Savvy Tips & Helpful Hints

How to Transition to a Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-free is the latest so-called ‘trend’ in the diet world, along with veganism and ‘clean’ eating. However, let’s be clear – eating a gluten-free diet is not a fad for many people. 

If you have coeliac disease, your body is allergic to gluten. Eating foods containing even the tiniest amount of gluten will trigger an intense physical reaction. It won’t be pleasant. The only way to control the symptoms is to be extremely careful about what you eat. 

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Gluten Intolerance

A lot of people switch to a gluten-free diet because they are intolerant rather than allergic. Being intolerant to gluten causes similar symptoms, but they are not as severe and don’t cause as much lasting damage to the digestive system. However, gluten-intolerance is still unpleasant. 

In addition, people with other autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’s Disease, which both affect the thyroid, may benefit from switching to a gluten-free diet. This is something you may wish to discuss with your endocrinologist, but check this link for some good information on the gluten-thyroid connection.

Whatever your reasons for becoming gluten-free, it will take a lot of effort to ensure you completely eradicate gluten from your diet. 

What Grains Contain Gluten?

Gluten is found in rye, wheat, triticale, and barley. As a consequence, bread, many breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, pies, and pastries all contain gluten in varying amounts. Even non-gluten containing products can be contaminated with gluten if they are produced in the same factory. This isn’t such a problem if you are intolerant, as the level of contamination will be very small, but if you are diagnosed as coeliac, even the tiniest quantity of gluten will trigger symptoms. 

If you are addicted to bread, pastries, and other starchy treats, going gluten-free is going to be a challenge. But it can be done!

Read the Labels

The first thing you must get used to doing is reading the labels on the food products you buy, with the exception of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy. Processed foods are a high-risk, as many products contain wheat, which in turn contains gluten. Even innocuous products such as stock cubes and sauces mixes might contain gluten in the list of ingredients.

If a product says ‘wheat’, ‘rye’, ‘triticale’, or ‘barley’ on the list of ingredients, it contains gluten. Other grains, i.e. oats, corn, rice, and quinoa, are safe, as they don’t trigger a reaction. Foods containing gluten must be clearly labelled as such – allergens are usually listed in ‘bold’ on the label, so be alert. 

Avoid Processed Foods

It’s generally best to avoid processed foods when you switch to a gluten-free diet. Try and cook from scratch, using fresh fruit and vegetables. Shops now stock a range of gluten-free foods, including GF flour, but many of the processed products are high in sugar and other nasty ingredients. Some are also lacking in the taste department!

Look for specialty stores that sell gluten-free products if you need GF snacks and supplements. It’s often cheaper to shop online at sites like Chemist Direct.

It can take several months to eradicate gluten from your system, so be patient. Once you have gone gluten-free, remember, you can’t revert to gluten-containing foods on a whim. One bite of regular bread puts you right back at square one once again.

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