Gluten FAQs

Delicious fresh vegetables tossed with fresh ribbon pasta make up this healthy and delectable Pasta Primavera.

Delicious fresh vegetables tossed with fresh ribbon pasta make up this healthy and delectable Pasta Primavera. 

What are the symptoms of gluten sensitivity?

How young is too young for a gluten free diet?

What Brand Name foods are gluten free? I need a list of as many gluten free “normal foods” you can think of, foods I used to eat that you can buy at any store.

Can you suggest a milk-like gluten free and casein free product?

Is gluten harmful to everyone’s health?

A gluten free recipe calls for egg substitute but I don’t have any. What should I use?

Is a starch free diet the same as a gluten free diet?

Where does maltodextrin come from?

Where does xanthan gum come from?

What flour does not contain gluten?

Can you use any type of ground grains in place of flour?

Some say spelt is gluten free, some say it isn’t – what is the truth?

Will I ever be able to eat gluten again? Can gluten intolerance be reversed?

Why are there so many people who cannot tolerate gluten – is it something to do with the human digestive system?

How do I know what’s got gluten in it?

If I am gluten intolerant (have tested negative to blood tests for celiac) is there a chance that I will be able to tolerate a small amount of gluten (e.g certain flavors of chips/crisps contain gluten) or is it an all or none situation?

Why am I not losing weight – I can’t find the gluten in my diet which is causing this?

Is gluten intolerance one of those diseases that is triggered by the environment?

Why is gluten free food so expensive?

All the medical tests I had came out negative for gluten intolerance/celiac disease, how come I still get sick when I eat it?

Is it possible to get a pasta that is only gluten and wheat free instead of what is offered which tends be gluten, wheat, egg and milk free?

Is it possible to eat gluten free and follow a low fat diet at the same time?

Can gluten actually cause anxiety and depression in gluten sensitive/celiac individuals?

How long after consumption of gluten are effects usually felt?

How can gluten intolerance have so many different effects?

How do I know for certain if food is safe or not?

What’s the difference between a Gluten-free diet and a Wheat-free diet?

I’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease. Where do I start?

What alcoholic drinks are safe for someone who is gluten intolerant?

My doctor told me to go on a gluten-free, dairy-free AND sugar-free diet. Any tips?

Can you eat oat flour and oatmeal on a gluten free diet ?

I’m sick of salad. What else can I take with me for lunch?

If food is labeled gluten free does that mean it is also wheat free?

If food is labeled wheat free does that mean it is also gluten free?

I just started a gluten free diet and have zero energy. Is this normal?

Do you have to avoid MSG (Monosodium glutamate) on a gluten free diet?

I’ve heard gluten contains MSG. If I have to avoid MSG does that mean I have to go gluten free?

According to [insert food manufacturer/health authority here] MSG shouldn’t be a problem in a gluten free diet. Why do you advise against it?

Is gluten intolerance/celiac disease hereditary? Does gluten intolerance/celiac disease run in families?

Where can I buy gluten free foods?

How did you discover that you were gluten intolerant?

If you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease and you are already overweight, when you go onto a gluten free diet, do you gain more weight?

I can’t afford expensive gluten free food. How do I eat gluten free on a budget?

How do you eat gluten and dairy free at a wedding?

My physician has ordered me to go strictly gluten-free. I do not want to gain weight. Is it difficult to follow a gluten-free, low carb, low-fat diet?

I am really sick of gluten free microwavable food. What snacks can I eat that I can just pick up at any local store?

I’m going on holiday/to a foreign restaurant. How do I tell the waiting staff and the kitchen that I can’t eat gluten?

Should I feel this bad 1 week into being gluten free? I’ve been gluten free for 1 week and I am soooo tired/my symptoms are worse than before I started.

Is oatmeal gluten free?

My friend says she had a spit test that showed she had a gluten allergy. I’m worried, because I don’t think this is a recognized test. What do you think?

I was just diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and was wondering if a gluten free diet would help?

Can you grow out of celiac disease? I was diagnosed as a kid, but lately I’ve been eating gluten and I haven’t noticed any symptoms.

Why are my gluten reactions more severe the longer I am gluten free? I discovered that I am gluten intolerant some time ago. I am mostly gluten free, but sometimes I eat gluten by accident. However, I am noticing that my reaction to gluten has become very severe now, where before it was much less so. Any idea why this is?

I’ve read that wheat grass is gluten free. Is that correct?

How harmful is cross-contamination for individuals who are gluten intolerant?

Why am I craving the foods that I’m intolerant of?

Can cooked wheat free pasta be frozen?

Is parmesan cheese gluten free?

Will staying on a gluten free diet help my diabetes?

What is there that’s gluten free on the TGI Fridays and other franchised restaurants’ menus?

Why has my stomach always been distended? I am in fairly good shape, and I work out regularly. However, my stomach has always seemed to ‘stick out’ from the rest of my body. Even when my stomach feels relatively flat, it still sticks out 2-3 inches. It just looks very abnormal alot of the time since the rest of my body is definitely not fat. I tried cutting out gluten carbs, but it made no difference. I eat mainly frozen and processed food. A lot of the time, I feel bloated.

Can you suggest some fast snacks that I can grab on the go that are healthy and gluten-free

I’ve been on a gluten free diet for a while, and now I’m eating gluten again on the instructions of my doctor prior to a blood test in a few weeks to get a proper diagnosis. I’m finding I need to visit the lavatory several times a day. Is this normal?

I have been on a gluten-free diet for several months. I’ve been getting severe muscle cramps and frequent minor infections. Is this caused by a deficiency in the diet?

Can you recommend an allergen-free fiber supplement?

If I stop eating gluten am I likely to become deficient in anything that is important for maintaining good health?

Is gluten necessary in your normal diet?

How can you eat gluten free quickly and safely when your job has you on the road often?

I’m a vegetarian celiac. Can you give me some hints for a varied diet for a vegetarian gluten free diet?

What are the symptoms of gluten sensitivity?

This is a list of some of the health problems which have been linked with gluten:

Acne • Bone and joint pain • Addison’s Disease • Alzheimer’s Disease • Anaemia • Anxiety • Asthma • Autism and other ASDs • Auto-immune conditions • Back pain • Behavioural problems in children • Bipolar disorder • Bowel cancer • Bursitis • Celiac (Coeliac) Disease (also known as: gluten-sensitive enteropathy, non-tropical sprue, celiac sprue, primary malabsorption, or ideopathic steatorrhea) • Cerebellar ataxia • Constipation alternating with diarrhea • Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) • Colon Cancer • Cramps and muscle spasms • Crohn’s Disease • Dehydration • Dementia • Depression • Dermatitis • Dermatitis Herpetiformis • Diabetes • Diarrhea • Eczema • Endometriosis • Epilepsy • Failure to thrive • Fatigue • Gastro-esophagal Reflux Disease (GERD) • Gastro-intestinal distress • Hashimoto Thyroiditis • Hyperthyroidism • Impotence • Infertility • Insomnia • Irritable Bowel Syndrome • Jaundice • Learning difficulties • Liver disease • Low bone density • Low iron • Lupus • Malabsorption problems • Malnutrition • Memory loss • Migraines • Mineral deficiency • Miscarriage • Mood swings • Motor neurone disease • Multiple sclerosis • Neurological conditions • Obesity • Osteoporosis • Overweight • Psoriasis • Psychological problems • Regional enteritis • Respiratory problems • Rheumatoid arthritis • Schizophrenia • Sinusitis • Sjögren’s syndrome • Skin problems • Sperm abnormalities • Swollen ankles • Ulcerative colitis • Vasculitis • Weight problems

It’s a long list isn’t it? If you suffer from any of the above or any of these symptoms:

flatulence (‘wind’ or ‘gas’), especially after eating gluten-containing foods; • abdominal distension (swelling of the stomach); • stools (‘poos’) which are pale, bulky, greasy and smelly; • diarrhea or constipation, or a bowel habit alternating between the two; • headache or migraine; • nausea and vomiting; • heartburn or acid reflux after pasta, pizza or pastry; • poor appetite and drowsiness after eating; • muscle cramps and spasms; • bone or joint pains; • anemia, with weight loss; • obesity; • edema (puffy swollen legs); • or any of the symptoms listed flaring up under stress

then you may be suffering from gluten intolerance/sensitivity (sometimes incorrectly called gluten allergy). And if any of your family has been diagnosed with a number of related disorders, the likelihood is even higher. The easiest way to check is to go here: AmIGlutenIntolerant.com and do the quiz. It will calculate the odds of your suffering from the problem, taking into account your own symptoms and family history.

The problem is that symptoms differ from person to person, and it’s not unusual for someone who goes on a gluten free diet for one of the symptoms and then stops to find they get a different set of symptoms than they did before, while the original ones may have disappeared. This is just because gluten seems to make the body attack itself, it’s a trigger for auto-immune reactions, and these can take many forms.

