By Jennifer Fugo, CHC
I remember the moment the words came out of my nutritionist’s mouth – “I think you may be sensitive to gluten.” On one hand, it was a relief because finally someone had an answer for me that was based upon the issues I’d been experiencing for years. And on the other? Well, let’s just say that “What the heck am I going to eat?!?!” bounced furiously around in my Italian-raised brain as I tried not to look worried or concerned.
I’m sure you can relate to this very moment. Most of us, whether you’re sensitive to gluten or have celiac, have experienced a similar type of situation at the moment when gluten becomes the issue at hand. Though having a culprit like gluten to avoid is a fresh and newly welcomed starting point to improving your health, the reality of this quickly becomes overwhelming and alarming because of how much gluten is all around you at any given moment.
Looks like you’ve traded one gluten problem for another, right? Pretty much! I had no idea how gluten-inundated my life was until I began researching all of the spots that it hides. Some of the places are mind-boggling because, as you may already know, you would never think of gluten popping up in these particular locations. And yet these sneaky spots of gluten have a constant impact on your daily life and health.
What to do, you ask? Firstly, understand that the gluten-free diet is somewhat misleading. It’s not a diet at all. It’s actually a lifestyle. Embracing this simple idea will help make other changes much easier. Then, you can try these three basic steps that I often share with clients that will get you walking down the real road to Gluten-Free.
1) Start with your food. I certainly started there and found plenty of gluten to deal with. The obvious places aren’t so much of a surprise – the wheat bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, etc. The places you don’t think to look are more troubling especially since it’s not always marked. Condiments, dressings, marinades, spices and other pre-made products can all create a recipe for disaster if you’re not vigilant and careful.
2) Expand your search to your physical home. Once you’ve got a good hold on what you’re literally putting in your mouth, it’s time to expand the search to more daily, household items that you’d be less likely to suspect. Makeup, toothpaste, medication, supplements, envelopes, and stamps are just a start of locating the mini-gluten ‘landmines’ hiding around your home.
3) Become a savvy gluten-free diner. Learn where you can eat out safely, how to speak to the restaurant staff, and what’s the best way to feel like you’re a happy and enjoyable part of the group. Double check for gluten in condiments and dressings by keeping things simple unless the restaurant offers a specific gluten-free menu. Beware of certain types of alcohol that are made from glutenous grains.
By putting these three steps into action, you can begin to eat and live with more safety and peace of mind. I should know – going step-by-step gave me back my life that’s nearly 20 lbs of inflammation lighter, filled with energy and lacks the digestive problems I once had. For you, it all can add up to a healthier and more vibrant you. Plus by following steps, you can literally see the progress that you’ve made rather than feeling frustrated, confused and disgusted with a hodge-podge attempt to be gluten-free.
If you’re looking for more information about where gluten is hiding, Jennifer is hosting a free tele-class on 9/14/11 at 7 PM ET called “Five Ways that Gluten STILL Sneaks into Your Diet”. To register, visit http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/sneakygluten. If you can’t make the live event, you’ll receive a recording for the class as well as be entered to win a chance at winning one of ten loaves of Rudi’s Gluten Free bread that are up for grabs.
Jennifer Fugo is a certified Health Coach working with busy individuals seeking balanced dietary changes. Named by Philadelphia Magazine as a “Gluten Free Guru”, Jennifer knows firsthand the challenges of overcoming food sensitivities as she is intolerant of gluten, casein and eggs. For more articles, recipes & upcoming events, visit Jennifer at http://www.glutenfreeschool.com.