New to Celiac, Now What?

New to Celiac, Now What?

You have received test results confirming Celiac or a gluten sensitivity, now what? It can take up to several months to see a dietitian. In the meantime, you may be confused on what gluten is, how to avoid it, and what foods contain it.  You do have some choices on where to start, from your doctor, the library, online research, friends, here....

Since I am not a doctor or a dietitian, please refer to all information as a guide to help you in your gluten free quest. I have been living a gluten free life style for over 10 years.  Myself and two of my children have been diagnosed with Celiac.

What is Celiac? Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley, malt or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease by changing your diet. Here is the link to the Celiac Foundation for more information. What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).

How to find Gluten in products? Gluten is in several grains. Look for these key words on labels: These are key words to get you started as wheat has many names: wheat by any other name still hurts just the same….

Wheat  Rye Barley Malt Vinegar Malt or Malt Flavoring Brewer's Yeast Oats (most commercial brands) Buglar Cake Flour Couscous Dinkle Durum Einkorn Emmer Enriched Flour Farina Farro® Flour Kamut Matzo Pastry Flour Seitan Self-Rising Flour Semolina Spelt Tabouleh Tricale

What about Oats? All regular commercial oats are contaminated with gluten from their growing and processing procedures.  There are some oats that are grown and harvested to try to remain gluten free.  There is no definitive answer for oats.  Some people with celiac react the same way to the protein in oats as they do gluten.  Talk to your doctor to get more specifics for your individual needs. Cross-Contamination When foods with gluten comes in contact with safe foods, they become "contaminated" with gluten and are no longer safe to consume.  To avoid this, there are a few steps you can take, listed below.

Setting up your GF Kitchen

Store gluten free foods separately. I store my gluten free baking supplies in different cupboard then my regular baking supplies.

Label gluten free foods to prevent confusion. 

Have designated gluten free appliances and tools such as: bread machines, toasters, pans, colanders, etc. 

Use clean tools for cooking, cutting, mixing, serving, etc.

Don't use the same mixing tools while making a combination gluten free (GF) and regular meal (RM) for the family.

For example, a spaghetti dinner:  Use a separate boiling pot, stirring utensils, colander and serving dishes for GF pasta and RM pasta. In addition, make sure your pasta sauces are gluten free. Spaghetti used to be the easiest meal to make for my family of six because I had to use only two pots, two utensils and one colander. Now it takes double of everything.  Don't let this scare you:  it is still an easy dinner, but the dishes just take a little longer to do. 

 Some people have separate pots and pans labeled for GF and non- GF but with proper washing and drying practices,the same pot can be used for both.  This is either a personal decision or necessity if you have a very sensitive celiac.  If I was that sensitive then my whole house would eat gluten free all the time. Unless you also use designated plates, glassware, and flatware, I don’t see the need.  We do however use separate colanders. 

Avoid tools that can harbor gluten crumbs or have scratches, i.e. wooden cutting boards, non-stick pans, wooden spoons, etc. 

Do not purchase food from open bins/bulk bins. 

Have separate containers of foods that knives or crackers are dipped into, like peanut butter, butter, hummus, sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard etc. or have a strict no double dipping policy.  I use separate containers for most of these, in my home it is easier that way. 

What Can I Eat?

After reading about all that you cannot have, here is the good news: all the things you can eat, as long as you don’t have allergies to any of these other foods.

Look for foods with these ingredients or marked Gluten Free:

amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn (cornstarch, cornmeal, polenta, grits, hominy), flax, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, sweet potato, tapioca, teff, wild rice, all nut flours (almond, coconut, hazelnut, chestnut, etc.), all bean flours (garbanzo, garfava, etc.)

If you are not sure of a product ingredients, contact the manufacturer or research on their website. I have also found that by searching “Is ___________ gluten free” I get good results. It is amazing how many people have already done the research for me. Over the years food manufactures have been better at labeling and providing gluten information to the consumer.  Because of consumer demands for better labeling and the need for gluten free foods, food manufactures have responded in kind. In just the last few years I have seen a significant improvement not only in the foods available, but also in labeling and manufacturers having the information available either online or by phone. 

I know all of this seems overwhelming and it can be, but if you tackle this one bite at a time, you too will be a gluten free master or at least on your way to being one. In our home, I do not allow any non -gluten free baking. Flour is worse than glitter or Christmas tree needles... it gets everywhere.  In addition, the goodies that I bake taste as good as or better than their wheat counterpart.  As least, that is what I’m told…  

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