How young is too young for a gluten free diet?

Well, babies should not be exposed to gluten at all until they are 6 months old. Is there any need to give them gluten beyond this age? Not really. Of course, wheat is a cheap food, so eating gluten free is more expensive, but if your child is sensitive to gluten, avoiding it is a necessity, not a luxury.

Current research indicates that the later gluten is included in the diet, the lower the likelihood of problems with gluten in later life. So my advice is to keep gluten away from kids until they are at least a year old. It’s not too hard to puree a bit of your own meal for the kids, so if you’re gluten free that’s really easy.

What Brand Name foods are gluten free? I need a list of as many gluten free “normal foods” you can think of, foods I used to eat that you can buy at any store.

This is not a question that can be answered safely in general.

A product that is gluten free in the batch I bought today may not be the next time I buy it. Manufacturers change ingredients according to price/supply issues without mentioning the fact on the face of the packet. The only way is to check the ingredients. And you have to do this every time you buy.

Orgran pasta is gluten free, but it is manufactured to be gluten free, and it says gluten free on the pack. There are other products like this, but they are not the things you have bought in the past, unless you like to throw your money away, because gluten free products are very expensive compared to the “normal” varieties of the same item.

If i was to advise you to buy something that was gluten free when i bought it, i would be doing you a disservice. It is your health, and nobody but you can take responsibility for ensuring you don’t get bowel cancer or some other side effect of eating gluten when you know you are intolerant of it.

OK, if you are living with your parents, or your partner cooks your meals, they will obviously be contributing to this, but you have to pay attention to your body, and if you get a problem that might be gluten-related, it’s worth double-checking what you ate carefully. Remember, they don’t get these internal hints, so they may not notice. And it’s easy to contaminate food with gluten if they are still preparing “ordinary” food for other people, and so on.

Having said all this, General Mills is rolling out many gluten free products now, including Chex cereals and Betty Crocker packet mixes. They will all have a gluten free flash on the pack, so make sure when you buy that this is there (as there are still some normal products out there at the time of writing).

 

Another mainstream product which has gone gluten free is Knorr stock cubes – at least the ones they sell in the UK, and I expect this will be across the board. There’s a flash on the front, so look out for this when buying.

Some brands are always gluten free (Mrs Crimbles, for example) and still found on the “normal” shelves. Recently, General Mills has been busily converting their products to gluten free versions, starting with their popular Chex breakfast cereals and continuing with Betty Crocker mixes. And Knorr, at least in the UK, has reformulated their popular stock cubes to be gluten free.

In general, though food manufacturers are taking note at the strong rise in sales in the gluten free sector, few have taken the plunge – yet. I’m watching developments with interest, as I’m sure you are, too!

Can you suggest a milk-like gluten free and casein free product?

There are lots of nut milks, also rice milk and soya milk (but not more than a couple times a week, as soy in excess has issues of its own), and also it is said that finely ground quinoa can be used in place of milk in shakes, as it has a creamy texture and taste. It’s also quite high in protein.

Is gluten harmful to everyone’s health?

At the moment, it’s believed that gluten is only harmful for some of the population, although the percentage affected seems to rise by the day.

There are various different things that can make gluten a problem. The first and most obvious is celiac disease, which is an auto-immune disorder triggered by even the slightest speck of gluten. Dermatitis herpetiformis is a less well known disorder closely related to celiac disease.

Next, there are people who have what is sometimes called non-celiac gluten intolerance. These may be suffering from the silent form of celiac disease (which doesn’t show up in tests, hence the name), or may be intolerant for other reasons. The range of symptoms that can be caused by gluten is huge, and rather than list them all here, I suggest you check the list given here.

There are also disorders not directly related to gluten but which nevertheless seem to improve when gluten is excluded from the diet – Lyme disease is one of these.

Finally, though extremely rare, there is also a very small group of people who have a true allergy. I read about a woman with this problem in the newspaper about a year ago – she blew up with anaphylaxis (not having known she had the condition), and her 3-year-old was hailed as a hero for having called an ambulance for her. This is the only case I have ever heard of.

A gluten free recipe calls for egg substitute but I don’t have any. What should I use?

Unless you have to exclude eggs from your diet for some reason, use an egg or two, maybe with a little water if you need it.

Is a starch free diet the same as a gluten free diet?

No. Gluten is a protein, not a starch, which is found in wheat (including durum and graham wheat), rye, barley, kamut, spelt, triticale and closely related grains, and products made with them.

Eliminating all starch from your diet is pretty much impossible (as almost all foods contain a balance), and highly dangerous. You need protein, fat and carbs (starch). Leaving one out is not good for you.

Where does maltodextrin come from?

According to Wikipedia Maltodextrin can be derived from any starch. In the US, this starch is usually rice, corn or potato; elsewhere, such as in Europe, it is commonly wheat. This is important for celiacs, since the wheat-derived maltodextrin can contain traces of gluten. There have been recent reports of celiac reaction to maltodextrin in the United States. This might be a consequence of the shift of corn to ethanol production and its replacement with wheat in the formulation.

Where does xanthan gum come from?

It’s manufactured from glucose and some other ingredients (none of which contain gluten) by a process of fermentation.

What flour does not contain gluten?

There are quite a few, but not likely many that would be in your cupboard if you weren’t gluten intolerant.

Here are some: cornflour/cornstarch, rice flour (any type), buckwheat flour, millet flour, coconut flour, amaranth flour, potato flour/starch, sorghum flour, teff flour, tapioca flour, almond flour, besan/gram flour/chickpea flour/garbanzo bean flour, plus any specialist gluten free flour mixes. For example in the UK, Doves Farm makes quite a few, Orgran in Australia does as well, and in the US Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods has a range of gluten free flours and mixes.

Out of this lot, I have 3 types of rice flour (white, brown and sweet), buckwheat flour, coconut flour and gram flour in my cupboard at the moment, and a bag of Doves Farm “plain white” – but this will be expanded in the near future once my kitchen has finished being remodeled. Oh, I also have arrowroot, which I don’t use all that much, but as I get nasty reactions to cornflour, I used to use arrowroot for thickening instead of cornflour back in the days before I realized I had a problem with gluten. Now, I tend to make a roux with fat and rice flour to thicken most things, or just whisk some rice flour straight into whatever I want to thicken. Or if I’m making a curry, I might thicken it with gram flour or a tablespoonful or so of houmous!

Can you use any type of ground grains in place of flour?

Sure, and not just grains, but nuts and pulses as well, but every flour has different properties. If you’re gluten intolerant, you’re going to be using a lot of different flours nobody else really bothers with.

Rice flour is pretty good on its own for some things, such as to thicken gravy and so on (you can also use cornflour/cornstarch or arrowroot for this). I’ve made convincing English-style pancakes/crepes with rice flour as well. You can use coarser ground rice for a semolina substitute – add a little nutmeg to get the taste closer to the wheat version.

Almond flour is great in sweet pastry and cake mixes.

In all these cases, there’s obviously no gluten, so you may need to add xanthan gum. This applies to any wheat-flour substitute used in a recipe where it needs to rise.

Besan/chickpea flour/garbanzo bean flour makes a great batter just on its own with water, or spice it up with chilli powder and chopped coriander to make pakora.

Some say spelt is gluten free, some say it isn’t – what is the truth?

There is basically no real agreement about this. It seems that spelt, which is a close relative of wheat, has a similar protein, not identical to gluten, and that some people are affected by it, and others are not. So, in my opinion, you are probably better off avoiding it, as there are plenty of safe substitutes available, for example, buckwheat (which is from a completely different family, despite the name), rice and quinoa flours. Another close relative of spelt and wheat is triticale, and there is similar controversy surrounding this.

Oats have a similar mixed reputation. At one time it was thought it was another grain which was tolerated only by some gluten intolerants, and not others. But it now seems that the problem was caused by the processing in some countries (such as the US) in facilities where wheat, barley or rye were also processed, resulting in cross-contamination. Although oats are naturally gluten free, you will see packets of oats with the label “gluten free” and this usually means that they have been processed in a gluten free facility.

It’s possible that some spelt (and triticale) is being cross-contaminated in the same way as oats, of course.

Will I ever be able to eat gluten again? Can gluten intolerance be reversed?

If you have celiac disease, no, never. If you have one of the other types of gluten intolerance, most likely not, but it’s a possibility. It depends on what type of gluten sensitivity you have. Some say that it’s only celiac disease that comes with a “life sentence”. But then again, if you have a system that can’t break gluten down properly, resulting in those toxic chemicals flooding your body, i don’t know if that CAN be reversed.

As i carry along with the gluten free thing, I started out cheating quite often, but you live and learn, and this happens a lot less now. It’s a learning thing. And after a while, it does get easier.

