For those of you who have followed Thyroid Loving Care’s free 15-day healing email course, you know that going gluten-free was personally one of the most challenging things for me to do. As a trained chef and self-confessed food addict (I think the PC term is um, foodie?), I was VERY resistant to giving up my pastries, pastas, pizzas and fried foods. BUT I was just so sick. I woke up each morning in a thick fog weighed down by fatigue. I ached everywhere. My hair was falling out. My temperature skyrocketing then plummeting. Totally anxiety ridden. I was a mess.
And, I had researched and tried everything….everything BUT going gluten-free. I just didn’t see how my life would be fulfilling without glutenous foods. And that’s when I realized I had a problem. Not only a physical problem but an emotional problem with food. I was keeping myself from health and vitality because I wouldn’t give up gluten.
When I finally got to the point of being sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, I said to myself, “ENOUGH! Just give it a shot. You can always go back to eating gluten if nothing changes.”
Going into this battle with myself was tough.
I knew I needed to arm myself with meal plans and delicious recipes, so I did. I let going gluten-free refuel my passion and pleasure for the kitchen. If I wanted to win this war, I knew I was going to have to substitute other foods that would be satisfying. So, I got down to business. Here’s what I did.
- I gave myself a short-term goal: “Just try this for 2 weeks.”
- I looked through my favorite cookbooks, magazines and new websites to find enticing and simple recipes. This was super fun.
- I picked a date and got started.
After one week of being gluten-free…truly gluten-free (no packaged or processed GF replicas of favorite foods at first), I knew I would never go back to eating gluten. I had way, I mean WAY more energy than I’d had in years. Yes, the first days were rough – cravings, detox symptoms like headaches, blah blah. But after the fog cleared, I realized what I had been doing to my gut and my body with all this gluten and I finally started feeling some relief.
As more and more time went by, my food allergies went away, as did my digestive troubles. My hair came back and my energy was great. I started to feel like myself again…the “me” before Hashimoto’s entered my life.
What I also saw was a major shift in my blood work. Each time my blood was checked after going gluten-free, my antibodies would go down by 100 points or more. My other levels normalized. When once everything on my blood test seemed out of range, now I was in the normal range; heading toward optimal numbers.
Seeing the disease get reversed in black and white and feeling my symptoms float away was a true awakening. I was dedicated to living this lifestyle and to remaining healthy.
Beyond your kitchen: gluten-free for life
Now, I’m from the Midwest and from a family of eaters…not foodies but eaters. Many of my family members are overweight and ALL of them seemed annoyed and threatened that I made this change in my diet. Over the years I’ve been teased about it. Called high maintenance. Had eyes rolled at me.
But you know what? That’s their issue, not mine. I am about healing myself. I am about being fit and feeling energized. I wanted my life back. I don’t want a health crisis or my weight keeping me from the things I want to do in life. So yeah, I’m not gonna lie, not only was it tough for me to go gluten-free personally, it was also tough to not have the full support of my family and some of my friends when I made this change. I still have people trying to sabotage my efforts. But I persevere. I know what it feels like to be sick and being stifled by illness AND I know what it’s like to feel healthy and amazing. I choose me…not the pastry.
Many of you have written in to say that you are worried about the push back you might get from others if you make this change. I’ve also heard from you that you don’t know how to make that change if not everyone is following this diet in your household. And, you’ve told me you find it challenging to dine out and remain on a gluten-free diet as well. Well….
Here are my quick tips and cheat sheets for making gluten-free living easy:
3 Tips for Dining Out Success:
- Look at the menu before going to the restaurant.
- If you don’t see a separate GF menu or GF designations on the main menu, call the restaurant and find out your options.
- Ask for this super easy meal available at almost all restaurants — grilled or baked protein, 2 cooked veggies and a salad. Ask the server if there is any gluten in the marinades, sauces or dressings. Usually if you just get a grilled protein, 2 veggies sauteed in butter, and oil & vinegar on your salad, you’re all set and can eat ANYWHERE!
3 Steps to Take at the Restaurant:
- Inform your server and ask questions. Thank him/her for helping you find a delicious meal you can enjoy at their establishment.
- Make it easy for the server — tell your him/her that you have a “non-celiac” gluten allergy. Use the word allergy, trust me. If you don’t, you’ll end up secretly glutened.
- BUT, make sure to say up front that you’re non-celiac so that your server and the manager don’t faint. Sadly, many service staff are woefully uneducated on the topic….it is getting better though!
- If there’s something that sounds good on the menu, ask if the dish is gluten-free if the bread/bun or sauce is removed. Don’t make them do the thinking for you.
- Check the fries! or potatoes or any “fried” veggies or proteins (in general) and ask if they are dredged in flour first…or if they have any proteins (fish, chicken, beef, etc) that hasn’t been dredged yet that they can grill/saute for you.
Top 7 Sneaky Places Gluten Hides in Restaurants:
- Soy sauce — contains gluten. Ask for tamari or bring your own Coconut Aminos (that’s what I do!)
- French fries — so sad! But they are sometimes dredged in flour before frying.
- Creamy soups and sauces — many times are thickened with flour.
- Ice cream — especially if it has cookie bits in!
- Barley — yup, contains gluten. And many people who don’t have sensitivities don’t know it.
- Sprinkles and other toppings — might contain gluten or be made in a facility that also uses gluten.
- Malt vinegar — because malt has gluten.
3 Mobile Apps to Help You Live Gluten-Free
- Find Me Gluten-Free: Helps you find gluten-free restaurants and businesses in your town and while traveling. I have found GF restaurants in the middle of nowhere!
- Gluten Free Passport: Offers expert advice on how to order airline meals, advise hotels of your needs and even cruise gluten free.
- ShopWell Mobile App: This barcode scanner can help you identify gluten free foods at the grocery store before you ever buy them.
3 Cuisines that are Gluten-Free Friendly:
- Mexican — Most of the carbs in Mexican food are corn! Be sure to ask if the tortillas and chips are gluten-free, or if any sauces contain gluten, but it’s usually easy to find GF choices here.
- Vietnamese — Can you say EGG ROLLS? Vietnamese egg rolls are made with rice wrappers, the noodles are all rice noodles, and they don’t use a lot of soy sauce (which can contain gluten) in any of their dishes. I eat pho for breakfast almost every day!
- Indian — Skip the naan, but most Indian food is naturally gluten free. Plus, because vegetarianism is so popular in their country, vegan options are easy to find if you’re also avoiding dairy.
And there are many more cuisines including Thai and Japanese…in fact, eating gluten-free at an Italian restaurant isn’t that challenging if you stick to the entree of meat and veggies (just ask to make sure they don’t dredge the meat!) As you all know, I dine out all the time and armed with the tools above, I am easily able to eat a most restaurants without a problem.
Want to really learn the medical and scientific importance of going gluten-free for you AND your family? Dr. Tom O’Bryan (who you may have “met” during The Thyroid Sessions) has a fantastic resource called, The Gluten Summit. The Gluten Summit includes nearly 30 hours of interviews between Dr. O’Bryan and world experts and thought leaders on gluten sensitivities, including all sorts of information about what gluten does to the body and how to avoid it in everyday life. You’ll want to check that out.
And here’s my personal note: Remember YOU are not a restaurant! When it comes to meal planning in my home, I make one meal that everyone eats in the house and it is a meal that’s thyroid/autoimmune friendly. They get what they get and they don’t get upset.
Need help getting buy in from your partner and/or kids to eat in a way that’s nourishing for them and healing for you? Check out The Partner’s Guide for ways to get your loved ones on board or The Radical TLC Solution for a 4-week meal plan and recipe inspiration for healing.