Now that we covered some of the basics of gluten in Parts 1 & 2, you might be curious to know if gluten is indeed an issue for you. It is reported that Celiac Disease may affect as many as 1 in 100 people in the U.S (see here and here). If you remember from Part 1, Celiac is the more serious form of gluten sensitivity. It’s harder to estimate the number of people who have a more general negative reaction to gluten because the symptoms are so varied and often times mild. Many men will excuse gluten issues as “getting old” or general tiredness and achiness. Also, the symptoms come on more slowly leading to a slow degradation of overall health.
How to Determine if Gluten is Friend or Foe
There are two ways to find out if gluten is an issue for you: blood test and elimination diet. I highly recommend the blood test because it provides definitive evidence that is sometimes needed to make us change our eating habits.
Blood test for gluten sensitivity
There are several test that can be performed to determine whether or not you have a gluten sensitivity. Your doctor should know more about these, and if he or she does not, I would recommend being referred to an immunologist that may have more expertise in this area.
Here is a list of the different tests. Some are more specific in checking for Celiac while others may detect a general gluten issue. You can find more information on these tests here.
- AGA (antigliadin antibodies)-Ig
- tTG (anti-tissue transglutaminase)-IgA
- EMA (anti-endomysial antibodies)-IgA
- Total serum IgA
The first two tests can be used to screen for non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Keep in mind that none of these tests are 100% accurate which is why a gluten-free diet is also necessary to come to a conclusion for yourself.
Self-test for gluten sensitivity (Elimination Diet)
The best way to determine if something in your diet is causing an issue is to take that something out of your diet and see if you feel better. Gluten, however, is in so many products it can be difficult to eliminate it from your diet all together. Also, it takes about a month to really start seeing any symptoms gluten may be causing to clear up and if you accidentally ingest gluten you will have to start the diet all over.
Below I’ve outlined an easy way to eliminate gluten from your diet, but it also eliminates several other things that may be causing an issue. In other words, it doesn’t target gluten specifically because that may be challenging for someone just getting familiar with it. However, it ensures gluten won’t accidentally creep into your diet. If you are suspecting that you might be a celiac, you cannot eat food that has touched any gluten-based product or cookware.
Note: I would strongly recommend avoiding restaurants while on the elimination diet because they cannot guarantee a gluten-free environment.
Here are the foods you absolutely must avoid:
- Wheat (brown\white\whatever)
- Barley (usually creeps up in soups)
- Non-gluten free oats
Here are some foods that quite often have gluten which you may not be aware of:
- French fries
- Soups (as a thickener)
- Soy sauce (unless it is Tamari)
- Other sauces (you’ll need to check to be sure)
- Pastas (except rice or corn-based)
- Spring rolls and egg rolls (unless they are rice paper)
- Crumble toppings
- Other delicious things
Here are the foods you can eat:
- Anything from the garden or a tree
- Breads that are guaranteed gluten-free (Udi’s, Canyon Bakery, etc.)
It’s best to avoid any processed foods as well, really forever, but especially on the elimination diet. Gluten can come in many forms and can sneak into products that you would not expect. Just keep it clean. Stick with oils and seasonings rather than sauces.
After the diet
After a month or more of being on the elimination diet you should feel better, whether or not you have an issue with gluten, simply because it is a clean-eating diet. The real test is adding gluten back in. Go to a bakery and splurge on some fresh-baked goodness (it may end up being your last after all). Slowly add it back into your diet for just a day or two. Avoid adding anything else back. Often times the symptoms may come back stronger or more noticeable than before.
If you find out gluten is indeed an issue for you, stay tuned. In the next and final post on gluten I will go over some alternative breads that don’t taste like cardboard and share with you the easiest and best tasting gluten-free bread recipe I have come across thus far.