Gluten-free is synonymous with what fat-free was years ago. People jump on the band wagon trying to be healthy without really understanding if they need to be gluten free and what exactly does that mean? I have been gluten-free since 2001. Of course I have cheated here and there, but when I do I pay the price. Bloat, gas, headaches, and constipation.
What is Gluten, Gliadin and Grains?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat (durum, semolina, spelt, farino, farro to name a few), barley, rye and spelt. Its name comes from the Latin word for “glue,” because it gives flour a sticky consistency when mixed with water. This glue-like property helps gluten give bread and pasta their shape as well as giving bread the ability to rise when baked.
Gliadin is a glycoprotein (a carbohydrate plus a protein) within gluten. Gliadin is also found in wheat and some other grains, including oats, rye, barley, and millet. It is important to note that products that are gluten free may still have Gliadin in them. If you go gluten-free and still feel bloated, double check what you are eating and make sure the products are also Gliadin free.
Many of us try to eat well and follow USDA guidelines for “healthy” eating. In my experience, that is a big mistake.
First, let’s take a look at the USDA recommendations for grains:
The USDA recommends any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, Whole Grains and Refined Grains.
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, the bran, germ, and endosperm.
Examples include: Whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice
Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins.
Some examples of refined grain products are:
White flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread and white rice.
USDA claims that most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing*. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. USDA suggests you check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word “enriched” is included in the grain name. Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains.
Vitamins added “back into” foods are often difficult for the body to absorb and therefore have no nutritional value. Further, most refined grains sit in silos for weeks at a time growing funguses and must be sprayed with tons of pesticides to kill the fungus. Gross!
When you look at the plate from “Choose My Plate” the recommended portion of these grains is over 25%. If I ate 25% of anything listed above I would end up in the emergency room.
What “ChooseMyPlate” does not tell you about grains:
Notice that most of the choices listed previously for grains all contain wheat (gluten) except for corn and brown rice. Choose My Plate fails to inform you that 50% of the population is intolerant to gluten. They do not give you guidelines to identify if you are gluten intolerant or not.
3 Symptoms You May Have to Indicate You Are Gluten Intolerant
1. You feel gassy and bloated after eating,
2. You experience constipation or runny stools.
3. You feel sluggish after eating foods containing gluten.
If you have any of these symptoms, I highly suggest you go gluten free.
How To Go Gluten Free
The best way to start is to eliminate all things gluten and eat as clean as possible. I would not replace breads and pastas with gluten free items initially unless you are dying for some starch. Be sure to eliminate everything from the intolerable grains list and replace them with tolerable grains as seen on the chart below.
Note: Fermented soy products (e.g. tempe, tofu) contain high concentrations of soy protein, (which has 8 times the concentration of gliadin) which might make them problematic.
For 2 weeks eat only meats, vegetables, legumes, beans, potatoes, rice, dairy and corn. This is often the best way to go to see if you are gluten intolerant. Make sure you are not using sauces, salad dressings or dips that have gluten in them. Soy sauce always has gluten in them and is used to marinate meats of all kinds, even fajitas, so be careful buying marinated meats. If you like soy sauce, buy the gluten free Tamari.
Most people feel better within a few days. If you do not notice a huge difference in how you feel after 2 weeks, eat something with gluten, a sandwich, a pasta dish etc. and see if the symptoms worsen. If they do, stay off gluten.
Once you have decided you need to be 100% gluten free, eating gluten free products is fine, just do not go overboard. Eating a ton of cookies or bread, even if it is gluten free can have a host of other issues. For example, Consumer Reports showed high levels of arsenic were found in rice and should be avoided by pregnant women and infants. The guidelines stated to limit your intake to one serving of rice (or other rice products) per week for children and pregnant women and two servings for other adults. A serving is based on one-fourth cup of uncooked rice (which is about half a cup of cooked brown rice and about three-fourths cup to one cup cooked basmati). Gluten free products tend to have a lot of rice in them, so don’t create another issue by eating loads of gluten free products made from rice. Mix it up as best as possible using some of the brands I have listed below. Cappello’s and simple mills use almond flour, so you get a break from the traditional rice based gluten free products.
How To Eat Out When You Are Gluten Free
When you go out to eat and order gluten free, the server often asks if it is an allergy or preference (if they don’t… ask a lot of questions about what you are ordering). I say it’s a preference as I do not have Celiac disease or Chron’s disease. If you have Celiac or Chron’s then you need to be crystal clear to your server it is an allergy and stay away from gluten and gliadin. Ask a lot of questions even if you feel ridiculous, it’s your money and it’s your gut.
Questions To Ask Your Server:
1. Ask if the sauces or dressings have gluten in them.
2. Ask what the meat is marinated in.
3. Ask if the chicken wings are breaded.
4. Ask if the French fries are cooked in the same oil as the breaded chicken nuggets.
5. Ask if the vegan burger has gluten.
Some Great Restaurant Chains That Have Wonderful Gluten Free Options:
1. PF Changs
2. Joe’s Crab Shack
3. Four Seasons Restaurants
5. In and Out
My go to gluten-free brands
Simple Mills – https://www.simplemills.com
Pamela’s baking mix – https://www.pamelasproducts.com
Cappello’s – https://cappellos.com
Siete Foods – https://sietefoods.com/
Not to burst your bubble, but if you work hard and go gluten free and still feel bad and have symptoms of poor digestion, the following food sources can also cause issues in your gut.
Stay tuned for more information on other foods that a lot of people are intolerant to and how to determine if you are too. Once you get the hang of it, it really is easy and you feel so much better!
Healthy and Happy Eating.