Back in 2011 when I was only gluten-free and not Paleo yet, friends kept asking me about my miraculous health improvements. After answering dozens of questions one-by-one I wrote this article to put it all in one place. I'm re-posting this here for you.
If going Paleo seems too hard, try going gluten-free first.
The relief you feel from gluten may give you the energy, motivation, and inspiration you need to go full Paleo.
If going gluten-free intimidates you, keep reading.
Because I needed it to be easy, so I'm making it easy for you.
I thought going gluten-free would mean eating salad every day, all day... forever. Because I was really into my diet coke and M&Ms and french fries at the time (and absolutely hated vegetables) going gluten-free sounded about as fun as a root canal. Turns out you don't have to be healthy to go gluten-free, which makes it much easier to transition into it from the processed food, sugar-laden, bread-heavy, Standard American Diet.
First, Is Gluten-Free A Fad?
No. This is a great article about why is isn't.
The Best Article I've Found On Gluten Symptoms
Here it the best article I've found so far on gluten and its symptoms on the internet. (Eventually, I wrote one of my own.)
What Is Gluten?
Gluten-free (GF) means avoiding all foods containing:
• oats (unless they are certified gluten-free oats)
Read every single label. Gluten is in corn cereal and ice cream. It's in salad dressings. It's in lunchmeat. It's in rotisserie chicken. It's in soy sauce. It's in mixed nuts. Read every single label. Every. Single. Label.
The Really Easy Way To Go Gluten Free
Sounds hard, huh?
Like you'll have to turn into a rabbit and just eat lettuce?
Many people won't try going gluten free because they think they'll have to eat healthy. But you don't.
That's the secret. Don't try to be healthy.
You can buy gluten-free donuts and ice cream. Gluten-free cookies and pies. If you are gluten-intolerant and you eat gluten-free junk food you will STILL feel better than if you eat "healthy" whole grains and a sensible diet.
So if you want to try going gluten-free, go to Whole Foods and buy gluten-free junk food. Eat your regular meal (without bread or breading - or use gluten-free bread and breading) and then treat yourself. If you like pasta, you're in luck! The gluten-free rice pasta is fantastic! You can still have your noodles!
But You Can't Be "Sort-Of" Gluten Free
Even a trace amount of gluten will inflame your systems if you are intolerant, and it will stay in your system for 4-5 days. (Some say 15 days.) So no, not even one McDonald's french fry is OK.
Yes, french fries! They coat them before they fry them. Some places fry them in the same oil as the chicken nuggets. When in doubt, skip it.
Google Is Your Friend
Don't want to skip it? Want to find out if it's gluten-free? Go to google and type: "is <this product> gluten free?" and you'll find out. Easy!
Can't Read That Label?
Many ingredients on labels are hard to understand.
Here is the complete list of gluten-free ingredients.
When in doubt, skip it or buy something with a less complicated ingredient list.
About Your Kitchen…
If people are eating gluten in your kitchen while you are not, be careful.
Cross Contamination (CC) happens easily because microscopic gluten bits can make you sick if you have a problem.
Anything porous or baked-on or shared will have gluten in it like:
You can share dishes and utensils if they are washed really well.
So if you think you are gluten-free and you are eating at home and you feel sick - did you grab an old gluten-ed pan from the back rack? Are you sharing with a gluten-eating person?
It's easiest to have a totally gluten-free kitchen but you can figure out how to have a mixed gluten and gluten-free kitchen. People do! Although it's really much easier to have a GF kitchen. People who can eat gluten can always go out to eat. ;)
What? You Mean I Can't Eat Out At Restaurants?
Well, yes you can, with research.
Go to the restaurant website first to check. Lots of chain restaurants have dedicated gluten-free menus like PF Changs, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse. And this website will help a lot:
Gluten & Dairy
Many people who have a gluten intolerance also have a dairy intolerance.
If you find that going gluten-free helps but something isn't quite right, or it's not helping but you think it should be, go dairy free, too.
How To Go Dairy Free
Dairy is what comes from a cow. You CAN eat eggs.
(But you cannot eat goat milk or goat-milk yogurt.)
The protein in dairy is called Casein, so it's called being Casein Free (CF).
Lactose-Free is not the same thing. It has to be Dairy Free or Casein Free.
This article will tell you want to look for in labels when going Dairy/Casein Free.
This is a really nice detailed list of what to avoid when eating dairy.
If You Want To Get Tested
Blood tests and biopsies are not totally accurate or sensitive enough.
Doctors don't know much, if anything, about nutrition and diet.
If you want to get tested for gluten or food sensitivities, you can use the lab we use. You don't even have to see them in person.
Does This Sound Hard?
It is at first, but it gets easy once you are used to it. But does it sound hard to be overweight or to have food cravings? To have migraines or feel joint aches or crankiness? To have sleep problems or back pain? That sounds hard. And you never really get used to it.
If you have a gluten problem and you get off gluten you will feel so great you won't WANT to eat foods with gluten in it. Even that bread. I promise.
Does This Sound Expensive?
Gluten-free food can cost more, that's true. But how much does it cost to go to the doctor? Buy those medications? Pay for health insurance deductibles? How much would you pay to feel great again like you did when you were young? And it is getting cheaper. Some Target stores sell gluten-free products for less. Wal-Mart has a gluten-free section now. Shop around.
But seriously, gluten-free junk food will be better for you than "healthy" whole-wheat bread if you have a gluten problem. And you don't have to start eating like a rabbit just to try it and see. I promise. :)
P.S. I still recommend not eating grains or sugar or processed foods at all. Grains are essentially toxic and inflammatory. Sugar is a mess. But going gluten-free is a fabulous, amazing, health-increasing first step!
P.P.S. In almost all cases you'll notice a positive difference going gluten-free in the just first week. You can do that, right? One week without gluten? Remember, chocolate and potato chips are still gluten-free. With that in mind, you CAN do it! Yay! :)
I like the easy Paleo stuff.