So you have decided to adopt a gluten free diet. Perhaps you have been diagnosed with a gluten allergy or Celiac disease. Or maybe you are trying a gluten free diet to see if it helps reduce inflammation (which it certainly should) or if it helps with your digestive issues.
My son had a severe gluten allergy when I first went on a gluten free diet. What I discovered is that when I avoid gluten, I am less hungry and have fewer food cravings. That’s enough of a reason for me to stick with it!
No matter what the reason, going gluten free means more than eliminating white bread and pasta from your plate. There are hidden sources of gluten in everything from sauces to cosmetics. Fortunately, with voluntary labeling and knowing what ingredients to avoid, it is easier to live gluten free than ever before.
The most important part of going gluten free is always reading labels and talking to servers at restaurants. Keep in mind that there are foods that may contain somewhat hidden sources of gluten, so vigilance is key. Gluten can be hidden everywhere, from ice cream, shredded cheese, barbecue sauce, lunch meat, candy, sprinkles, soups, and more.
Is Gluten Hiding in Your Gluten Free Diet?
Clearly, if you are avoiding gluten, conventional wheat is your main target of avoidance, so conventional breads, pastas, crackers, cereals, and baked goods are off the table as the first ingredient on the list is wheat. Yet even if you don’t see wheat listed on the ingredient label, there may very well be gluten lurking in your food.
Hidden Sources of Gluten
Look for ingredients such as: barley, brewer’s yeast, dextrin, durum, einkorn, emmer, farina, faro, graham, hordeum vulgare, kamut (aka khorasan), malt (including malt extract, syrup, flavor, and vinegar), maltodextrin, modified starch/modified food starch, oat, rye, secale, semolina, spelt, starch, triticale/triticum, and wheatberries, as all of them may contain gluten. And of course, be cautious of items that contain the elusive natural or artificial flavors or food colorings.
Of course, it is always easiest to purchase products that distinctly say they gluten free as specified on the product’s label. Keep in mind too that products labeled wheat-free are not necessarily gluten-free. For example, oats are an example of a product that often has cross contamination, and even those labeled as free of wheat have been known to cause problems in some more sensitive people. Several years ago, my son had a reaction to a well-known brand of cookies that were clearly labeled gluten-free, and it was determined that barley was the culprit.
If you’re on a gluten free diet, lways use extra caution when dining in restaurants. If you are going gluten-free because of a food allergy or Celiac disease, be sure to tell your server that you are avoiding wheat for a medical purpose rather than a personal preference. Recently I heard that some restaurants put a touch of flour in their omelets, so it is important to talk to your server rather than merely order an item from the menu that you think will be free of gluten. Soups and sauces may also contain wheat, which can be used as a thickening agent. Depending on your level of sensitivity, you may or may not be able to eat foods (such as gluten-free French fries) that are fried in the same oil as is used for items that contain wheat.
Cross-contamination is another important reason to make sure to talk to your server, because it can happen when foods, ingredients, or even cooking utensils come into contact with gluten and then with your meal. Cross-contamination can happen in your home as well. Be sure to clean all your cooking utensils thoroughly, or designate some specifically to gluten-free cooking. Use a separate tray or tin foil in the toaster oven when heating up your gluten-free foods. And remember when you are cooking that there should be no double dipping!
Other Hidden Sources of Gluten
Some other items to watch out for in terms of hidden sources of gluten include:
More particularly conventional beer and malt beverages are likely to contain gluten unless they are labeled otherwise. The good news is that there are some terrific gluten-free beers on the market now, and most distilled alcoholic beverages are gluten-free.
Sometimes people with high levels of sensitivity experience reactions from personal care products such as lipsticks and lip products. For those with a gluten allergy, there may even be a reaction or excema from products such as facial moisturizers.
Medicines, vitamins and supplements: All sorts of vitamins, herbal or nutritional supplements, medicines and perscription medications have been known to cause reactions in people with Celiac or a gluten allergy. Be sure to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist before starting something new.
Play-dough and clay products
This one really surprised me when my son was younger, but traditional play-dough does contain wheat. We always had to send in a note of caution to his preschool, camp, and so on. There are some on the market that do not contain wheat and are specifically labeled as such. There are also many great recipes online for making your own play-dough.
By the way, if you are new to the gluten free diet world and looking for a few good food items, here are some of my favorite gluten free products.
Again, the most important tip for anyone who is going gluten free is to read labels, ask questions, and be your own (or your child’s) advocate!
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