Disclaimer: In no way I consider myself an expert on gluten free living, please consult your medical care provider and/or a nutritionist before starting a gluten free diet or choosing the products. I don’t have Celiac disease (at least I don’t think I do) or an actual wheat allergy, therefore, I may not be that careful about every bread crumb that might come in contact with my food though I do try taking as thorough precautions as I can. If you tested positive for Celiac or wheat allergy, educating yourself and being extremely diligent about your food choices is a must. This is just a very general information about gluten-free lifestyle and the products I like.
For complete information about Celiac disease or gluten intolerance and to get a full list of gluten free foods, please visit these websites:
The first step in identifying if gluten is your problem is to do a thorough testing. Start with simple and readily available, see your medical care provider to have an IgE blood panel testing and Celiac testing (remember, you have to be consuming regular amount of gluten, an equivalent of at least four slices of bread a day, to be adequately tested for Celiac, therefore, do not start a gluten free diet before doing all the testing, but do also note that Celiac tests have a higher rate of false negative results). You may further confirm the results with an intestinal biopsy to get a formal diagnosis of Celiac disease. If you do test positive, I recommend finding a GI or other medical practitioner who specializes in Celiac disease. Finding a good nutritionist and/or a naturopath is also a must (in my eyes).
If all your tests came back negative, you may want to do further (alternative) testing. None of it is covered by medical insurance, unfortunately. If you want to know your lifetime chance of developing Celiac, you can do MyCeliacID (a simple at-home saliva test, can be done while eating gluten or not as it’s genetic predisposition only)www.myceliacid.com, I decided not to do it as the end result would be the same – I have to stay off gluten, most likely lifetime. There are other saliva and stool tests that you may do with your healthcare provider agreement.
If you suspect that intolerance rather than Celiac or gluten allergy is the culprit of your problems (like in my case), you may test for IgG food panel and/or kinesiology muscle test. IgG/ELISA food panel testing is different from IgE testing, IgG tests for so called ”delayed reaction allergens” or intolerances where symptoms may develop over the next few days to weeks after consuming a specific allergen or allergens (or become chronic if such foods are ingested on a regular basis), where IgE panel shows the “immediate reaction” allergens more known to the general public. If your medical doctor doesn’t offer such testing, naturopathic provider is usually familiar with IgG panel. Kinesiology/muscle test is often done by a naturopath or a chiropractor specifically trained for it. It’s a non-invasive way to examine your body’s imbalances and responses to specific foods and other substances. The test is often considered controversial and regarded as “pseudo-science” (if you only go with the Western way of the science definition), but I can attest myself that it pinpointed the exact same food issues found by IgG blood test and further explored some other problems I was experiencing at the time.
The last and probably the most simple technique is an elimination diet. Go off gluten for at least two-three months (you need that long for your body to properly eliminate all stored gluten sources and reduce the state of inflammation). If your symptoms (whatever they are) disappear or decrease, then gluten may be a source of your problems. Gluten sensitivity is often related to a vast variety of symptoms: digestive problems, asthma/allergy, fibromyalgia, migraines, joints pains, arthritis, eczema, obesity, to name a few. Consistent gluten consumption leads to a constant inflammation state responsible for hundreds of other diseases. Even if you think gluten may not be your issue, as we age, we produce fewer enzymes to properly digest gluten (and many other common allergens such as dairy), therefore, I believe anybody can improve their health and wellbeing by simply cutting the amount of wheat products consumed every day and substituting them with naturally gluten free foods.
Foods containing gluten ( a very short, general list)
wheat, barley, rye, spelt, semolina, durum, wheat/barley grass, tabbouleh, couscous, malts, soy sauce, beer, wheat based spirits, gravy, all kind of thickening agents and sauces, some soups and cold cuts, frozen/fast foods dusted with flour, etc. (oats and corn are often contaminated with wheat, therefore, choose gluten free variety) – educate and double check, if in doubt, do not eat.
Gluten free grains/flours
rice, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, arrowroot, teff, tapioca, almond, bean, soy (more on soy on Healthy Living page), gluten free oats and corn.
