When you first realize gluten is no longer a healthy option for you, it’s a bit overwhelming, to put it mildly. In addition to learning to read food labels and recognize all the ingredients and different sources of gluten, there are also indirect sources of gluten you must be concerned about. It is truly a learning process.
Many people find the longer they abstain from gluten the more sensitive they become. You may start your gluten-free journey by continuing to dine at your favorite restaurant, but then eventually have to give it up. Restaurants present a problem because of cross- contamination issues. There can be gluten left on cutting boards, countertops, utensils, and cookware. There may be flour particles floating in the air, and even cooks and servers with gluten on their hands. Dining establishments with gluten-free menus can also be of concern. Does the management really know what foods are gluten-free? Do they know if their suppliers retain the gluten-free status of the food? Can your dish actually be served without contamination along the way? If you are fortunate enough to live in a big city you may have the opportunity to visit a gluten-free or raw food restaurant where gluten is rarely an issue.
Health Food Stores
Your favorite health food store is also a source of concern. Be aware of well-meaning, but uninformed health food store employees. Foods with gluten are often touted as gluten-free. Even though kamut and spelt are lower in gluten than some other grains they are not gluten-free! They are actually wheat products. There may also be contamination in the bulk food bins. Sometimes different food items are put in the same bin without cleaning in between. Even with proper cleaning, depending what was in the bin earlier, e.g., flour, the plastic may hold onto the gluten.
Personal Care Items
Lip products are often a missed source of gluten. Your level of sensitivity will determine if you need to use a safe product. The simple act of licking your lips can bring on an episode of illness. There are many gluten-free lip balms, glosses, and sticks available today. Most popular brands of toothpaste are gluten-free.
Gluten can be, and probably is, in your hand lotion, make-up, and moisturizer. Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling any food. Rinse hands well, leaving no soap residue, or consider finding a gluten-free option.
There is also a lot of misinformation on the internet. Even websites dedicated to celiacs can provide inaccurate information. Chat room participants are often misinformed or their information is out of date. Fellow sufferers may share a story about a new food they found which gave them no reaction. Everyone has different levels of sensitivity and grain tolerances: what bothers one may not bother another.
Your best bet is to prepare your own food at home where you can be certain of the safety of what you are eating. Buying fresh produce and packaged foods which are gluten-free is the way to go. On-line shopping for packaged foods eliminates the problems encountered at the health food store.
TrueFoods Market offers many gluten-free foods, some available in large amounts so you can stock up. The bottom line is you have to be responsible for your own health. A gluten-free lifestyle is a huge commitment. For some it is a choice, for others, a necessity.