The best thing if you want to have a great time and not get nasty symptoms is to follow the diet religiously, even while you’re away from home. This may mean being a bit creative. One place not to put on your list of top vacation destinations is Italy, although I believe there are some gluten free restaurants in the main cities – there would have to be, because Italy has a large number of gluten intolerants, unsurprising, as including something in your diet day in and day out does tend to lead to problems.

And this may also be why so much gluten intolerance is cropping up in the US and the UK, where many of the processed foods we eat contain gluten, even though the natural version wouldn’t be seen anywhere near a bag of flour. The thing is, all of us eat masses of gluten every day without realizing it, even if we’re not eating pasta, pies, puddings and pastries.

Take yogurt for instance. Most people will opt for the low fat variety. Unfortunately, low fat yogurt is naturally thin and watery – not at all interesting, as you probably know if you were around when they first came out. After a while, new creamy low fat yogurts came out. Well, they weren’t high in fat, for sure, but they were high in gluten, as the manufacturer used processed flour to thicken the thin runny unappetizing yogurt and make it palatable again.

Lots of stuff is like this. And sadly, most processed food has gluten in it. Even grated cheese, which used to stick together in the packet; now it doesn’t – because the stuff is coated in modified starch (flour by another name). Doesn’t taste so nice either.

But you can eat, and eat well. Try following a diet like the South Beach – plenty of solid meat, fresh fruit and veg. You can add rice and maize/corn as well, and potatoes (unlike if you were doing the South Beach for real). Barbecues are fine, but avoid burgers and sausages, go for bits of meat on skewers or steak or king prawns and anything you can see that looks the way it would if it hadn’t been through a factory first (no buns, of course). I’m sure you will find that living gluten free is not so much of a problem if you look for this sort of stuff.

Why are there so many people who cannot tolerate gluten – is it something to do with the human digestive system?

So far as I know nobody has come up with a definitive answer to this, but there are some things we can say for sure, that may be contributing to the numbers of people affected.

Firstly, grains are a comparatively recent introduction to the human diet, around 5-10,000 years ago, in different parts of the world. The earliest record I can find of grain being grown deliberately is around 11,000 years ago, and that was oats and barley, not wheat. Up to that time, most of the grain consumed by humans would have been foraged, in much smaller quantities than what came later.

So from this, it’s pretty evident that there just hasn’t been enough time for the human body to evolve to cope with a significant change in diet of this type – 10,000 years is really nothing in evolutionary terms. In fact, there are theories around that the introduction of grains into the diet was what put paid to our Neanderthal cousins, who just weren’t able to digest it. (Another theory is that they were assimilated into the general population, but as they looked so very different, and given the attitude to marriage between different skin colours/ethnicities/so on, which we still see today almost anywhere outside the metropolitan West, I think this is pretty unlikely.)

As an aside, we humans have a useless appendix – this same organ is present in animals that eat a lot of grass and other greens, such as rabbits, but in them it actually digests the cellulose found in these foods. Ours does not work. All our appendix does is occasionally go nuts and send us running to the hospital to get it cut out! Maybe if our ancestors had not stopped eating grass for so long during their time in the trees, we would have a functional appendix, and we might not have the same problems with gluten many of us have now.

The other main factor which I see as contributing to the very large numbers of people showing gluten intolerance in one form or another, apart from better diagnostics, is the fact that we have become accustomed to processed food, and the manufacturers (as is natural to any business person) attempt to make their products attractive at the least possible cost.

One of the cheapest ways to make palatable products is to use flour for thickening and also as a bulking ingredient. It’s also processed and added to dairy products where the fat has been removed, to stop them being watery. In fact, flour and processed starch (usually made from flour) is present in probably at least 90% of all processed food. So everybody is taking in large quantities of gluten every day, even if they don’t necessarily realize it.

But it’s hard not to notice you have a problem with gluten if you’re consuming it at every meal. Sooner or later, it will become obvious. Perhaps there were always this many people who were borderline gluten intolerant, but with the diet we get now, they are getting more or less nasty symptoms, more frequently, and eventually they (or their doctor) works it out.

Expect to see a large increase in the numbers of people showing an intolerance of maize/corn, since corn syrup has become almost as prevalent in manufactured foods in the last decade or so. I for one am not able to tolerate cornstarch or coffee whitener, in fact the results I get from eating this by accident are much more instant and crippling than gluten for me.

There are some scientists who estimate up to one person in six is affected by some form of gluten intolerance. Given the points I have mentioned above, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was more than that.

How do I know what’s got gluten in it?

The short answer is “Read the ingredients label, every time you buy,” but you do need to understand the code they sometimes use on the labels (I guess they’re not deliberately trying to hurt people like us, but they sure don’t seem to want too many people to realize how much flour is in everything nowadays).

Gluten is often hidden in things, but if you know the names it can go under on labels (in the small print on the back), you can avoid it most of the time. And if you are seriously intolerant (as many are), you will soon know if you got it wrong – then you can avoid that product next time.

Gluten is often used to thicken up things that are a bit runny, often because most of the fat has been removed. So low fat yogurt, which has no business having flour in it at all, nearly always is thickened with “modified starch”, which generally means modified wheat starch. Any product with a label that has modified starch on it of unidentified origin is best avoided.

And even things you might never think had wheat or one of the other sources of gluten needs its label checked. For example, soy sauce – almost always this is made with wheat, and a gluten free version is very expensive and not at all easy to get hold of (though you can get it online).

Another thing, crab sticks – sea food sticks they call them nowadays, as there’s no crab to be seen in the ingredients – these seem like just fish, but if you read the label, there it is again, modified starch or wheat flour (depending on the manufacturer). So the best bet if you have a taste for these is to stick to real crab or prawns and avoid the processed shaped things. This is more expensive, of course, and to be truthful going gluten free can be extremely expensive, especially if you insist on eating gluten free varieties of “normal” products, like bread (gluten free bread is almost always horrible, and it comes in tiny packets at a price which would be laughable if they weren’t targeting a market with no other choice. Well, you do have a choice, which is not to buy the stuff, but that means no bread, of course).

There are lots of other ways gluten hides, and the examples I have given here are just the ones that always spring to mind – as you will see if you go ahead and read the article Master of Disguise – how gluten hides where you least expect it.

If I am gluten intolerant (have tested negative to blood tests for celiac) is there a chance that I will be able to tolerate a small amount of gluten (e.g certain flavors of chips/crisps contain gluten) or is it an all or none situation?

This is an interesting question, one I keep asking myself, as I also seem to be only moderately gluten intolerant. However, I find as I go on that I am eating less and less gluten. Even those tempting bacon sandwiches don’t seem so appetising any more.

I think you will find it harder to stop eating gluten than some people, because you won’t be getting the fairly major symptoms some people do experience when they eat the least little bit – which makes it a lot easier to stay the course! On the other hand, if you are finding that avoiding gluten is beneficial to you, over time I think you will find, like me, that gluten-containing foods are no longer so tempting.

So my advice to you is, do your best, but if you slip, never mind. It’s like trying to give up anything, it’s not easy to start with, but if you keep just returning to the path, sooner or later, your determination will stick.

You may also be interested in this article: Medical Research Ends the Debate on the Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

Why am I not losing weight – I can’t find the gluten in my diet which is causing this?

I’m interested in what you say about not losing weight being an indication that you’re getting gluten from somewhere. You see, not everybody will lose weight, which is why a lot of us gluten intolerants get quite cross when we see gluten-free touted as a weight loss diet. It isn’t.

Some people who have gluten intolerance which is undiagnosed get constant demands from the body for nutrition, even though they are eating normally (because gluten interferes with the digestion of anything eaten at the same time), which can tend to make them overeat, and this can lead to obesity. When these people stop eating gluten, the craving stops, their appetite drops and their calorie intake along with it. Also, many of the things that contain gluten are also quite high in fat, eg. pastry, pasta meals, pizza… so people who ate this sort of thing a lot before they gave up gluten are automatically reducing their fat intake – and fat has three times as much energy (calories) as either protein or carbohydrate, so makes a lot of difference.

Not everybody’s body reacts the same way though. Some undiagnosed celiacs are underweight and anemic, so when they get diagnosed, they put on weight. And others just don’t have any particular difference, perhaps because they were more self-disciplined when the body craved more food than they knew they should eat, or they always stuck to the healthy option.

I would say, if you’re feeling better, you are most likely eliminating most if not all gluten from your diet successfully. It’s a bit of a pain having to be so vigilant with everything – isn’t it amazing how many things have gluten that it seems really shouldn’t? The cheaper the food, the more flour they seem to stick in there. I guess, because it’s cheap bulk, but it does mean that food shopping for me and other people who have to avoid gluten has got a lot more expensive. And now food prices are going up for everybody else as well, so I am sure we will see yet more products appearing on the shelves with gluten in that never had it before. That’s why I say “check the label every time you buy”.

