When I decided to embark on my gluten free journey, my naturopathy gave me a two page cheat sheet to reference. One page listed what I could eat, another page listed what I couldn’t eat. It all seemed pretty straightforward from the comfy confines of her office. I went home feeling confident and focused. But then, life happened, and things didn’t go as well as I’d hope. These are 5 major tips I wish I would have known when I first went gluten free. These little nuggets of wisdom would have saved me a lot of hardship and heartache along the way, but hopefully they will save you some.
1) Just because it’s not wheat, doesn’t mean it’s gluten free.
Going gluten free is incredibly overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting out. The obvious things to stay away from are bread, pasta, pizza, etc. Those are given. But there’s tons of gluten lurking to ruin your day in foods that look nothing like “wheat”. Sauces, spices, dressings, vinegars, beverages. Where does it end? Well….not there. Then you find out that gluten can be in medications like ibuprofen. Are you kidding me?? Nope. Next there’s restaurant friers. Don’t you just love warm tortilla chips and french fries? Corn and potatoes. No gluten there, right? Wrong. If the establishment is frying that stuff in the same oil as wheat flour breaded stuff, thats called “contaminated” and you just got glutened…again!
2) There’s no turning back.
It’s a hard reality to face but once you’re diagnosed or you discover you’re intolerant, that’s it. Time to start your new life. You must understand that your body has decided to reprogram itself in its own best interest. And it doesn’t give a crap what you think. You will forever more have an autoimmune reaction. And this reaction is very harmful to your body. So how do you stop it? You’re done with gluten forever. And you can’t cheat. It’s never ok to have a little bit here or there. Several health professionals have told me that a portion of gluten one-eighth the size of your thumbnail can cause an immune reaction for up to 6 months. And based on my experiences, I believe them.
3) Your friends can’t help you.
As much as they have your back in other aspects of life, they just don’t know enough about this to be much help. You will soon become an expert on all things gluten and they will keep eating it without much of a thought. In fact, their innocent ignorance can actually harm you. They will relentlessly attempt to suggest, persuade, tempt, and assure you that foods they eat or foods they’ve cooked are gluten free. But trust no one. You have to be your own and best advocate by doing tons of research on foods to eat, restaurants to investigate, safe foods to cook, etc. I’m not saying you should ditch them. Friends and family are fantastic for emotional support. But for helping you learn how to get healthy again and eat gluten free, you may want to call up your new BFF. Google.
4) You’re not alone.
Feeling alone at first is natural but please know that you’ve got a lot of support out there. Support groups exist for Celiacs and gluten intolerants alike. Many of them have local chapters and regularly scheduled meetings. I found a lot of assistance and reassurance through the Gluten Intolerance Group and Meetup.com. There’s also tons of very helpful blogs, podcasts, and online publications to give you much needed support on your gluten free journey. You’ll not only learn how others manage their gluten issues but you won’t feel so lonely anymore. Also, chances are that even if you don’t know anyone else going through this, one of your friends probably does. Don’t be afraid to find your peer group because they are definitely out there.
5) You can do this.
Like I said before, starting out can be very overwhelming but tons of people are doing it everyday and they are thriving. Think of it this way…your body is strongly encouraging you (in some cases demanding you) to eat in the healthiest possible way. All you have to do is eat real and whole foods that nature originally intended for you anyway. Your body will thank you for it the rest of your life. With the help of knowledgeable medical practitioners, supportive friends and/or family, and your own ever developing gluten free knowledge base, you’ll be well on your way to being healthy and happy again. Let me tell you something, I’m about as stubborn and resistant to change as anyone. If I can do it, you totally got this.