If you are anything like me, after finally being diagnosed with celiac you had no idea exactly what it meant to live gluten free. At first I thought I just had to stop eating bread and pasta. Little did I know gluten is everywhere!
A funny story to encourage you that you can’t be any worse at beginning to understand how to live as a celiac than I was:
My first day after seeing my doctor and being told to eat gluten free I was not feeling very well because of all the gluten still in my body. We decided to go for a Sunday afternoon drive to cheer me up and grab dinner out on the way back. For a “treat” we thought it would be a good idea to go to KFC and pick up chicken and salads. Being newly gluten free I quickly agreed, saying I could make it work. I ordered regular kfc chicken and simply pulled off the skin thinking if I didn’t eat any skin I wasn’t eating any gluten. We often laugh when we think of that day now, having no idea that no gluten really meant no gluten. Not only does it mean no gluten, but it means no cross-contamination (read using the same surfaces to prepare gluten free and gluten food). Oh dear!
The more your body is away from gluten the more you will feel better. The main things you need to understand when you are first diagnosed is that gluten is in many things from common things you can think of: bread, pasta, crackers, pancakes, etc. to things you wouldn’t necessarily think of like soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, candy, ketchup, etc. It is truly amazing how much wheat people put in things. I think that the prevelance of wheat in things is part of the problem. Our bodies aren’t made to eat as much wheat as we do, especially not wheat that is so genetically modified that our bodies don’t know what to do with it.
General Guidlines: If you are “gluten free” you do not eat wheat (including spelt, kamut, wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat protein (or anything that says wheat in it-check all labels), barley, rye, triticale, most oats (except wheat free oats), any wheat derived flour). Everything you eat should be checked so that you don’t end up getting sick.
Many new smart phones have different gluten free apps where you can find out if an item may possibly have gluten in it. I use the blackberry app called “gluten free glossary”. These can be great tools to help you along on your journey.
Finally, it is very important to understand that everytime you eat gluten it can take a long time for your body to recover (it damages the villi in your intestines which can lead to problems absorbing vitamins and minerals that are important to your body’s overall health). It is hard to get your body back to normal after eating gluten. For example, this week we went out and I had a meal that was supposedly gluten free…but they didn’t change the oil they were using to cook it in and I was gluten poisened. Even when we try our best as celiac’s to be free of gluten it is sometimes hard to completely control our environment. That is why it is so important to control it when we can.