Dawna Ara, L.Ac.

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Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Part VI): Guide To Living Gluten Free

Well here we are. We made it to the end of the gluten intolerance series.

If you haven’t already read the other articles in the series I suggest you do so. You can access the articles here.

The most important points to take away from this series are:

  1. There is a spectrum of intolerance. While some people have no symptoms and others have obvious extreme symptoms, many people are somewhere in the middle and experience mild chronic symptoms.
  2. Symptoms can be hidden and manifest as a neurological disease. Research shows a link between gluten intolerance and Parkinson’s, alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, autism, mental illness (depression and anxiety), dermatitis herpetiformis, diabetes, Addison’s disease, hepatitis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, graves disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. Hybridization and deamidation have changed the molecular structure of food. We are no longer eating the same foods that our parents and ancestors ate. Because of this, the gluten we are consuming today has the potential to cause inflammatory and immunological responses.
  4. Gluten can confuse the immune system and cause cross reactivity. Cross reactivity happens when the immune system mistakes protein molecules from foods such as dairy, eggs, coffee, soy, yeast, and other grains for the gluten molecule. So even if you are gluten free you could still be experiencing symptoms if you are eating foods gluten cross reacts with.
  5. Elimination diets can help you detect if you have an allergy or intolerance. Elimination diets eliminate the most common allergenic foods for at least 3 weeks and then have you slowly add them back in one at a time.

Now let’s look at ways to stay gluten free.

Gluten free sounds intimidating at first but once you get the hang of it it is actually quite easy. Many grocery stores carry gluten free alternatives and of course you can always leave the processed foods out of your diet.

Guide to Living Gluten Free
  1. Replace all your gluten containing products with alternatives. If you are going to replace your regular bread and pasta with gluten free alternatives just keep in mind the issue of cross reactivity. If you still feel symptoms this could be the reason.
  2. When ordering from a restaurant ask the waiter if the food contains gluten. If they are unsure, you can ask them to steam the food and add only salt, pepper, and fresh herbs in the cooking process. When in doubt, go without! If a sauce is already made then ask them to hold the sauce.
  3. Read labels. Don’t assume a product is gluten free. Read the ingredients on spaghetti and marinara sauce, processed deli meats, frozen dinners, baked goods, salad dressings, condiments, and all canned and packaged foods.
Foods To Include Foods To Avoid
Grains: rice, corn, teff, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, tapioca, nut flour, potato flour, sorghum, arrowroot Grains: wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, bulgur, oats (unless they say gluten free), graham flour, durum flour, semolina
Fruit & Veggies: all fruit and veggies are allowed Foods with Hidden Gluten: soy sauce, barbecue sauce teriyaki, processed meats like cold cuts, seitan, packaged broth,
Nuts: all nuts, seeds, and beans are allowed MSG, modified food starch, imitation meat or seafood, seasoned rice mixes, preservatives, stabilizers, breaded or fried
Dairy: all dairy products food, energy bars, croutons, communion wafers, salad dressing, marinades, sauces, gravy, stuffing, thickeners
Meat: all meat, red meat, lamb, fish, chicken, turkey, pork Processed Foods: bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, pastries, frozen dinners
Beverages: beer, ales, lagers, malt vinegars
A Note on Supplements

Over the counter medication, prescription, herbal supplements, and vitamins are often a source of hidden gluten. Make sure your supplements say gluten free on them. If you’re unsure about a product call the company and ask if it contains gluten.

What About Skin & Hair Products?

What you put on your skin goes directly into your body. For those people with a serious gluten allergy or intolerance it’s best to buy skin and hair products that are gluten free.

Remember back in article 3 we learned about the enzyme tissue transgultaminase (tTG) that helps to break down the gluten molecule inside the gut? It does this so the immune system can attack and destroy the antigen but the problem is sometimes the immune system starts attacking the tTG as well as the gluten. Turns out we have tTG in our skin cells. If you are putting a product that contains gluten directly onto your skin then this can cause the same immune and inflammatory response that happens in your gut. To avoid this buy gluten free skin and hair products.

Does everyone need to go gluten free?

No! Like I said in a previous post, not everyone needs to be gluten free but if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of inflammation, indigestion, mood disorders, or have been told you have an autoimmune disease then you should try a gluten free diet for a couple of months. If your symptoms improve then it would be a good idea to avoid gluten in the future.

Below are a few links you might find helpful:
My Gluten Free Kitchen
Living Without
Gluten Free Guide
Living Gluten Free for the Lazy Person
Gluten Free Living
How Does it Taste?
Wheat Belly by William Davis MD
Lose the Gluten, Lose Your Gut, Ditch the Grains, Save Your Brain by Thomas Chaney MD

About Dawna Ara
Dawna is an acupuncturist, herbalist, functional medicine practitioner, a mom, wife, writer, nature lover, chef and whole foods advocate. She teaches how to live a healthy lifestyle through her website Eat Play Work Sleep.