Celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and wheat-allergy are different ways in which your body may be reacting to gluten. Although some people can maintain their health consuming gluten, many people feel better once they remove it from their diets. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten causing intestinal villous atrophy, and, therefore, your ability to absorb nutrients can become severely impaired resulting in multiple nutrient deficiencies and malnourishment. Celiac Disease affects about 1% of our population. A gluten-sensitivity is an immune reaction to gluten and may or may not cause villous atrophy of the intestines. This affects around 10% of our population. A gluten intolerance is often an intolerance to the high levels of fructans in gluten-containing grains. A Fructan-Free Diet or Low-FODMAP diet and intestinal rebalancing can help resolve this. A wheat allergy is an IgE mediated allergic response the proteins in wheat. There are over 300 health conditions that have been associated with reactions to gluten, including Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's, liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel diseases, chronic eczema, refractory iron-deficiency anemia and more. There are so many possible ways in which gluten can cause harm that removing it from the diet often times produces miraculous health benefits.
Latest Legume-Free Recipes
What is a Gluten-Free Diet?
A gluten-free diet completely removes gluten containing foods from the diet. In order for this diet to be successful, there has to be 100% removal, usually for at least 12 weeks before seeing the full benefits of the diet, though research has shown that it may take up to 6 months on a gluten-free diet to finally feel better. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and triticale. Oats can also be cross-contaminated with gluten due to growing, harvest, and transportation, although oats themselves are gluten-free (oats contain a different protein that is similar in structure to gluten, called avenin, that some individuals also react to).
If you experience any of these symptoms, then removing gluten may benefit you:
- digestive complaints (bloating, nausea, loose stools)
- multiple food allergies
- hair loss
- iron deficiency anemia
- dermatitis herpetiformis
- bleeding gums
- recurrent miscarriages
- weight loss / weight gain
- stunted growth in children
- muscle cramping
- peripheral neuropathy
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- restless leg syndrome
- osteoporosis / osteopenia
- Type 1 diabetes
- Blood sugar dysregulation
Where is gluten found?
Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. Although oats don't contain gluten, they do contain a protein called avenin, which is very similar to gluten and can cause gluten-like reactions in some people. Even if you remove gluten-containing grains from your diet, there are still many possible ways to consume gluten. Enter: Cross-contamination!
Cross-contamination can happen in many different places. First, certain foods like lentils are cross rotated with wheat in the fields. So, when you buy a bag of lentils you will often find wheat berries mixed in (you need to really look closely!). Oats, millet, and buckwheat also often contain gluten grains. You probably know already that you need to buy certified gluten-free oats, but you also need to buy certified gluten-free millet and certified gluten-free buckwheat groats otherwise you will likely be consuming gluten unknowingly and never feel fully well.
Cross-contamination can also happen during the processing of a food. When you grind brown rice flour, for example, you need to know if wheat berries were also ground on that same equipment. If so, there will be a small amount of wheat flour in your brown rice flour and you will never feel completely well. Interestingly, studies in celiac patients show that very small amounts of gluten ingestion can cause villous atrophy of the intestines, but with no apparent outward symptoms! It only takes a minute amount of gluten to elicit a reaction! All processed foods run the risk of gluten cross-contamination, so working towards a whole foods diet will not only cut down on the chances of inadvertently consuming gluten but will also tremendously benefit your health! The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook is a great guide to introduce you to whole foods and teach you about hidden sources of gluten (check out the guide in the appendix of the book).
Cross-contamination happens in your kitchen and when eating out too! If you bake with wheat flour, inevitably flour dust will burst into the air during whisking and measuring, contaminating the counters and nearby cookware and eating utensils. If you have a sensitive family member it is best to create a gluten-free kitchen so that family member can fully heal.
When eating out, there are just too many places where cross-contamination can occur that many people find it best to avoid restaurants during the initial healing phase. Gluten can be found on counters, cutting boards, rolling pins, grills, kitchen equipment, and in the food itself.
What do I eat now?
The great news is that you can eat so many foods being gluten-free! In fact, if you are just making the transition, this can be a fun time to explore new foods, flavors, and cuisines. If you are new to the gluten-free diet, try cooking from scratch in your own gluten-free kitchen. This way you can truly remove all sources of gluten from your diet in order to see how your body responds to this diet (if you eat out or have gluten in your kitchen, you may never actually see a difference with this diet).
Here is what you CAN eat:
- all fresh vegetables
all fresh fruits
meats, preferably from pasture-raised animals
eggs, preferably from pastured chickens
dairy (if tolerated), preferably raw and from grass-fed animals
certified gluten-free grains (teff, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, sorghum, corn)
coconut products (coconut milk, butter, oil, flour, nectar)
nuts and seeds (and their butters and flours)
natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, stevia)
What can I cook and bake that is Gluten-Free?
First, let's start with bread. Bread is something that has nurtured us throughout the ages so it would seem logical that this is the first food folks think about replacing on a gluten-free diet. My gluten-free bread recipes are kneadable, are xanthan gum-free, use whole food ingredients, and don't become dry and crumble to pieces the next day! To get you started, try my Farmhouse Seed Bread or my Everyday Sandwich Bread. For a fun treat, try making my Gluten-Free Cinnamon Swirl Bread for a holiday brunch or a weekend gluten-free baking day with your children! My Rosemary Sea Salt Breadsticks are also fun to make, especially if you have children. They can knead the dough and form their own shapes!
Besides bread, try my Raw Chocolate Pie and wow your friends! Bake up a batch of these grain-free Cinnamon-Date Almond Butter Cookies. Cook up some gluten-free Brown Rice Flour Tortillas for taco night! Make a super Healing Chicken Stock to help your intestines recover. Need gravy for Thanksgiving? Learn how to make Gluten-Free Gravy! Try something new! My Peach Ginger Mint Green Smoothie and Creamy Summer Zucchini Soup are delicious additions to your weekly food prep routine.
Cooking gluten-free doesn't need to be complicated. Chances are, you already cook many gluten-free meals at home. Think of roasted chicken, potatoes, and a salad. Or a bean and vegetable soup with rice. Many raw food recipes are also naturally gluten-free. Try a nut or seed pâté wrapped in a collard leaf!
Getting started on a Gluten-Free Diet:
- If you are not yet a member on this site, you can join now.
- Add some of our sample gluten-free meal plans to your user profile or create your own!
- Schedule your meal plans onto your meal plan calendar and create shopping lists.
- Get inspired with new gluten-free recipes added to this site weekly!
- Join our Nourishing Meals Community Facebook Group to get notified with new recipes and more! Everyone is welcome.