Food manufacturers are just focused on making money, as is natural, they are in business after all. But it means that they will go for the cheapest, most readily available option when buying in ingredients, and they quite often change things without any alert on the pack – but it will be there in the ingredients, so just always check there, and you should be fine.

Is gluten intolerance one of those diseases that is triggered by the environment?

I don’t think there’s a definite answer on this one, yet. One thing we know which seems to indicate that genes are involved somewhere, is that all the various problems caused by gluten intolerance seem to run in families. Not everybody will get celiac disease, for example, but there may be someone who has some other problem which is gluten-related. If you took the quiz, you would have seen lists of many different disorders which seem to run in the same families as those with celiac disease.

It appears that you don’t inherit celiac disease or whatever, but what you do inherit is a tendency to develop a disorder caused by improper digestion of gluten. It’s possible the common link is this inability to digest gluten, but that the effects will come out in different ways depending on environment and events in the life of the particular person – and I guess, how much gluten is in your normal diet.

Why is gluten free food so expensive?

There are two reasons why gluten free food is so expensive. The first is that, as you will know if you’ve ever tried, it’s quite a lot more difficult to make some things without gluten. And the flours which are used to replace normal flour are more expensive, partly because wheat is so readily available. The second reason, of course, is that manufacturers aren’t averse to making extra profits out of people who have no other choice. Not all of them do this, I guess, but certainly normal business practice is to charge as much as the market will bear – and where are people who have to eat gluten free going to go, otherwise?

All the medical tests I had came out negative for gluten intolerance/celiac disease, how come I still get sick when I eat it?

I’m not sure what tests you have had, but as I’ve said in several articles, there are only 2 tests that might give a definite yes, and none can give a definite no to the question “Am I gluten intolerant”:

  • There’s a special genetic test for celiac. This can show that you might get celiac at some point, but not whether or not you have it.
  • There’s a biopsy of the intestine. This can show celiac disease, if you have it, but only if you are eating a lot of gluten for several weeks before the test.

Other types of gluten intolerance won’t show up in either of these tests. The only way to detect these is by an exclusion diet followed by a challenge with gluten.

Even celiac disease can’t always be detected, as there is a “silent” form – this makes me laugh, as the way to detect the silent form is that the patient has all the expected symptoms, but the tests come up negative.

If gluten makes you sick when you eat it, my advice is to stop eating it, regardless of whether you have negative tests, positive tests or no tests.

This article may also shed some light: Medical Research Ends the Debate on the Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

Is it possible to get a pasta that is only gluten and wheat free instead of what is offered which tends be gluten, wheat, egg and milk free?

The only gluten free pasta I recommend is made by Orgran, and that is pretty much “everything-free”. But you could always do a bit of experimenting and make your own I guess. There are pasta machines available quite cheap – though there are expensive ones as well. They’re not hard to get, either. Lakeland does them, and you can even find them on Amazon!

Is it possible to eat gluten free and follow a low fat diet at the same time?

Cutting down on fat on a gluten free diet really comes as part of the territory, as many of the products that contain gluten also come with a lot of fat – all pastries and cakes have fat in them, although it is disguised by all the flour and sugar. Pasta is generally served with a lot of oil, and pizza almost oozes fat. It’s true that gluten is used in place of fat in low fat products, to stop them seeming watery, but it’s also used in other products to hide the fat content – and to stop things like grated cheese sticking together.

Having said that, it’s important to remember that some necessary nutrients are only found in fats and oils. So you must include at least some fat in the diet, or you will end up with malnutrition.

Can gluten actually cause anxiety and depression in gluten sensitive/celiac individuals?

It sure can. If the necessary enzyme is missing, the gluten only breaks down halfway – and then there’s this chemical called an opioid peptide, which can leak into the bloodstream (“leaky gut syndrome” which was extremely controversial, but the mechanism for which was discovered by researchers in Maryland in July 2008). Opiates can cause all kinds of problems, mental and physical.

If you want the scientific details, try this post: Gluten, Casein and how they cause problems.

How long after consumption of gluten are effects usually felt?

There’s no set time. It depends on many things. Some celiacs report very fast effects – within 20 minutes or even less – but other people (who maybe display their intolerance in different ways) might not notice anything for several hours. This is why it’s often so difficult to diagnose food intolerance, including gluten intolerance.

If you get very fast effects every time you eat gluten, I think it’s pretty plain that gluten is causing you problems. However, it’s worth thinking about whether perhaps when you get these fast effects you are also eating some other food – like dairy products. For example, pizza always comes with cheese and also tomatoes. Pasta also often comes with either or both of these, or a sauce which contains milk. If this is the case, it’s worth eating something that contains gluten but not the other food item/s to see if the effect still occurs.

How can gluten intolerance have so many different effects?

Celiac disease is currently the main medically recognized form, but it runs in families along with a whole group of other disorders – as diverse as schizophrenia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Autism is beginning to be accepted even by the medical profession as a reaction to gluten and casein in the diet. And it’s beginning to look as if many other behavioral/attention problems may also be related to diet, with gluten as the main culprit.

 

The reason why it has so many different effects is because of the way it breaks down, in a 2-stage process. In people who can’t take gluten, the second stage doesn’t take place, resulting in toxins which can cause nasty problems in all the different systems in the body. I explain this in much more detail (the article also talks about casein, which does a similar thing), in this post: Gluten, Casein and how they cause problems.

 

How do I know for certain if food is safe or not?

If you’re asking how to tell a particular food is safe to eat if you’re gluten intolerant or suffer from celiac disease, the answer depends on the circumstances.

If you’re buying in a store, then you need to check the ingredients on the back – unless the product you are buying is labeled “gluten free.” This doesn’t apply to fresh fruit and vegetables, which are naturally gluten free. Unprocessed meat or fish which has no coating or sauce – for example, a steak, cutlet or chop – is also safe to eat.

If you’re buying food in a restaurant to eat on the go, you need to ask them if they have a gluten free option. In a lot of cases, the staff won’t understand what you are asking for, so you may not get a sensible answer. If this happens – if it looks as if they’re just guessing or don’t seem to know what “gluten free” means – ask to speak to the manager. Hopefully, he will have a better idea, but even if not, you can go for things like a baked potato with salad, but be careful of the dressing. Lemon juice or French dressing should be safe, but if it’s mayo, ask to see the label on the jar first.

It’s often easier/safer to take a packed lunch, if you can.

For help with recognising gluten on labels, you can take a look at my article Master of disguise – how gluten hides where you least expect it.

What’s the difference between a Gluten-free diet and a Wheat-free diet?

A gluten free diet will always be wheat free, but a wheat free diet may not always be gluten free.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some other closely related grains, so it’s possible to be wheat-free but not gluten-free.

I’ve just been diagnosed with celiac disease. Where do I start?

You’re going to be cooking this way for life, so start out with the basics.

The first thing to do is to learn the mantra to use when buying processed foods: Check the Label of Every Pack Every Time You Buy – remember manufacturers will change recipes at the drop of a hat if price/availability changes. Even 2 packs bought on the same day may be different.

You can eat UNPROCESSED meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, fruit, dried fruit, vegetables and salads, rice, corn, millet, buckwheat (more closely related to spinach than wheat) and some other grains – but be careful, some say spelt is ok, others not, and so on, so do your own due diligence – which i guess in this case means, either avoid altogether or try it and see if it hits you with a reaction or not. Oats are ok if labeled “gluten free” because this means they won’t have been contaminated in processing.

Good quality salad dressings and table sauces – mayonnaise, ketchup and so on – but don’t forget to check the label. (But you cannot use soy sauce – unless you buy expensive and hard to find gluten free soy sauce. Who knew it was made with wheat as well as soy?)

So you can see, a large part of a normal diet (forgetting about the processed foods we are all so used to nowadays) is fine for you to eat. You can cook yourself a steak, a baked potato and make some salad to go with it and that’s a perfectly good gluten free meal.

You can also make yourself cookies like macaroons (which is basically ground up coconut or almonds mixed with a bit of sugar and stuck back together with egg white).

Sure I can give you recipes, but you’re going to have to live this. It’s easier to start out with normal everyday type food, and once it’s instinctive what you can and can’t eat, then is the time to get into recipes and stuff.

Oh, one more tip. Non-celiacs don’t understand how important it is to exclude gluten altogether from your diet. They don’t get the problems you do. They almost all think, deep down, “oh, a little bit won’t hurt”. They are wrong – don’t take what they say as gospel, and if they cook for you, don’t be surprised if you get glutened once in a while.

What alcoholic drinks are safe for someone who is gluten intolerant?

Wine (except barley wine), cider, rum, brandy are gluten free. Most beer is not, because it is made from grain.

Here are 3 sites that maintain a list of gluten free beers (nothing to do with me): Gluten Free Beer.

