Sometimes I get the hairy eyeball when I tell people I eat gluten-free but I haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease.
“Oh, you’re one of THOSE people who think gluten-free foods are HEALTHIER. YOU KNOW gluten-free cookies are just as bad for you as regular cookies.”
I don’t eat gluten because I figured out it makes me feel terrible, and I can connect certain unpleasant symptoms to eating gluten.
Here are some of the common questions I get asked about my choice to avoid gluten:
What symptoms do you have?
I’ve connected morning belly pain, diarrhea/constipation, swollen/painful joints and night sweats to eating gluten.
How did you figure out gluten was causing your symptoms?
Belly pain was the most obvious symptom I had on and off for several years. I knew it was a gluten intolerance symptom, but I also knew other food intolerances can cause belly pain. I tried an elimination diet for 6 weeks then added things back into my diet to determine the culprit. I figured out it was gluten. When I added gluten to my diet again, I realized it also was causing the other symptoms.
Why don’t you just get tested for celiac disease?
In order to do so, I’d need to start eating gluten again. I don’t want to be in a lot of pain for a test to possibly confirm that gluten causes me a lot of pain or possibly be inconclusive. Even if the test came back negative, I may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There’s no test for that. My doctor would probably tell me I shouldn’t eat certain foods that make me feel bad. I talked to my husband (a licensed, practicing medical doctor) about this, and he supports my decision.
Is it hard to avoid gluten?
Yes and no. It’s easy for me to avoid the foods I know contain gluten because I know how bad they make me feel. I used to eat wheat bread and pasta and flour tortillas, but I never craved them, so it wasn’t hard for me to give them up when I knew I had to.
The harder part is avoiding food with sneaky gluten-containing ingredients. Some sauces are thickened with flour and it’s easy to forget that. Some soy sauce, meatballs, salad dressings, potato chips and fast food french fries are less obvious gluten culprits. I’ve learned to check food labels more carefully, but it’s easy to get glutened at restaurants. I stick to the special gluten-free menu when I go out.
What do you eat? Aren’t you missing out on whole grains and fiber by not eating gluten?
To answer the second question, no. I eat other whole grains like flax, gluten-free oatmeal and quinoa. Some mornings I eat a gluten-free waffle made with other safe grains. For starchy carbs, I eat rice, white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Besides all those things, I eat lots of lean meat, fruit, veggies and some dairy. If I want baked goods, I make them myself because it’s usually cheaper and tastier than packaged gluten-free ones.
Where do you find gluten-free recipes?
Lots of “regular” recipes can easily be modified to be gluten-free. I eat my tacos on corn tortillas now, put some foods over rice instead of noodles, or I’ll eat my burger naked or in a salad. I also check these recipe blogs quite often:
- Iowa Girl Eats
- Gluten Free on a Shoestring
- I Breathe I’m Hungry
- Against All Grain (I also have her cookbook)
Do you follow a gluten-free diet? What prompted the change and how has it impacted your life? What are the hardest and easiest parts for you?
Photo: Homemade gluten-free brownies, recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.