its not just about reading labels

Posted by in celiac, food

after going public with my celiac diagnosis (it took me two months to admit it outloud), i heard over and over: “at least there are lots of alternatives for you. it’s so easy to be gluten-free these days!”  i’ll get into this more in a minute, but i assure you this:

~ there is NO alternative for a guinness.

~ there is also no way to replace the deliciousness of Twizzlers (they contain wheat flour).

~ and forget about coming near to replacing a prantl’s burnt almond torte. no matter how delicious GF cake is, it’s NOT a prantl’s burnt almond torte!

there are thousands of gluten-free (GF) options lining grocery store shelves these days, and i admit to enjoying several of them, especially the first few weeks after my diagnosis (i was starving and craving everything, so i found replacements in the gluten-free aisles).  a vast majority of them are not healthy. they are full of high-carbohydrate, blood-sugar-rising ingredients, it’s no wonder that i gained weight after going gluten-free!

that is the number one reason to just stay away from GF processed food. but a bigger reason to stay away from all processed food is the hidden gluten. here is a partial (partial!) list of gluten-containing ingredients that don’t say “gluten” that celiacs must avoid:

  • artificial color
  • baking powder
  • caramel color/flavoring
  • citric acid (can be fermented from wheat, corn, molasses or beets)
  • coloring
  • dextrins
  • diglycerides
  • emulsifiers
  • enzymes
  • fat replacers
  • flavorings
  • food starch
  • glucose syrup
  • glycerides
  • maltodextrin
  • malt syrup
  • modified food starch
  • natural juice
  • red dye #3
  • soy sauce
  • stabilizers
  • starch
  • wheat starch

for those who CHOOSE to go gluten-free, this list is a non-issue. but the trace amounts of gluten found in these buried ingredients still harm the villi in a celiac’s small intestine. so we have to be vigilant in understanding all the ingredients on a food label.

for now, i’ve chosen to just eat real food, and not mess with processed foods.  it makes shopping a whole lot easier to just hang out in the perimeter of the grocery store (did you ever notice that if you shop the perimeter of your store, you hit all the fresh/refrigerated items so you don’t ever have to go into those pesky boxed-food shelves [unless you have to find a jar of olives or salad dressing or mayonnaise or baking items]?).

there are days that it’s very boring.  very, very boring eating the same old, safe food.  i have to keep reminding myself that my food can only now be my fuel. my medicine. i will learn to enjoy eating again, but i have to get through the initial healing process first, and then i have to learn to enjoy this new, life-long diet i’ve been given to enjoy.

for those that have asked, i don’t quite feel better yet. it’s been nine weeks, and i’m still having a lot of symptoms. i read that this is normal, that it can take up to a year (!!!) for GI symptoms to go away.  my patience is wearing thin. i am hoping i feel better soon.