It can be difficult and overwhelming to go gluten free. The first thing you need to figure out is what is gluten free and what is not. What grains can you eat? It seems like it should be cut and dry, but it can be complicated especially when there is so much contradicting information.
Get Tested Before Going Gluten Free
Hopefully you have been tested for celiac before going gluten free. Even if you are positive you don’t have celiac, it is still a good idea to be tested first! The main reason for this is that it is next to impossible to get an accurate test after going gluten free. Also, once you begin to feel good, you won’t want to go back on gluten!
Next to no symptoms, but positive for celiac
I knew someone who was tested because his sister was newly diagnosed. Her symptoms were pretty severe. He was sure it would come back negative because he didn’t have any of her symptoms. In fact, the only health complaint he had was some shoulder pain. The whole family was surprised when his test came back positive for celiac. Another brother refused to be tested at that time. However, when he began having shoulder pain similar to his brother, he was tested and also positive for celiac.
Who else should be tested
All family members with a 1st degree relative that has been diagnosed with celiac should be tested for celiac regardless of symptoms. A first degree relative is parents and siblings of someone diagnosed with celiac.
A negative result doesn’t mean you are free and clear. It may mean that it isn’t active at this time. Also, I have met many people who have had negative blood work but positive biopsies. The gold standard for diagnosing is the biopsy. (It’s important for doctors to take several biopsies so they don’t miss the damaged part of the intestine, since the damage occurs in patches.) The blood work is a good starting place.
What is gluten
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. This also includes any derivative of these grains.
- triticale- which is a cross-bred of both rye and wheat
- malt- (Most malt made in the U.S. is derived from barley.)
Non-certified & purity protocol Oats
Oats do not contain the same gluten protein that wheat, barley and rye contain. However, because of how they are grown and processed, cross-contamination makes them unsafe to consume if you have celiac, gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy; unless they follow a purity oats protocol.
There is a difference between certified gluten free oats and those that follow a purity protocol for oats. The one you want is the one that follows the purity protocol. You can find more information about the purity protocol and brands at the Gluten Free Watchdog, LLC. Also, GF Jules has written a lot about gluten free oats.
Not all people with celiac can tolerate oats because the protein in oats is close to the protein in the gluten containing grains. (Personally, it isn’t worth the risk to me and I prefer to also avoid oats.) That being said, research says that most people with celiac can tolerate pure oats.
Oats in body products: shampoo, soap, lotion, sunscreen, etc. often make people who need to be gluten free, react topically. I have never seen certified gluten free oats used in these products. (I have first hand experience with this and it can take 4-6 months for a reaction to calm down. The only medication that helped me was steroids. Eliminating the body products containing oats and other gluten ingredients has kept me from having another reaction.)
Other gluten ingredients to watch out for:
Brown Rice Syrup
Soy Sauce Solids
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein/HVP
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein/HPP
Chicken or Beef Broth
Chicken or Beef Soup Base
Just having gluten free ingredients isn’t enough
You can use the best gluten free ingredients and it still might not be gluten free because of cross contact (sometimes called cross contamination)! Cross contact is when gluten comes in contact with gluten free ingredients or products, thus contaminating the product!
This can happen by:
- touching gluten and then touching gluten free item
- placing gf item where gluten has been (i.e. counter)
- using the same knife to cut gluten foods and then cutting gf foods
- frying gluten and gluten free foods in the same oil
- using the same jar of peanut butter, jam, butter, etc. for gluten and gluten free (A knife that has touched gluten and then been put back into the jar a second time has contaminated the entire jar with gluten. Use separate jars, butter, etc. for gf and gluten!)
What grains are gluten free
I was amazed, as most people are, with how many gluten free grains and flours there actually are! We have grown up thinking that wheat flour and bleached wheat flour is all there is. I was so surprised to learn that is simply not the case!
Pretty much anything that can be ground up, can be made into flour! There are so many grains available that don’t contain the gluten protein:
Oats- (certified gluten free)
There is a whole world of gluten free flours to explore, try, and experiment with!
My favorite resource is the Gluten Intolerance Group. They have great information sheets that you can print out and have handy.
Quick Reference Ingredient Card (This card is really handy to print and cut out to keep in your wallet or purse for quick reference when shopping.)
Always read the ingredients! Even if it is marked gluten free- read the ingredients! Sometimes things are mislabeled and actually contain gluten.
Certified gluten free foods are the safest products to eat.
Follow reliable sources.
Learn to read labels
You will get the hang of this!
Need some more help? Check out my list of gluten free snacks and easy to make meals, meals that have gluten free ingredients without any odd ingredients, Gluten Free Budget Tips, and Tips for newly diagnosed .
*Views expressed here are my opinion. You should always do your own research and get advice from qualified medical professionals.