Okay, so having read a few of my articles on gluten and endometriosis, you probably figure it is high time you get onto going “gluten-free”. There is a catch with doing the gluten-free thing… it only works if you go at it 98% of the time (I allow for 2% for really small amounts we may not even realize). I must just point out that there is a big difference between gluten intolerance (which is what most of us endo girls have) and having full-blown celiacs disease. It is inevitable that you will be absorbing some gluten in products. What we want to avoid is the large quantities of gluten you are probably eating right now. Intolerance simply means that your body doesn’t feel well eating it in large quantities. In small quantities though, it should be fine.
So, what is gluten exactly and where is it found?
Gluten is a binding agent. It makes things stick together well. It is predominantly found in wheat flour. You will also find other flours that contain gluten, such as barley, rye and spelt. Buckwheat flour is gluten-free and tapioca flour is fine too. Oats have been debated and it does depend on where they have been made. I think maybe skip the oats for now and wait a few months after being on a gluten-free diet and then try them.
Gluten will basically create a cement type of reaction in your bowels, which is why it causes so much pain with endo and the associated bloating etc. As much as it binds other stuff together, it kinda binds the bits in your bowels together—ouch!
How to avoid gluten
You can avoid gluten by simply checking whether something is made with wheat and obviously buying gluten-free products. There are some things which may not be obvious that they contain gluten:
- Wine gums and chewy sweets. I used to love those snakes (the natural confection company—for those of you in Australia!) and licorice. Anything that requires lots of chewing is likely to contain gluten or a wheat-derived ingredient.
- Sauces and soups. Soy sauce contains gluten and many other sauces and soups that have had wheat added to make them thicken up. Be careful in restaurants ordering a white wine soup as it is likely to have been made with wheat flour.
- Crumbed foods. Crumbing is a process whereby foods are dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. This includes fried calamari rings, portion sized canapes and croutons.
- Bread, pasta and pastry bases. This is kinda obvious if you know anything about cooking but these are all made with large amounts of flour and should definitely be avoided in going gluten-free.
- Cosmetics and products you put on yourself. Sunscreens and make-up often contain gluten—try buying an organic sunscreen and you will see how runny it is. This is going to be a small amount but if you are putting that on your skin each and every day, it will be absorbed by your body. We naturally want to avoid chemical laden products anyway, as they are toxic to our bodies.
- Supplements and protein powders. Many supplements and protein powders will use flour or wheat as filling agents or as a binding agent.
Okay, Mel, that all sounds way too hard! I can’t possibly avoid all of that!
Here’s the thing. Take it slow. Don’t try and cut out all of this in one go. Just become aware and realize just how much gluten you are taking into your body on a daily basis.
Here are 3 steps to help you get started:
1. Replace what you currently eat with gluten-free versions. There is heaps of choice these days and you can get gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta and even gluten-free pizza bases.
2. Start making your own sauces and foods from scratch. Honestly, they taste so much better and they will be fresher and you will know exactly what went into them. The bought stuff inevitably contains some kind of preservative—how else does it sit on the shelf for so long? These preservatives are not helping your toxic load either. Make fresh tomato sauce with real tomatoes! You can add any spices you like or get some of your own herbs, direct from the garden. It is all heaps of fun and much more rewarding!
3. Eventually, replace your meals with healthier options. Instead of opting for gluten-free breads and pastas, move onto replace the whole idea with better alternatives. I personally love my quinoa each morning, which I have with heaps of fruit and goji berries!
Get into cool salads with potatoes and pumpkin in them. Make them filling and delicious and they will beat your gluten-free sandwich any day!
It does require commitment to go gluten-free but the rewards are definitely there. Just take it one day at a time and just make better choices for your body. You can do it!
If you have been gluten-free for a while or even just a month and you can share an encouraging story, please do so. It all helps girls feel better!
I have a book with over 100 recipes to help and support you with eating better.
Here’s to fresh salads and feeling light and full of energy!