Whether you have an actual Celiac Disease (CD) diagnosis or you've done an Elimination diet - look for more details on this in my Oct. 12 Sharepost - and realized that gluten is not your gut's friend, you are going to have to learn to eat gluten-free (GF).
About four months ago I was tested for Celiac Disease. And, even though the results came back negative I started eating gluten-free anyway. Why? Because for the previous two months I'd been having a lot of gas and bloating, and these were not symptoms I had ever experienced as a typical part of my ulcerative colitis or IBS. For a while I tried to chalk-up these new symptoms as a simple part of being 42. A number of my girlfriends told me that when they hit 41 or 42 years old they were astonished by the physical changes in their body. But as days and weeks went by and my symptoms seemed linked to when I did or didn't eat, I knew it wasn't just a simple part of the aging process (I'm willing to admit that could have been part of my pants not fitting quite right, but not the whole reason).
My first step was to figure out what gluten was and what had gluten in it. According to my trusty Compact Oxford English Dictionary, gluten is a protein present in cereal grains, especially wheat, which is responsible for the elastic texture found in dough. Darn! That meant that anything like bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, pancakes, muffins, and cakes were going to be out of my life. I'm a strong and determined person, especially when it comes to my health. So, I knew that if cutting out things I loved, like bread, pasta, and baked goods, was going to make me feel better I could do it. But I wouldn't say I was too happy about it.
So, off to the internet I went to research this whole GF diet further. I found very helpful information at web sites like: www.celiace.org; www.gluten.net; www.americanceliac.org; www.and celiac.com.
The nuts and bolts of what I found out is this. To avoid gluten, you must eliminate from your diet all foods that contain:
Wheat (this includes durum and semolina wheat),
Oats - unless you can find them from a source that guarantees they have been processed on equipment that hasn't been cross-contaminated with wheat.
So, this means that if you plan on baking anything like bread, cakes, pancakes, muffins, brownies, or cookies you're going to have to learn how to do it with alternative flours such as: white rice flour
Brown rice flour
Potato flour or starch
Tapioca flour or starch
Quinoa flour or flakes
Buckwheat (dark or light)
Nut flours, like almond flour
Corn flour or startch
Bean flours, like garbanzo or fava bean
I've always enjoyed baking as well as cooking so I jumped into baking with alternative grains with both feet. I read recipes on the internet, but nothing too in depth. I figured it wouldn't be hard to replace wheat flour with the alternative flours and come away with an acceptable loaf of bread, cookie, or brownie. WRONG! Baking gluten-free is a whole new science. First, and foremost, since all the alternative grains are gluten-free they have nothing in them to bind them together. Let's go back to that dictionary definition of what gluten is: ... gluten is responsible for the elastic texture found in dough. Which means, gluten is what helps hold together the cakes, cookies, and loaves of bread we all love so much.
Very quickly I introduced to a few new things for my kitchen - guar gum, xanthan gum, and pre-packaged baking mixes. Guar gum and xanthan gum are what they sound like. These are products that are binders. They can be bought in a powdered form at most health food stores, and act as a binder, much like gluten but without gluten's negative effects for us GFers. And the pre-packaged baking mixes for bread, cake, cookies, and brownies are just darn good things to know about when you want a fool-proof baking option or you just don't have the time to embark on a baking experiment in your own kitchen.
Pamela's products makes very good baking mixes for bread, cookies, brownies, and cake (the chocolate cake mix is so good you're amazed it could be gluten-free). I am especially partial to Pamela's mixes because they are made primarily with rice flours, potato flour, and tapioca flour or starch. This is important to me because in the first two months of baking GF I found that many of the other alternative flours like garbanzo bean and fava bean, sorghum, amaranth, and soy make my gut just as unhappy and wheat flour. It took a while to figure this out, but I spent a lot of time experimenting and finally realized that the only alternative flours I can tolerate are: rice, potato, corn, and tapioca. If you are okay with the bean flours and sorghum flours, etc. then also try pre-packaged mixes by Bob's Red Mill. I've been told they are tasty and are also certified GF.
I have been amazed to find how many gluten-free products are now available in my regular-every-day grocery store. Betty Crocker has a few GF mixes available for cakes and brownies. Lundberg Farms has a good variety of GF rice cakes and delicious rice chips. If you can tolerate corn, most corn-based products are GF. There are even a number of different GF cereals out there including Chex brand cereals, Nature's Path cereals, Arrowhead Mill's cereals, and EnviroKids cereals.
There is even GF pasta now! In all honesty, I find the Tinkyada brand of brown rice pasta to be the brand that cooks the best without getting mushy as well as tasting the best. I actually think it tastes better than traditional pasta. And this says a lot considering the six months I lived in Naples, Italy made me a pasta-aholic. I love pasta!
So, that gives you a decent idea of how to eat gluten-free regarding breads, pastas, and baked goods. You would think that should be enough, right? Well, not so fast. In addition to looking out for flours and grains that might contain gluten you also have to read the labels of pre-packaged and bottled foods because many of them contain hidden gluten.
So, if you have Celiac Disease and must stay away from gluten, then do not eat any foods that contain the following ‘buzz words:' Caramel color, Natural flavors, Artificial flavors, Artificial colors, Modified food starch, Seasoning or Spice mix, or MSG. Also steer clear of foods that include soy sauce, tamari sauce, and teriyaki sauce. Most condiments, sauces, gravies, lunch meats, pre-seasoned, pre-marinated, or pre-basted poultry and meat are also suspect. Miso, maltodextrin, citric acid, dextrin, and thickeners should be eliminated as well.
And don't forget about hair products, make-up, medication, or toothpaste and mouthwash. Tell your pharmacist and all of your doctors that you have Celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance. To find a gluten-free toothpaste try Tom's brand. And look to health food stores for GF make-up and hair products.
Let's be honest, going gluten-free is hard. But, once you do it and you start to feel better, all the hard work and new habits will be well worth it. Even though I don't have Celiac disease, I feel much better now that I've been gluten-free these past four months. Therefore, I don't intend to let any gluten pass my lips from here on out.