How to Eliminate Gluten in Six Easy Steps
One of the most frequent comments I get is “You have been eating gluten-free for eleven years? I could never eliminate gluten!”
The reality is that you could. It is a choice. We make choices everyday.
* We choose to get up and go to work.
*We choose what to eat for breakfast (or whether to eat at all).
* We choose what clothes we are going to wear.
* We choose to watch TV or scroll social media.
* We choose to exercise.
Some choices that people make are conscious and others are mostly unconscious. We call the unconscious choices habits. Learning to eat gluten-free, or making any other major dietary change, will require conscious decision making. My journey to gluten-free eating began over eleven years ago.
My Elimination Story
In 2007 I began to have daily, almost constant, intestinal pains and headaches. I often took Ibuprofen, which would relieve the headaches, but it did little to relieve the brain fog, intestinal pain, bloating and gas. I visited the doctor a few different times, and was given a couple of different prescription medications but they made little difference.
In the spring of 2008 I had a number of tests, including blood tests and a colonoscopy. All of these turned up negative, so I still did not know the cause of my pain. Finally, my GP suggested that I do a trial elimination of gluten. “What’s that?”, I asked. She explained that it was a protein in the grains wheat, rye and barley and that a sensitivity to it could cause my symptoms.
I agreed to try because I was so eager to get rid of the pain. I was not sure how to do this and did not get much guidance from my doctor, but after being in constant pain for over a year I was willing to try anything. Within one week, my headaches and intestinal pains were significantly reduced.
Now that I have been gluten-free for so long, I have many suggestions for simplifying the transition for those who would like to try. This process will also work for those seeking to eliminate dairy, soy or other foods.
1. Eliminate gluten for at least three weeks.
If a doctor has diagnosed you with celiac disease or food allergy to wheat then you should eliminate these grains IMMEDIATELY for life. If you suspect that you have a gluten-sensitivity or just wonder if some of your symptoms have been caused by gluten grains, then you can do an elimination diet to see whether gluten is a problem food for you.
When you suspect you may be tempted to cheat and eat gluten, I strongly encourage you to see a physician and be tested for celiac disease BEFORE eliminating gluten. I did not have a celiac test until after I had already eliminated gluten. The test was negative, but gluten antibodies are reduced upon elimination, so I am still not certain whether I am celiac or not. I have the genetics for celiac disease and still am very sensitive, so cheating is not a temptation for me.
2. Learn the names for gluten.
The following terms represent the most commonly used Latin terms for wheat, barley, and rye. If you see any of these, the product contains gluten:
- Wheat (Triticum vulgare)
- Triticale (cross between wheat and rye)
- Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
- Rye (Secale cereal)
- Spelt (Triticum spelta)
The following terms represent ingredients that always contain gluten:
- Wheat protein/hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Wheat starch/hydrolyzed wheat starch
- Wheat flour/bread flour/bleached flour
- Bulgur (a form of wheat)
- Malt (made from barley)
- Couscous (made from wheat)
- Farina (made from wheat)
- Pasta (made from wheat unless otherwise indicated)
- Seitan (made from wheat gluten and commonly used in vegetarian meals)
- Wheat or barley grass
- Wheat germ oil or extract
3. Eliminate gluten from your pantry.
Once you have learned some of the names for gluten, go through your pantry and refrigerator and take out any foods with those ingredients. If your family members are not also going gluten-free, then put those foods in a spot where you will not be tempted to use them. Otherwise give the foods away.
4. Search your recipes and find those that are already gluten-free and plan meals.
You probably eat a number of foods that do not contain gluten. Try and have meals using those foods and recipes for at least a week. Later when you have more confidence eating gluten-free, you can experiment with bread, muffin or dessert recipes using gluten-free flours.
5. Shop for gluten-free substitutes.
If you have been eating sandwiches for lunch on a regular basis, then buy some gluten-free bread. If you eat cereal or pasta often, then find gluten-free versions to substitute. I do not recommend eating many processed gluten-free foods on a regular basis for the long term, but it makes the transition easier on an initial basis.
6. Check out restaurant menus before you go.
I encourage you to cook for yourself as much as possible, especially when first starting to eat gluten-free. If you do have to eat out, try to preview the restaurant’s menu online before you go. Most restaurants are well aware of food allergies these days and many have gluten-free items designated on their menu. Preselect what you will eat prior to getting to the restaurant if you can. Most restaurants are well aware of food allergies these days and many have gluten-free items designated on their menu. Preselect what you will eat prior to getting to the restaurant if you can.
After you have successfully eliminated all gluten-containing grains for at least three weeks, notice how you feel and write it down. Are you having fewer skin breakouts or abdominal bloating? Is your skin clearer? Have your headaches gone away? Sometimes you will not feel much different. If that is the case, then you may not be sensitive to gluten.
If you have any doubt that gluten is a problem food for you, then reintroduce gluten. You should do this by eating a normal amount of wheat or gluten-containing foods for each of three meals in a day. Make note of any changes that you observe. The next day return to eating gluten free and continue to make more of any symptoms. If you notice ANY symptoms, then you most likely have a gluten sensitivity and you should plan to eliminate it permanently from your diet.
Have you eliminated gluten from your diet? Please share how you were successfully able to do this in the comments below.