This week I am going to talk to you about gluten and living a gluten free lifestyle. I’m going to introduce the basics of a gluten-free diet and introduce you to foods that are nutritious and better for you than gluten filled foods.

First, let’s go over what gluten actually is. I’m sure you’ve heard the term gluten-free being thrown around, how some people think it’s nonsense, or like me,  live by. Let me be clear, I am not 100% gluten free. I still indulge here and there in the occasional baked good if it’s not of the gluten-free variety. Gluten is actually a mixture of proteins that are found in wheat, barley, and rye. What does that mean exactly??? It means it’s found in everyday foods like breads, most pastries, pasta, cookies, crackers, croutons, boxed foods, cereal, and pizza. They’re also found in not so obvious products like licorice and in natural flavorings. There is a part of the population that have to eat gluten-free if they have been diagnosed with celiac disease. For others, eating gluten free is a choice. There’s a huge mis-education on eating gluten-free and living the lifestyle. It’s not just about your diet, it’s about gaining control of your health.

Eating gluten comes with different symptoms like joint pain, fatigue, depression, headaches, irritability, and other issues going on with your gut. When you eat wheat filled products the symptoms tend to stay with you from day to day because gluten can be found an many of our foods. Gluten is known as an inflammatory food and when our body rejects a food it has a not so friendly way of telling you to stop eating it like having gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and bloating. You know, the basic I don’t want to leave my house symptoms due to the lack of control of my bowels. Well, then why do we eat food that has gluten???

Because no one really knew that foods containing this had such a negative effect. In fact, humans don’t fully digest wheat. Wheat has not been around very long and our digestive systems have not evolved to digest it well. In other words, we aren’t met to eat it therefore we reject it.

So what do we do??

We start removing the foods that contain gluten. This can be hard at first. When you stop and look at everything you eat you will notice it’s in a lot of your daily foods. As I mentioned earlier it’s found in our every day foods that have become staples.

So the next question is what do we do? This week I want you to make an effort to start removing wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is also found in preservatives like MSG and in natural flavorings but for now let’s start with the basics. If you tend to eat bread every day for breakfast then replace your usual bread with a gluten-free bread. If you tend to cook with pasta try replacing it with rice or quinoa or better yet get a gluten-free pasta you can use. When you start removing the wheat the symptoms will start to go away. Trying to remove gluten is not an easy task so take it day by day meal by meal and make sure you’re more conscious of what’s going into your body.

Grains (including bread, pasta, rice, crackers), specifically whole grains, are an important part of a healthy diet. Whole grains are a good source of healthy carbohydrates, providing energy to get you through the day. Most whole grains are high in fiber, which keeps you full and helps with digestion. Though many grains have gluten, a wide variety are naturally gluten-free.

Naturally Gluten-Free Grains & Starches:

• Rice
• Quinoa
• Millet
• Oats: But be aware that oats may be processed in a facility that also processes wheat. You’ll need to confirm your oats are labeled gluten-free or check with the manufacturer to rule out cross-contamination.
• Cassava/Yuca
• Sorghum
• Teff
• Corn
• Buckwheat
• Amaranth
• Potatoes and potato flour

What to Avoid When Shopping for Grains:

If you’re not sure if your bread, crackers, pasta and other grain-based products are gluten-free, a quick look through the ingredients can help you tell. Avoid products that contain any of the following, as these are NOT gluten-free.

• Wheat
• Other forms/varieties of wheat that should also be avoided: whole wheat, spelt, wheat berries, kamut, durum, farro, farina, bulgur, graham, semolina, bromated flour • Barley
• Rye
• Triticale (a cross between rye and wheat)
• Malt

Finally, if you’re not already keeping a journal then start. This helps you keep track of symptoms. Keep a journal and also when you start removing it more and find one day that you do eat it right down any symptoms that you get that day and notice how your body reacts when you eat gluten and when you don’t. Eating healthy is a lifestyle and something that should be practiced daily. When I decided to start eating gluten-free I noticed a big difference in my body composition and the way I felt. Now if I do decide to have bread or pizza or pastries made with regular wheat I definitely get the symptoms and they remind me of why I no longer put it in my body.

Eating clean and making healthier choices isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle.

If you are serious about reaching your fitness and nutrition potential schedule a consultation with me  via e-mail at feistyfitness@gmail.com

Juliana Halloran