Saturday, May 11, 2013

7 quick gluten-free takes

1. Here are seven tips for starting a trial to see if you are gluten intolerant. I wrote them for my sister, and thought I would share them publicly as well. Note that I wrote them with her in mind--so this is a list for people who suspect a gluten intolerance and want to run a test to see if they have one. I'm sure the process is different for people who start out with a diagnosis of celiac. I don't know how long the test process takes. I noticed results immediately and it was clear to me within two weeks that I wasn't going back.

2. For the first few weeks, the test weeks, stick entirely to things that are normally gluten-free and also normal foods. Don't buy gluten free bread, and don't buy xantham gum. Eat potatoes, rice, vegetables, nuts, and meat/dairy if you do those. Keep it simple or you will get overwhelmed. I promise you will spend those weeks noticing other people's food and realizing that if this fixes your problems you will never have X again. That is more than enough to worry about without mixing tapioca starch with rice flour in a special ratio.

3. Don't cheat at all, so you can be sure that you are getting accurate results. I don't worry right now about eating moderate amounts of things that "may contain traces of gluten" or of taking the occasional bite of a glutenous thing, but during my trial I definitely did. (If I do turn out to have celiac, I guess I will have to start worrying again.)

4. Google is your friend. If you can't (or don't want to) read all the ingredients of something you already have, google "is X gluten free." I have never failed to get an answer about a product that is sold in the US this way. (Off-brands from German Aldi often remain mysterious.)

5. Keep track of your calories. I lost six pounds in six weeks by accident. I did track calories for a while, but when I came up continually short, I assumed that I just needed fewer calories. I traveled all the way across town to access the only scale I know the location of after I noticed all my clothes were too big and I had lost over an inch from my waist.

6. With that said, don't let the calorie website bully you. I assume that when eating gluten-free, I will be eating fewer carbs and more fat. I don't worry about that, because most of the fat is from healthy things like nuts and olive oil. However, the website I use wants me to eat what I consider a ridiculously low amount of sugar. I can't eat fruit and stay under the sugar goal. One banana and one apple put me way over. I think this is crazy. I only use the calorie part to check that I am eating enough.

7. Expect that your friends will continually offer you food you can't eat and will constantly forget that you don't eat gluten or what things have gluten in them. Recently, a friend invited me over for pasta, followed by fried dough! (This is a situation where it might be good to buy something like pre-made gluten free noodles, because then you can just cook them in a different pot and share the same sauce.)

(Bonus 8th take: I have some good gluten free recipes, if people besides Teresa are interested I can put their links in a post instead of an email.)

Head over to Conversion Diary to see other quick takes!


  1. Good list! I'm on my phone and not able to comb back through your posts, so I'm not sure if you acknowledged this apologies if you have...but eating GF WILL affect a celiac test, so if you are planning one of those, the recommendation is to not start eating GF. Of course, in my opinion, if eating gluten free makes all the difference, there is not really any reason to label the whole thing officially. Good luck in your gluten free adventures! Being celiac has totally made me eat in a healthier way (granted there are plenty of ways to eat gf and junk! But GENERALLY it helps to keep in check)

  2. Thanks! Yes, that's a very good point. I do see a reason for the test, if only that being celiac is a much bigger deal. I may wind up eating gluten again to get the test; we'll see. (I am not above taking a sip or a bite of something with gluten in it. It doesn't bother me noticeably, but if I have celiac disease I think that would cause problems even if I didn't notice them, right?)

    1. Not necessarily. At least in my experience. I react rather strongly to gluten in some contexts (wheat-derived maltodextrin in processed food) and a little less in others (like fresh-baked bread). Sometimes I get a stomach ache, sometimes I just just supremely itchy in one spot (this spot has migrated; before diagnosis it was all over my legs, in college it was a patch on my right wrist, a few years ago during a pregnancy it was on my right eyelid, and, until recently it was all of my right pinky finger), sometimes it is just a light headache. But other celiacs I know react strongly and emphatically. Also, some celiacs can't have a "crossed kitchen". I don't seem to react to my family eating bread and leaving crumbs around where they might get into my food. Just some thoughts...

    2. I guess I had the impression from somewhere that if you had a plain old gluten intolerance, it was ok to base what you eat off how you felt, but if you have celiac disease, then eating gluten damages your insides even if it doesn't feel bad. Is that wrong?

  3. Thanks Sophie! Did you know you still have word verifications?
    Maia, I had heard that too! I'm going to get a celiac test before I go gluten free just to check. :)

  4. I do? Strange. I'll go turn them off, and hope the spam stays away.