Whisky, vodka and other spirits based on grain may or may not contain gluten. Manufacturers say that all the gluten is removed in processing. However, many celiacs report experiencing the same symptoms when drinking them that they get from other sources of gluten. In any case, some whiskies and bourbons have malt added after distillation, so these are definitely not gluten free.

These should be safe: wine (including sparkling wines like Champagne and Asti Spumante), sherry and port, brandy, armagnac and cognac, cider and perry, quite a few liqueurs like Amaretto for example, but not Baileys, Drambuie or any other whisky-based liqueur.

My doctor told me to go on a gluten-free, dairy-free AND sugar-free diet. Any tips?

It’s difficult. The first thing you have to do is to go into your kitchen stores and read every label and throw out anything that contains the things you can’t eat. That eliminates most of the temptation (while you’re home, anyway). Then research what you can eat – start with meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts. That will be the basis of your diet.

Start with simple old-style home cooked meals – steak or a cutlet with vegetables and potatoes. After a while you will become inspired to try other things as well. I doubt you will find any processed foods that you can eat, so it will be a case of making it for yourself – and you may even have to work out the recipe for yourself.

Find out what “sugar” means from the person who put you on this diet. If there’s a form of sugar you can use, then use it (if you want to), as it’s difficult to do desserts without, for a start. Or you could try Stevia or something similar.

Also find out what “dairy free” means – is it to exclude lactose? or casein? If you have to exclude casein, it makes things much more difficult, but if not, then you can use the soy- or nut-based “cheeses” and so on.

Can you eat oat flour and oatmeal on a gluten free diet ?

Possibly.

As you know, it’s not just wheat that contains gluten, other grains such as rye, barley and close relatives also contain it.

Oats do not, and most celiacs can tolerate oats – SO LONG AS they have been processed in a gluten free facility.

The most common reason for oats not to be tolerated by those who are gluten intolerant is contamination by being processed in the same factory as gluten-containing grains. You know how flour flies around at the least provocation and gets in cracks round the edge of the worktop if you’re not careful? It’s impossible to prevent oats being contaminated if they’re processed in the same factory as wheat, barley etc.

So buy oats/oatmeal/oat flour marked as having been processed in a gluten free facility, usually labeled “gluten free” even though oats don’t actually contain gluten. Bob’s Red Mill is one source in the US.

I’m sick of salad. What else can I take with me for lunch?

There are some things you can use to make open sandwiches. They go soft if they are in contact with the topping (or even butter) for very long, so pack them separately in your lunch box. Real Foods Pty do Corn Thins (on sale all over the world) in various different varieties (my favorite is the sesame) all should be fine except the multigrain. If you can’t get those, Kallo also do corn cakes – they don’t have a lot of taste, but they do serve as a carrier for whatever you want to put on top of them.

Toppings are whatever you can think of. Ham and pickle, cream cheese and smoked salmon, shrimp and cottage cheese…

You can make salads with rice or gluten free pasta, which may be nicer. I suppose you don’t have heating facilities, but if you do, you can take a potato and some filling for a jacket bake. If you’re using cheese, grate your own, as the packet stuff is coated in modified starch, usually of unspecified origin, which, apart from making it taste very strange and not melt so easily, is a contaminant.

As well as stuffed tomatoes, you can also do stuffed bell/sweet peppers. Cut a lid with the stalk attached, scoop out and discard the pith and seeds, then stuff it with anything you like.

My dad used to make stuffed eggs for parties. They don’t sound much, but are surprisingly nice. You hard boil the eggs, cool and deshell them, then cut in half and take out the yolks. Mash them up with some tinned sardines or whatever you like and put back in the eggs (it will be too much, so make a dome on top). You could wrap these in cling film or foil to stop the filling going everywhere in transit.

Or you could take something hot in a vacuum flask designed for food.

If food is labeled gluten free does that mean it is also wheat free?

Yes. Gluten free includes wheat free, since gluten is found in wheat (and rye, barley and a few other very closely related grains).

If food is labeled wheat free does that mean it is also gluten free?

Not necessarily, as other grains also contain gluten.

I just started a gluten free diet and have zero energy. Is this normal?

No. It’s not normal.

For a start, I would recommend that you go out and buy a good one a day multivitamin and mineral combination (gluten free) plus some fish oil capsules and start taking them every day.

Then you need to look at your diet in the round. Does it have a good level of carbohydrates (these are your main energy source)? Remember, you can get carbs from rice, corn, potatoes, peas, beans and various other places, including other gluten-free grains. And of course, sugar is pretty much pure carbohydrate, though I don’t recommend adding huge quantities to your diet.

Also make sure you are eating a good quantity of fruit and/or vegetables – preferably fresh – (excluding potatoes). You should get at least 5 portions of these a day. Juicing them is fine. Also add some nuts – NOT peanuts, but brazils, walnuts, cashews, pecans…

Finally, you need at least 4-5 oz of protein (meat, fish, cheese, eggs) a day and some fat or oil – because some of our essential nutrients can’t be found except in fats and oils. Butter is better for you than most margarines (it has recently been discovered), because most margarines contain trans-fats and butter doesn’t. If you are using it in cooking, butter, olive oil and grapeseed oil are the safest, as they don’t turn to trans fats when you heat them up.

If you have little or no energy, I guess you have reduced the amount of exercise you are doing, or eliminated it entirely. This is a bit like keeping a horse in the stable for a few weeks before a race, so as not to tire it out. When he finally gets loose, he won’t have the stamina to complete a race at all.

Instead, what you need to do is to go along to your local gym and make an appointment with a trainer. When you meet him/her explain your situation and ask for a graded series of exercises to help you get back to fitness. Then follow them.

Do you have to avoid MSG (Monosodium glutamate) on a gluten free diet?

Some monosodium glutamate is produced by processing wheat. There’s some controversy in the celiac world as to whether it’s safe or not. I think you have to go with what your body tells you.

I’ve heard gluten contains MSG. If I have to avoid MSG does that mean I have to go gluten free?

Gluten doesn’t contain MSG. MSG is short for monosodium glutamate, and it is a chemical which is sometimes derived from gluten, but not always. However, as the source is generally not specified (I’ve never seen it anyway), anyone who is gluten intolerant should probably avoid it.

To avoid monosodium glutamate, first – don’t go to Chinese or Thai takeaways. You might get away with going to a good quality Chinese or Thai restaurant and telling them “no taste powder, no ve-tsin” but unfortunately, the language barrier, and the fact that they probably won’t understand how important your request is, means it’s not certain you will get what you ask for.

Next, check all snack foods like potato chips (crisps in UK) and so on. These often contain MSG, which may be called “flavor enhancer” in the ingredients list.

Ready meals/tv dinners often contain MSG, and so do tinned meat products. Sliced meats and other deli items may also contain it.

According to [insert food manufacturer/health authority here] MSG shouldn’t be a problem in a gluten free diet. Why do you advise against it?

Yeah, I know msg SHOULDN’T be a problem… like distilled rye whisky shouldn’t and so on. But the fact is that some celiacs/other gluten intolerants do find that it triggers their symptoms. Theory is fine, but I generally side with people who feel stuff in their own bodies, particularly where health is concerned.

So, the bottom line is, if you are the type of gluten intolerant who gets easily-spotted fast reactions to stuff, you’re probably safe to give msg a try and decide based on the results. But if your reactions are slower and harder to pinpoint, not so much.

Surprised? Don’t be. There are lots of experts who are dead wrong about lots of issues.

Is gluten intolerance/celiac disease hereditary? Does gluten intolerance/celiac disease run in families?

It does seem to run in families.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and a few other closely related grains. It’s not in rice, corn or oats. However, oats are almost always contaminated during processing, so if you like them, you need to look for oats certified gluten free, which means they were processed in a gluten free facility.

There is no gluten in unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, cheese and dairy products, vegetables, nuts and fruit. The problem is that most of these have gluten added during processing, so you either need to go for unprocessed food and cook it yourself or get religious about Checking the Label of Every Packet Every Time you Buy – this should be your mantra, when shopping, because manufacturers may, and often do, change ingredients without any warning or notice on the front of the pack, but the ingredients list will tell you. 2 packs of the same product may be from different batches, with different ingredients.

This may also be useful: Quick and Easy Meals without Gluten

Where can I buy gluten free foods?

In the US, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Ralphs and Sprouts are stores I’ve seen mentioned.

In the UK, some gluten free stuff is in with the normal food, such as Mrs Crimbles coconut macaroons, and Real Foods’ Corn Thins, all varieties except the multigrain (I think, but check as new ones may have been developed) are gluten free, and a LOT more tasty and less squeaky than rice cakes.

My local store also sells corn tortillas, which are gluten free. Also meringue shells are almost always gluten free (made of egg whites and sugar).

Of course, unprocessed meat, fish, eggs, cheese (bought in a block, as the grated is usually coated in undefined “modified starch”), nuts, fruit and vegetables are all gluten free. Once processed, these usually get wrapped in a sauce or coating, and this almost always contains gluten, even if just for flavoring (malt).

