Whatever your reason for going gluten-free, whether it be a need or a want, this section is to help educate oneself on the matter. If you have any questions I more than happy to address them.

Gluten Free Food

First Step: Get Educated.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats.

If you are Celiac- your intestines cannot absorb nutrients because Gluten Protein has damaged it. It is an immune reaction. This means that symptoms of long-term undiagnosed celiac disease can cause malnutrition. Some people with celiac disease may not have symptoms, but internally malnutrition can destroy one's health over many years. Even a trace of Gluten can offset the immune system. It is important to take it very seriously.

If you are gluten intolerant- Many people are allergic or have gluten sensitivities without knowing it. Gluten intolerance has a slower onset than celiac disease making it is harder to diagnose due to the vast range of symptoms and causes.

Both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be brought on by emotional stress, changes in your body caused by infection, the environment, surgery, pregnancy, and childbirth. Every individual with some level of gluten intolerance or allergy may experience different types of symptoms, which is why it is a challenge for medical practitioners to diagnose. Because it can be ‘brought on’ one can become intolerant to gluten at any time in one's life.

What are signs of having a gluten intolerance?

Symptoms of gluten intolerance are hard to identify because it mimics several other ailments such as fatigue, stomach bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss or gain, skin rash, dull skin, headaches, irritability, and headaches.

It is easier to spot early signs in young people. If your child is not gaining weight, you may want to visit a doctor as soon as this becomes an issue. The condition is called, ‘failure to thrive’ which is indicating that there is malnutrition of some kind. Constipation is also a sign in infants, toddlers, and children. This can happen if you have a gluten intolerance or are celiac.

How To Obtain Diagnosis for Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease?

For Celiac Disease: Either a blood test or biopsy.

Gluten Intolerance (sensitivity)- Is harder to determine. Most doctors perform a blood test first and look for signs of celiac disease. If the tests are positive- a biopsy is done. If they find ‘abnormal villi’, or inflammation in the small intestine- they consider this a sign of intolerance.

Natural Path/ Homeopath Doctors also use methods to determine food sensitivities including gluten intolerance. -This is where I found help and where I found the support to turn my life around.

Benefits - The Glorious Benefits

The benefits for me personally were astronomical. My increased levels of energy shot through the roof, my exercise asthma vanished within 3 months- no more inhaler, my mind was more alert and I did better in school.

Eliminating gluten lowers bad cholesterol levels, assists in the digestive processes, helps eliminate symptoms of diarrhea, bloating and excessive gas and it strengthens your immune system and can be an answer to weight loss.

A gluten-free diet has also been shown to be beneficial for those suffering from thyroid disease, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, anemia, autism and irritable bowl syndrome.

Eliminating gluten from your diet will naturally make you more aware of what you are putting into your body. This will lead to healthier choices and lifestyle.

The Food Part - Now What Can I Eat, if I Can’t Eat Wheat?

First Step - It is all about getting educated.

Know your grains…

What grains DO have gluten? Steer clear of any product with….

Barley, Bran, Bulgur, Couscous, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farina, Farro, Graham, Kamut, Matzo Meal, Orzo, Rye, Spelt, Triticale, Udon, Wheat germ and starch.

What grains do NOT have gluten? These are your new go-to flours…

Rice Flour, Potato Starch and flour, Corn Flour, Corn Starch, Almond Flour, Quinoa Four, Flour, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Coconut Flour, Garbanzo Bean Flour, Guar Gum, Kaniwa, Mesquite Flour, Sorghum, Sweet Potato Flour, Sweet Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour, Xanthan Gum

Read Ingredient Labels

Make it a habit to read ingredient labels. Gluten can be found in all kinds of products such as breads, pastries, soups, gravy, soy sauce, licorice, condiments, non-dairy products, veggies burgers, herbal tea, medicines, candies, cereals, chips, hair products and skin lotions. Gluten can be found in many things, so it is important to educate yourself. Eventually, you will not have to read every label. Once you familiarize yourself with products that are safe it will become easier to shop for foods and ingredients.

It takes a long time to get to know the ingredients of food items- so when in doubt, take the time to find out.

What are some ideas for Gluten Alternatives?

Today there is a vast range of gluten-free alternatives, making the change much easier than before. Many grocery stores have dedicated gluten-free section on their shelves. You can now usually find a variety of gluten-free flours, such as rice flour, almond flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch.

Most, if not all health food stores carry a variety of great gluten free products.

In Hawaii I find my gluten free treats at Down To Earth, Celestial Eats in Haleiwa, and of course the glorious Whole Foods Market in Kahala- my haven! For those living near a Foodland or Tamuras, there are a few gluten-free products such as the flours mentioned above, and a few great cake, pancake (Bisquick), muffin mixes, gluten free crackers and a variety of cereals!

When my dad had to take the plunge into the gluten-free world 20 odd years ago- the term ‘gluten-free’ was foreign, and there were very little options. I remember shipments of little, rock hard loaves of rice bread being shipped to our house from a city 500 miles away. They were close to 10 dollars a loaf and tasted like cardboard. Who would have known that these bricks of bread would be what I learned to love- and real fast! Needless to say, my dad and I were a scrawny duo. Today there are much better options!

Today the ‘gluten free lifestyle’ is desired by many, and the options are quite endless. There is a great support system for going gluten free. Organizations like Celiac Sprue Association of America, great gluten free blogs, and other resources are here to help.

A gluten free lifestyle is currently a huge trend among celebrities and many others who are realizing the benefits of this healthy lifestyle. Who would have known that this once bland way of life would become plentiful and somewhat ‘posh’! I can guarantee you right now- you will be a healthier, better you- full of more energy, and vibrancy, if you do away with gluten.

The first two years I ate rice cake sandwiches (rice cake with peanut butter and creamed honey- frozen) for lunch every single day. It was the only thing I could pack for lunch that I thought tasted good. My mom felt so bad for me, but I actually loved it. When you illuminate gluten, your taste buds will change, and plain foods will have more flavor than ever before. This is because your palate is cleaner.

Baking with Gluten-Free Products.

Today there are many baking mixes that make it very easy to bake! More than ever you can make gluten free breads and muffins taste like "the real thing" :).

Do yourself a favor, though, try not to compare to the real thing. At first, things will taste slightly different so try not to have that throw you off. The texture and the flavor will be a little different in some cases because you are using different ingredients. Have fun with the new ingredients and invite them into your new gluten-free life. Woohoo!

Tip from yours truly, maybe consider it wisdom...

I know it is easier to be positive in hindsight. I remember how hard it was at the beginning. I remember my body changing and detoxing and feeling more awful than even before. All of these things I was supposed to expect and see as signs of improvement.

My advice to you is to commit fully. Do not give yourself the option of looking back- that is if you do have an intolerance. The benefits that come from taking care of yourself will be more wonderful than a donut here and there. Once you are committed, you’ll come to know that this mere trial in your life is actually a unique blessing, it will become much easier and probably exciting. I know I was excited to have the chance to fix what was wrong! That is a great thing Take it one day at a time!