Peggy Fitzgerald had heard about the growing number of people switching to gluten-free diets, but she didn’t think she would benefit from eating that way. That all changed when the dry, scaly eczema she’d had for several years started to get worse. A naturopathic doctor recommended that she have a blood test for celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten. Although her results came back negative, her doctor explained that she could still have non-celiac gluten sensitivity and suggested she try avoiding gluten to see if her symptoms improved. Much to Peggy’s amazement, her eczema almost entirely cleared up after a just few months of eating gluten-free. Finally, she understood why so many people consider the gluten-free diet their best medicine. If you’re interested in making the break from gluten, we’ve put together a few basics to help get you started.
- Avoid wheat, rye, triticale, barley, and oats. This means cutting out anything made with refined flour, whole-wheat flour, spelt, kamut, barley, and/or oat flour. It also means avoiding derivatives of gluten-containing grains (such as barley malt) and countless foods—including soy sauce, beer, meat substitutes, and many sauces, broths, and seasonings —that contain those ingredients. In fact, gluten is hidden in so many foods that Danna Korn’s Living Gluten-Free for Dummies recommends, “When in doubt, leave it out.”
- Emphasize naturally gluten-free whole foods. Base your diet on fresh vegetables and fruits, and unprocessed meats. Stocking up on these foods and learning simple ways to create meals with them are the best ways to avoid gluten and support optimum health.
- Be careful with gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours. A study published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 9 out of 22 inherently gluten-free products—such as corn and millet—contained significant levels of gluten. Also, 32 percent of naturally gluten-free grains and flours contained gluten. To protect yourself, look for products that are processed in a dedicated gluten-free facility and batch-tested for gluten.
- Don’t eat “gluten-free” packaged goods with abandon. Virtually all foods labeled “gluten-free” aren’t completely “free” of gluten: Most adhere to the FDA’s proposed guideline of less than 20 ppm gluten. But even that small amount can cause reactions in some people. To err on the side of caution, limit your consumption of gluten-free packaged foods, and look for products certified by organizations such as the Celiac Sprue Association, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Quality Assurance International, or the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).
- Use convenient, nutritious gluten-free substitutes. Replace refined flour-based pasta with brown rice pasta or lower-carbohydrate, naturally gluten-free alternatives, such as spaghetti squash or kelp noodles.
Hot Gluten-Free Muesli*
Here’s a quick, nutritious, gluten-free alternative to hot muesli cereal. Serve with organic turkey sausage to make a nutrient-packed brunch that’s perfect for cool autumn mornings.
6 Tbs. Perky’s Crunchy Flax Cereal
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk, divided
4 Tbs. chopped pecans
2 Tbs. raw pumpkin seeds
½ medium organic apple, chopped
¼-½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. organic raisins (optional)
2 tsp. unsweetened dried shredded coconut
- Pour cereal into small saucepan. Add ½ cup coconut milk, pecans, and pumpkin seeds. Stir until ingredients are well mixed and cereal is no longer dry. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 5—6 minutes, until cereal has softened and mixture is hot and has stiff muesli texture.
- Remove from heat, and stir in remaining coconut milk, apple, cinnamon, and raisins, if using. Spoon into two bowls, top with shredded coconut, and serve.
*Adapted from Melissa’s Quick High-Fiber Muesli recipe in Gluten Free Throughout the Year by Melissa Diane Smith. Recipe reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2012.
PER SERVING: 413 cal; 8g pro; 35g total fat (19g sat fat); 23g carb; 0mg chol; 43mg sod; 6g fiber; 6g sugar
Melissa Diane Smith, a holistic nutritionist who specializes in personalizing the gluten-free diet, offers long-distance telephone counseling and coaching services to clients internationally. She is the author of Going Against the Grain and Gluten Free Throughout the Year: A Two-Year, Month-to-Month Guide for Healthy Eating. To learn about her online “Going Against the Grain Group” or her free newsletter, visit againstthegrainnutrition.com. For information about her books, long-distance consultations, nutrition coaching programs, or speaking, visit melissadianesmith.com.
Copyright ©2012 Melissa Diane Smith. This article and recipe may not be reprinted on other sites without written approval and permission from the author. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.