Tips for a Successful Gluten Free Diet with Psoriasisby Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate
The picture above shows a snapshot of my results from a health test I took after coming across a health fair while strolling in the mall. After taking the test, I received my results a few weeks later, and learned that I am severely allergic to gluten, among other food.
Currently 18 million people in the US have a non-celiac disease-related gluten sensitivity, according to Beyond Celiac, an organization dedicated to educate the public on celiac disease and gluten intolerance. So being sensitive to gluten means it has a significant effect on your health, causing symptoms, but not in the same way that it affects those with celiac disease.
For those with celiac disease or who discover they have a severe sensitivity, the switch to gluten-free can be difficult, taking serious dedication and patience, because you will make mistakes along the way. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can work through those challenges.
The phenomenon of gluten intolerance has become a big topic of discussion for those in the psoriasis community as well as those outside of it. I’ve spoken with many individuals who have psoriasis and tell me that gluten negatively affects them. Stores now have entire sections for gluten-free food, and restaurants are becoming more accommodating, often with gluten-free menus (just ask when you receive a regular menu if they have a gluten-free one instead).
I like to dine out. I not only love food, but I also enjoy the social time that comes with eating at a restaurant. I knew changing my diet would affect my ability to eat out significantly, but there are ways to still dine out and enjoy yourself safely. There are many restaurants that cater to those with gluten intolerance. To my surprise, there are a lot of restaurants in my area with gluten-free options. I went to Blue Moon Pizza and had a gluten-free pizza, and restaurants such as Yeah! Burger or Smash Burger also have gluten-free burger options.
Just keep in mind that designated gluten-free foods such as pizza or burgers will typically cost you more. For a gluten-free request at the pizza place, it was $4 extra, and an extra $1.50 at Yeah! Burger.
Here are four tips for success when eating out on a gluten-free diet:
1. Download an app that will locate gluten-free restaurants
The one I currently use is Find Me Gluten Free. I can search for restaurants in my area with gluten-free options with ease using the app. It also provides articles on the latest news in the gluten-free community.
2. Google the restaurant with the term ‘gluten-free menu’
So far, every mainstream restaurant I’ve researched online has a gluten-free menu or at least an allergy list online. These lists will tell you exactly what you can eat at their establishment if you can’t eat gluten. Some businesses also list other allergens such as fish, eggs, and nuts.
3. Call ahead
If you are still unsure, call ahead and ask to speak to a manager. Let them know you are gluten-free and double-check on the options they have available, as menu’s can be different for mainstream restaurants depending on the location.
4. Keep in mind
Unfortunately, when you go out to eat you do have to consider gluten cross-contamination. This is when your food is prepared on the same surfaces or with the same tools as foods with gluten. Cross contamination does affect your food in a harmful way, and it may feel like a hassle to request special service (asking the food preparer to change gloves and to use different cooking utensils for your food, for instance) but your health is worth it.
Stores now have entire sections dedicated to gluten-free food. You can go to your local grocery store and find some really great options including noodles, cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, and much more. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have amazing options, but they are bit too expensive for my budget. So far I have been purchasing all my gluten-free foods from Kroger, Publix, or Aldi.
Just make sure the box always says gluten-free. If it’s not fruit or veggies, etc., you need to check the label. Although we think of gluten as breads, cakes, and flour, gluten can often times be hidden in ingredients such as sauces and salad dressings. According to The Gluten Intolerance Group, the item is NOT gluten-free if it contains any of the following:
Oats unless the oats are certified gluten-free
The site also suggests looking out for “modified food starch.” Although it doesn’t specifically say gluten, it does contain it.
So far I have discovered if I cook with and stick to unprocessed foods, I’m less likely to make a mistake and ingest gluten.
Although I am sharing my experience for those who are considering a gluten-free lifestyle, it is important to remember that you must consult with your doctor about any dietary change you make. Gluten-free seems to be today’s trend for a healthier lifestyle, but in reality for many, a gluten-free life is not necessary.