Breakfast cereals were like a desert until the recent introduction, much trumpeted on Twitter, of gluten free Rice Chex, and other types of Chex are gradually going over to gluten free as well. But I don’t know if these are available in the UK or anywhere outside the US. Oats are naturally gluten free, but usually contaminated during processing in a factory where gluten-containing grains have also been processed. If you like porridge or use oats in cooking, for fake muesli etc, buy ones certified gluten free.

Try my shop for a great selection of gluten free food.

How did you discover that you were gluten intolerant?

Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance can be difficult to diagnose, even though there are tests favored by doctors. However, these are at best only 80% accurate.

In my case, I had severe joint pains, also for many years had wondered why anything I ate with cheese sauce (macaroni cheese/cauliflower cheese) always gave me diarrhea. I asked the doctor for a check for milk, but that came back negative.

Just before I realized I was gluten intolerant, I noticed that even thickened gravy seemed to be doing the same thing to me as cheese sauce. Now that I am gluten free (I use rice flour to thicken sauces), I don’t have the problem – which I have to say I had lived with since a child. I actually thought diarrhea was normal, and people just didn’t talk about it because it’s embarrassing. I know now that it’s not.

Diagnosing gluten intolerance from symptoms is not the easiest thing, although if you are lactose intolerant and no longer eat dairy, but still have the same sort of symptoms associated with that, you are in a better position than many other people. Gluten and dairy intolerance have very similar symptoms in a lot of ways – though gluten seems to have more “brain fog” or other mental disturbances associated with it, along with rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, and so on.

This 5-question multiple choice quiz may help you to work it out.

The simplest way to test for any food intolerance, though, if you are pretty sure you know what it is – cut it out for 2-3 weeks. If the symptoms you suspect to be related fade or go away, try a challenge test by eating the suspect food at 3 meals in succession and note the results. It’s usually pretty obvious after you’ve done this whether you are intolerant, or you aren’t.

If you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease and you are already overweight, when you go onto a gluten free diet, do you gain more weight?

The classic symptom set for celiac includes low weight, followed by weight gain when the gluten free diet is started. However, it seems that obesity may be another possible symptom, in which case, the scenario is likely to be the opposite. And it is the case that many people lose weight when they start the diet.

But to start with, you will be so busy trying to clean out your kitchen, makeup bag and other places (check toothpaste), that a weight loss diet is the least of your worries. Get used to the diet, settle down in it, so you know how to do it easily.

Then, if necessary go for weight loss. You may well find it’s a lot easier once you have your main health problem sorted – and as well, since gluten is addictive (because it breaks down into opioid peptides and no further in celiacs – and these often leak into the bloodstream), you could find that your appetite decreases.

I can’t afford expensive gluten free food. How do I eat gluten free on a budget?

What I would do is buy in lots of big potatoes, some ground beef, some tins of tomatoes (get the cheapest), some bacon offcuts or a bacon joint if you cant find these (get the cheapest cut you can get), a bag of cheap chicken portions, a big bag of rice, some eggs and a block of cheese. Onions, garlic and mushrooms if they aren’t too expensive and some fresh fruit – apples keep well, so those are most likely the best bet. And a big bag of red lentils.

You can put these together in different ways.

A couple of pints of water, 1-2 handfuls of lentils, some bacon bits and a couple of onions will make a lentil soup that is really tasty. Once it is cooked (takes around 20 minutes simmering, stir now and then, once it’s reached boiling point), you can blend it to make a smooth soup or leave it as is, which I prefer, as it makes the resulting soup/stew more interesting if you find bits of bacon and onion in it now and then. You can also add a couple of leeks and carrots, chopped into bits about 3/4″ (2cm) long, if you’re going for the “lumpy” variety.

Ground beef and onions served with mashed potatoes is very popular up here in Scotland: mince and tatties, as we call it. In fact, many Scots would leave out the onions. If you want to make the effort, you could put the mince in a dish, stick the potato on top and then brown it to make shepherd’s pie.

Ground beef cooked with a tin of tomatoes (mashed up), some chopped onions, garlic, a pinch of oregano and a bit of olive oil makes a bolognaise sauce that goes just as well with a potato as with pasta. Even without the beef, it’s still nice served with a sprinkling of home-grated cheese.

You could also make your basic bolognaise into moussaka a la Boss: line a dish with sliced cooked potatoes, fill up with bolognaise sauce, top with more potatoes and some cheese sauce (thicken with rice flour or cornstarch). Brown in the oven. Very nice!

If you have any gluten free pasta, you can also use this for pasta (I realize this is expensive), of course.

You can make an acceptable sauce for pasta or potato with just tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic and chopped bacon. The smoked is best, it gives it a really nice taste. Leave out the bacon and serve with grated cheese for another option. Chilli is optional, but I find it makes the whole thing 10 times nicer.

You can make your own burgers by beating up an egg, a little salt and pepper and mixing it with some of the ground beef. Then shape into patties, and either fry straight away or freeze separately and then put into a freezer bag once frozen.

You can make a cheese and potato pie – it’s really just potatoes, cheese, onions with some more cheese sprinkled on top and then baked to go golden brown, but it’s nice. You could add some crispy bacon for a contrast.

The chicken portions can be fried, roasted, made into a stew or mixed with rice and cooked with some veg for a one-pot rice meal. You can also put chopped bacon with rice, and it tastes fine. Don’t add as much salt to rice when you’re using bacon, though.

Or you can curry the chicken and serve it with boiled rice. Or you can do a fried rice meal with leftovers from a previous meal (bits of chicken, bacon and some fresh onions, mushrooms and garlic). Mix in a 2-egg omelette cut into little bits.

When you need food fast, make a cheese omelette.

If you have mayo, make egg mayonnaise to go with a jacket potato and salad by hardboiling eggs, shelling and mashing them up with some mayo.

How do you eat gluten and dairy free at a wedding?

It all depends on what they’re serving.

Don’t eat the cake. Ask the waiting staff if there are any gluten free options. If it’s a big place that does a lot of weddings, it’s quite likely they will be gluten aware. Other than that, if it’s a buffet and there’s chicken portions or sliced meats you could take your own rice cakes, corn thins or whatever you use and eat those with some meat/chicken. The salad should also be ok, so long as it doesn’t have croutons and the dressing is served separately (but if it’s Hellman’s mayo, then last time I checked it was ok, and it’s one of those things that’s less likely to change – secret recipes and all that).

My physician has ordered me to go strictly gluten-free. I do not want to gain weight. Is it difficult to follow a gluten-free, low carb, low-fat diet?

Start your gluten free diet by just going back to basics: old fashioned meat and 3 veg is easy, and so long as you thicken any sauce or gravy with gluten free flour, such as cornstarch or rice flour, that’s the easiest way to go. After a while, when you get used to eating gluten free and finding substitutes, you can branch out to more difficult stuff.

There’s some evidence that gluten intolerance (if ignored) can lead to weight problems, so you may even find you lose weight on the diet. This is why there are so many people who mistakenly believe it’s a weight loss diet – it isn’t, though some people lose on it, others gain. As you seem to have worked out, it’s not so much what you don’t eat, as what you eat that makes the difference.

Most high gluten foods, like pasta, pizza, pies and pastries, contain high levels of fat which is masked by the carbs associated with gluten (since it’s mainly found in wheat, which is what we make most of our flour from). So it’s actually quite likely that by cutting out gluten, you will automatically reduce your fat intake and thus automatically reduce the calories you consume – though as you no doubt know, there are many essential nutrients that cannot be obtained without including a certain amount of fat in the diet.

Concentrate on being gluten free at first, as this is no piece of cake. After you are happy with it, then is the time to consider issues relating to weight loss.

I am really sick of gluten free microwavable food. What snacks can I eat that I can just pick up at any local store?

All fruit, veggies and nuts are gluten free if they aren’t coated in something.

Most good quality yogurt is also gluten free.

Bombay mix and trail mix are other things that are almost certainly safe (just double check the label, but I’m sure they will be fine).

Snack salamis round here are safe, but I don’t know about the ones where you live. Still, definitely worth checking – makes a change from fruit and nuts.

Walkers crisps (most flavors) are gluten free. Cheestrings generally are not safe, but slices of Swiss cheese should be fine. I think they taste much nicer than cheestrings, anyway.

I’m going on holiday/to a foreign restaurant. How do I tell the waiting staff and the kitchen that I can’t eat gluten?

Celiac Travel has a huge selection of restaurant cards which are FREE for download here.

Should I feel this bad 1 week into being gluten free? I’ve been gluten free for 1 week and I am soooo tired/my symptoms are worse than before I started.

Assuming you’re substituting the missing carbs that usually come along with gluten (which is a protein), then it may just be withdrawal symptoms.

