What It's Like To Live Gluten Free

Here's what it's like to live a life without gluten

Celiac disease has been making headlines as the gluten-free craze grows in popularity, but its actual discovery dates back long ago. The first case having been reported during the 20th century, it's amazing to think how long people have been living with this disease—most going undiagnosed. History lesson aside, a gluten-free lifestyle is a hot topic and one that goes by many names: gluten free (GF), gluten sensitivity, celiac, gluten allergy, wheat allergy, etc. It's easy to get confused about what it all means. Plus, with more and more people jumping on the gluten bandwagon for various reasons, it can be hard for restaurants to decipher just how careful they have to be.

For those who aren't familiar, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, meaning people with something like celiac disease can't eat anything that contains the protein. Even a small dose can cause a reaction, and the effects can last for days.

Here are five truths about living with celiac disease, according to a celiac.

Read those labels.
The scary truth is gluten is hidden in many everyday products, like marinades and sauces, as well as soy sauce and gravy. And while many companies have introduced "gluten-free" products, it's still important to check the labels for hidden ingredients. It's also worth noting that often GF products contain more calories, because manufacturers add sugar to make the taste better. Always check to find out exactly what you're eating.

It's a major adjustment.
Especially for those accustomed to eating out and grabbing breakfast or lunch on the go; you now have to plan ahead. Going on a road trip? Throw a GF granola bar in your bag. Going someplace new for dinner? Check out the menu ahead of time. You get used to hearing that things are off-limits; however, if you do your homework, there are still ways to get what you want.

Yes, you can have cookies and cake.
The biggest response I get when I mention having celiac disease is, "I'm so sorry you can't eat bread." And that did suck at first. However, not being able to use all-purpose flour, which contains gluten, has allowed me to experiment with alternative GF flours including almond meal, hazelnut, coconut, tapioca, quinoa, and brown and white rice flours. Delicious GF cakes, cookies and other desserts are possible, and there are thousands of GF bakeries and companies who can prove it, including places like Kyra's Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Noglu in New York City.


Fresh is better.
What most people don't realize is that almost all proteins, fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free (chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, legumes, beans and seeds); it's what you add to these ingredients that makes them not safe to eat. Stick to buying fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, and create your own marinades at home.

Get creative with substitutions.
Similar to alternative flours, there are other fun substitutions for your everyday favorites. For example, brown rice or sliced sweet potatoes make a great crust for quiche, and mushroom caps make a to-die-for pizza crust. When you know how to play the game being gluten free, life can taste pretty good.