evidence side of things check out our resources section. Any statements made on these platforms are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease or illness. Please consult with your medical practitioner before making any changes to your current diet and lifestyle.