It’s not unusual for people to feel worse for the first couple of weeks gluten free. Keep at it for at least 3 weeks before you make your final decision.

In some people, the 2-stage digestion process involved in absorbing gluten stops after the first stage, leaving a toxin called gluteomorphin or gliadomorphin (2 names for the same thing). The “morphin” at the end of the name gives you a clue as to the nature of this toxin, it’s what is called an opioid peptide, with a structure similar to opium.

In people who can’t digest gluten completely, this opioid peptide sits in the gut and often damages it sufficiently to allow leakage into the bloodstream. So they end up with an opium-like substance leaking into the blood almost like a drip-feed, every time they eat food containing gluten. When they stop eating gluten, they get withdrawal symptoms. This may be what you are experiencing now.

Is oatmeal gluten free?

When they’re growing in the field, oats are gluten free. Then they are harvested and sent to a factory. Most factories which process oats also process other grains, such as wheat. Oats processed in the same factory as other gluten-containing grains get contaminated and are therefore no longer gluten free.

Oats certified as gluten free have been processed in factories which do not process grains that contain gluten.

My friend says she had a spit test that showed she had a gluten allergy. I’m worried, because I don’t think this is a recognized test. What do you think?

I go with your gut instinct on this.

Gluten allergy is very rare indeed.

Celiac disease is a form of gluten intolerance, not an allergy, and is basically an auto-immune disorder. When a person with celiac disease ingests even the slightest hint of gluten, it triggers an auto-immune reaction where the body attacks itself.

There are other forms of gluten intolerance as well, but none of them are allergies. It’s caused by an inability to correctly digest the protein gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and a few other closely related grains, but not in rice, corn or oats – though oats are often contaminated during processing).

Normally, gluten is digested in a 2 step process, the first stage of which produces an opioid peptide called gluteomorphin or gliadomorphin (different names for the same thing). This is a substance similar to opium. In those with gluten intolerance, the second stage doesn’t occur, so this toxin may end up leaking into the bloodstream and causing a huge list of different problems. But as it’s not an allergy, allergy tests won’t detect it.

Many people are gluten intolerant without realizing it, and your friend may be one of these (even if she’s not allergic, she could still be intolerant). Apart from celiac disease (and even in this case, tests – none of which is a spit test – are not 100% accurate), there’s no recognized test for gluten intolerance, and the only way to find out for sure is to go gluten free for at least 3 weeks and see what transpires.

An elimination diet is a standard diagnostic tool, and it won’t do you any harm so long as you make sure you still get all the nutrients you need, though 3 weeks without won’t kill you. I recommend everyone should take a good one-a-day combination multivitamin and mineral tablet and a high dose fish oil capsule every day, in any case, as the modern diet is lacking certain nutrients (despite what Government sponsored scientists may say). Get a vitamin/mineral mix that contains selenium, as this indicates a good mix, and also selenium is one of the nutrients that is often low or entirely missing from the diet, and it’s a potent anti-oxidant.

I was just diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and was wondering if a gluten free diet would help?

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis do find that a gluten free diet is helpful. RA is an auto-immune disorder, and if you can just find the trigger, you will be free of symptoms so long as you stay away from the food/s concerned.

I myself get joint pains when I eat gluten. I used to take MSM with reasonable results, but now that I am gluten free I don’t seem to have any problems unless I slip up with the diet.

Can you grow out of celiac disease? I was diagnosed as a kid, but lately I’ve been eating gluten and I haven’t noticed any symptoms.

You don’t grow out of celiac disease. They used to think you did, some 30 years ago, but they know different now.

It’s seriously unlikely that you were misdiagnosed. However, if you’ve been eating a “normal” (not for you) diet for long enough, you can get a few tests – in particular the biopsy – to see. Keep eating gluten till the tests are all done.

And if it’s confirmed, bear in mind that whether or not you have symptoms, you are still taking years off your life with every gluten-filled bite. This was proved by a long term research project where celiacs were regularly blood tested to check their adherence to the diet, and the age of death was correlated with this.

Why are my gluten reactions more severe the longer I am gluten free? I discovered that I am gluten intolerant some time ago. I am mostly gluten free, but sometimes I eat gluten by accident. However, I am noticing that my reaction to gluten has become very severe now, where before it was much less so. Any idea why this is?

I’m afraid that it’s because your body is no longer used to compensating for the ill effects. Also, you know if there’s a bad smell somewhere, after a while you don’t notice so much? Or you don’t notice a clock ticking mostly, even a huge great grandfather clock, unless you’re thinking about it? The brain tends to filter out stuff that is consistently there, but now the bad effects aren’t consistently there, so you notice them more. This is just a guess, but it makes sense to me!

I’ve read that wheat grass is gluten free. Is that correct?

According to Wikipedia “Wheatgrass refers to the young grass of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum” which would meant that it is NOT gluten free.

How harmful is cross-contamination for individuals who are gluten intolerant?

This is hard to quantify. In the case of celiacs, gluten acts like a switch, the merest hint will start the auto-immune reaction which results in the body attacking itself. This continues till the gluten is completely gone, which can take up to 3 weeks. For these people, cross-contamination is a very serious issue.

There’s little research on how gluten intolerance of other types works – or even if all types of gluten intolerance are, in fact, just different forms of celiac disease. It’s safest to assume that cross-contamination is as much of an issue for what some call non-celiac gluten intolerants as for celiacs, because we just don’t know for sure.

Why am I craving the foods that I’m intolerant of?

There are two possible reasons, and the answer may be a mixture of both.

I don’t know how old you are, but you and your body are used to eating these things, and to the effects they produce (your body probably knows more about this part than you do), such as raising blood sugar fast – a common result of eating carbs, so on. It’s difficult to unlearn habits we’ve lived for many years, especially if the foods concerned were anywhere near your list of “faves”.

Secondly, in some people with a gluten intolerance, digestion of gluten does not take place completely. Normally, this is done in two stages, the first stage producing an opioid peptide called gluteomorphin or gliadomorphin. Similarly casein (a protein in dairy products) breaks down at the first stage to an opioid peptide called caseomorphin. You may have spotted the “morphin” at the end of these words.

These two substances have a structure very similar to opium – and this would be fine if they were broken down further, or even simply eliminated, but in many cases this results in a leaky gut, and they escape into the bloodstream. I guess I don’t have to tell you that opium is addictive (so is morphine), and going cold turkey – which is effectively what you are doing, having stopped eating gluten (and possibly dairy) – off any addictive substance is not without difficulty.

Can cooked wheat free pasta be frozen?

It will probably break down and go mushy, but if you would throw it away otherwise, give it a try and see how it comes out. Or use it for a lunchbox salad with some added ingredients.

Is parmesan cheese gluten free?

Parmesan is a cheese, cheese is made from milk, and milk (not being connected with wheat, barley or rye) is gluten free.

However.

Some cheese which is sold ready grated is coated in modified starch to stop it sticking together. This generally applies to cheese with a lot of oil content, like cheddar.

Although I have never found a pack of grated parmesan which was coated in this way, you should just check the small print ingredients label. If there is no mention of anything except dairy stuff, it will be ok.

In the UK, you should just check the Allergy Advice panel, which will say if the product contains gluten.

Will staying on a gluten free diet help my diabetes?

This is still controversial, but this article shows that already the 2 auto-immune conditions called diabetes and gluten intolerance/celiac disease are being connected. So, I couldn’t say for sure, but it seems likely that it will be helpful.

What is there that’s gluten free on the TGI Fridays and other franchised restaurants’ menus?

Although it’s a franchise, the menus are different in different places, so check this one in the US and pick your local store, or go to this page and click on The Grill for the UK. If you’re somewhere else google “TGI Fridays menu” and you should get a page for your country.

Failing that, it never hurts to ask. If you get a bit of a dazed look, ask for the manager, as they should know.

The same principle applies to most franchise restaurants.

Why has my stomach always been distended? I am in fairly good shape, and I work out regularly. However, my stomach has always seemed to ‘stick out’ from the rest of my body. Even when my stomach feels relatively flat, it still sticks out 2-3 inches. It just looks very abnormal alot of the time since the rest of my body is definitely not fat. I tried cutting out gluten carbs, but it made no difference. I eat mainly frozen and processed food. A lot of the time, I feel bloated.

If you live mostly on processed food you’re getting lots of gluten, whether you realize it or not. Gluten is an ingredient in almost all processed food, where it’s used for thickening, binding, flavoring and various other uses. And it’s cheap. This makes it a magnet for food processing companies.

Another thing is, if you have celiac disease and have had it for as long as it sounds, your ability to digest dairy foods is probably also nil for the time being. The mechanism for this is in the same area of the gut as the villi which get damaged when celiacs eat gluten, and it takes 18 months or so on a 100% gluten free diet to repair (if at all).

So, unfortunately, it seems to me that you need to get serious and either get tested for celiac or at least go on a gluten free diet, and probably also dairy free, though I will leave that up to you.