Living gluten free is not, by any means, a boring and restrictive life. There are a great variety of products available on the market, and more and more new items are being presented every month, or more and more regular stores starting catering to a gluten free community, you no longer have to do all your shopping as specialty stores like Whole Foods. Old companies like Betty Crocker and Chex cereals offer gluten free versions right along their regular items. You can lead a completely normal life (with the adequate information and planning), visit your friends and family, eat out and even travel (I always pack a small suitcase full of GF breads, pasta, cereals, snacks, desserts and even pancakes mix to substitute the regular offerings, and I’m yet to find a hotel or a restaurant that was unwilling to accommodate my needs).
Don’t stew, substitute is my motto!
Some of my favorite gluten free products
I do a lot of baking and naturally have my favorite gluten free flours/mixes. The ones I use the most and like the best are Cup4Cup and Authentic Foods mixes. Both mixes have a finely ground rice flour as the base that produces great taste and texture similar to wheat flour.
Cup4Cup www.cup4cup.com is a complete mix (already has xanthan gum in it but also has milk powder so may not be suitable for a dairy-free option), the mix is sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. I use it mostly for pies, tarts, turnovers, donuts, or any things that call for rolling the dough, the mix has a lot of xanthan gum in it that helps the dough “stick” together but may “deflate” cakes or muffins. Try Ad Hoc waffle mix made with Cup4Cup flour, delicious! I love Cup4Cup so much that I even got some “love” back . Chef Lena Kwak, who along with Chef Thomas Keller, developed the flour, visited my blog and featured two of my recipes on their site. It was truly an honor!
Authentic Foods www.authenticfoods.com mix does not contain xanthan gum so you’ll need to add it but makes great cakes, cupcakes, muffins or anything that needs to “rise” and hold the shape. They also have good pre-made mixes for cakes, muffins and pies.
www.thecravingsplace.com My absolute must for any kind of ready-to-make mixes and flours, their Pancake and Waffle Mix is my “Bisquick” that I use for all kind of baked/flour things because 1) it’s a complete mix, and you don’t have to add anything but water (and still get fluffy pancakes, though I do like to add coconut milk instead), 2) it’s unsweetened, therefore, you can use it for sweet and not so sweet things (it does have a hint of vanilla though), plus you can add your own choice of sweetener or none, like I do, because I like to put extra syrup on my pancakes or waffles
www.betterbatter.org A good flour mix that could be used for coating meat/fish/veggies for baking or frying.
www.udisglutenfree.com Absolutely nothing beats Udi’s products, from breads to muffins to rolls to granola, you won’t even notice it’s gluten free.
www.canyonbakehouse.com The most amazing raisin bread and burger rolls.
www.enjoylifefoods.com A line of allergen-free breads, snacks and cereal bars.
www.katzglutenfree.com All kind of breads and sweets ”like Mama used to make”.
www.shabtai-gourmet.com A full line of divine desserts like my favorite Rainbow cookies
www.mydadscookies.com Never met a “Dad’s” cookie I didn’t like.
www.natural-nectar.com Sans Gluten, the very best cracklebred, gluten free or not.
Lines of breads, sweets and mixes:
If you’re ever in NYC, try these gluten free places I love (you won’t regret it )
Babycakes, the most amazing desserts (vegan too) www.babycakesnyc.com
Tu-Lu’s Bakery, gluten free (and some dairy free/vegan) desserts and breads www.tu-lusbakery.com
Bistango, one of the best ragu pasta, GF or not www.bistangonyc.com
Mozzarelli’s, GF pizza and pasta, also serves “My Dad’s Cookies” GF desserts www.mozzarellies.com
Pizza Pala, GF pasta and pizza that also offers daiya cheese www.palapizza.com
Risotteria, GF, pizza, pasta and baked goods www.risotteria.com
Lilli and Loo, Chinese food and hard-to-find GF dumplings www.liiliandloo.com
Ruby Foo’s Times Square, GF Asian cuisine and desserts www.rubyfoos.com
Souen, GF and macrobiotic www.souen.net
You will never feel hungry or deprived while living a gluten free lifestyle, sample different products from different lines, see what you like, also pretend you can be a baker and make your own (that’s what I do)