If you can’t afford to get tested, or don’t want to, cut out all gluten for at least 3 weeks, then do a challenge by eating gluten at every meal for a day. It may take a while for your stomach to reduce in size, though, so you might want to try the diet for up to 6 weeks before the challenge. You’ll have to learn to read ingredients lists as a matter of course.

As it’s likely that dairy is also an issue, you may want to try going dairy free at the same time…

Can you suggest some fast snacks that I can grab on the go that are healthy and gluten-free

Fresh or dried fruit (raisins). Raw carrots. I used to buy half a cucumber and eat that, but most people don’t like that on its own. Tomatoes. Celery and some houmous dip. Yogurt (check the label). Snack salami (check the label). Sliced cheese in packets (not processed cheese slices) – I love a slice of Swiss cheese rolled up and just eaten like that! Most Eat Natural bars. Uncoated nuts. Trail mix. Many varieties of Walkers crisps are gluten free, but I don’t know if you would class them as healthy. Other things you may or may not want to eat (maybe not so healthy) include Bombay mix, chocolate coated peanuts and raisins…

I’ve been on a gluten free diet for a while, and now I’m eating gluten again on the instructions of my doctor prior to a blood test in a few weeks to get a proper diagnosis. I’m finding I need to visit the lavatory several times a day. Is this normal?

If your body can’t absorb gluten, and you’re having to eat it for the test, then it will just reject it, pretty much. It’s not unusual for someone who is gluten intolerant without knowing (or eating it for the reason you are) to end up visiting the lavatory several times a day.

I have been on a gluten-free diet for several months. I’ve been getting severe muscle cramps and frequent minor infections. Is this caused by a deficiency in the diet?

In some countries including the UK, flour is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Since you have gone gluten free, you will be missing out on these artificial additions to your diet, and you need to replace that in some way. Supplements are the easiest way, and they also ensure that you get other nutrients (including selenium) which are usually in short supply in any diet.

If you don’t spend time in the sun, you will almost certainly be low in vitamin D. Low vitamin D can affect you in this way because without it you can’t absorb calcium from your diet. Calcium is not just for bones and teeth, but also important for the health of your muscles and your brain and nervous system. Muscle spasms (also called tetany) are a symptom of calcium deficiency. Lack of vitamin D and/or calcium leads to osteoporosis or osteomalacia and vitamin D deficiency also compromises your immune system.

Unfortunately, you can’t just take vitamin D on its own to fix the problem, as the type that you eat needs other nutrients including Vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus to be absorbed properly. So my advice is to get a good one-a-day multivitamin and mineral mixture (if it has selenium in it, that indicates it is probably a good one), AND some good quality fish oil or cod liver oil capsules, and take them every day. Also eat high calcium foods like milk and cheese.

This article on Frann’s Alt. Health gives more information on Vitamin D.

Another possible cause is a deficiency of Vitamin E. If the cramps are mainly at night and affect only your legs, this might be the reason. This post on Frann’s Alt.Health gives more information on Vitamin E.

Can you recommend an allergen-free fiber supplement?

Why not just eat fiber-rich roods like celery? This is cheap, full of fiber, and I’ve never heard of anyone having an allergy to it.

All fruit and vegetables contain a certain amount of fibre. This article may help: Can I include fibre in a gluten free diet

Fibre is not found in dairy products or eggs, and soy is more usually used as a protein substitute, so most fiber sources will be free of these three, in any case.

If I stop eating gluten am I likely to become deficient in anything that is important for maintaining good health?

No. Gluten is not a necessary component in a healthy diet. Gluten is a protein, and we’re not short of protein sources in the West. It comes alongside a whole lot of carbohydrate, and this is easily replaced by the likes of potato, rice, peas and corn.

Some flour products and bread in certain countries are fortified with various dietary factors, so to be extra sure I recommend that you add a good quality one-a-day vitamin and mineral combination. When choosing your vitaminerals, select a product that contains selenium, as this is an indication that it is truly a good mixture. You will end up even healther than you were before!

I also recommend a genuine fish oil capsule daily (though this has nothing to do with gluten at all). The fish oil gives you the EFAs you need. These are only available from fish oil, not from Omega 3 extracted from vegetable sources, as the body doesn’t absorb this, recent research has shown.

Is gluten necessary in your normal diet?

Gluten is not an essential nutrient. It’s just a protein which is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and some other grains. There are parts of the world where gluten is never eaten – for example Nepal, where Michael J Fox found his Parkinsons symptoms much reduced.

Before we started farming, some 10,000 years ago, gluten was not a part of the normal diet, which consisted of meat, fish, nuts and roots, in the main. Mankind has not evolved much since then, so far as his digestive system goes (mentally is another story), which is probably why so many people have problems with this novel food. (In terms of evolution, 10,000 years is yesterday).

How can you eat gluten free quickly and safely when your job has you on the road often?

Yes. This can be a problem.

If you find yourself in an area where gluten free sandwiches and baked potatoes are not available, you can be left with the choice of buying something like a chocolate bar or going without.

If you are out on the road for much of the time, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a cold box (or even a camping fridge if you have space), so you can take essential supplies with you. This does mean getting several ice packs, so you can have at least one in the freezer while you’re using another in the box.

With a cold box, you can store gluten free bread, some cooked meats, mayo, butter and all sorts of stuff so you can just throw something together to eat whenever you want – even in rural areas late at night when nothing is open. You could also prepare food at home to put in the box, but if this seems like too much work (and you don’t have a spouse to carry some of the load), then just carrying the makings with you is the way to go, I think.

I’m a vegetarian celiac. Can you give me some hints for a varied diet for a vegetarian gluten free diet?

You must eat protein. You can get this from cheese, eggs, nuts (especially cashew nuts), pulses (peas, beans, lentils) and whole grains. Grains and pseudo-grains you can eat include rice, sorghum, corn including popcorn, quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat and oats processed in a gluten free facility (all oats are gluten free, but they get contaminated because most places that process them also process gluten-containing grains).

To make a complete protein containing all the necessary amino acids for health, eat both whole grains and pulses at the same meal. Another combination that will make a full protein is brown rice and sesame seeds.

To vary your diet, make plenty of different salads with different types of greenery and stuff, for example rocket, radicchio, soft lettuce, crisp lettuce, celery, endive, chicory, white cabbage, red cabbage, green cabbage, sweet (bell) peppers, small cauliflower florets, raw mushrooms, grated carrots and beetroot, add cherry tomatoes, cooked beans or peas, roasted cashew nuts or peanuts, maybe some raisins, spring onions and/or sliced red or yellow onions. These go great with jacket potatoes, and a dressing which could be mayonnaise or thousand island, or vinaigrette, or lemon juice.

You can make great flans with an easy oatmeal crust filled with different things. You beat a couple of eggs with some milk and pour it over maybe a handful of fried mushrooms and some grated cheese. Bake that in the oven for 25 minutes or so until it sets and goes a nice golden brown and it is absolutely gorgeous. You could have that with one of your salads or with cooked vegetables.

Gluten free pasta is a good base, but what about the sauce that goes with it? You can make a nice tomato and onion sauce, just a can of tomatoes chopped up and a chopped onion, pinch of sugar and a couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce, some oregano or pesto and a spoonful of olive oil. Season to taste and add to your pasta. Maybe put in some mushrooms or chilli or both sometimes. With or without cheese…

Then you can have vegetables in a cheese sauce (thicken it with rice flour), or just mix a medley of lightly cooked vegetables, top with a little butter and some grated cheese. It’s to die for…

You can make a really nice vegetable curry in about half the time it takes to cook the brown (whole) rice that you serve it with. Put some oil or ghee in the bottom of a biggish pan, add a dessertspoon of garam marsala, a chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely and as many chilli peppers as you can stand, chopped very finely. Stir over the heat until well blended, then add in your choice of vegetables and as little water as you can, just so they are covered, and some salt. Put the lid on, simmer for about 15 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to take out the veg and stick them in a serving dish, thicken the liquid with your choice of gram flour (chickpea/garbanzo bean flour/besan) or rice flour. Pour it over the veg in the dish. Serve with the well cooked rice, and sprinkle with raw or toasted sesame seeds.

The next day, stir fry the leftover rice with some garlic, onion, chilli (if you like), and a selection of nice veggies, and a small plain omelette. I like baby sweetcorn, mange tout or snap peas, chopped celery, sweet (bell) peppers, but you can use whatever you have, including finely sliced carrots. The harder the veg are, the smaller you need to cut them so they stir fry ok. You must use gluten free soy sauce for seasoning. Don’t use standard soy sauce, its full of gluten. Another option if you accept fish in your diet is Thai fish sauce or Chinese oyster sauce. Don’t overdo the sauce, all of these are pretty strongly-flavored and will drown out other tastes quite handily.