Delivering the news to patients comes with a variety of reactions. Some folks nod their head not the least bit surprised.
But most gasp out in horror…just like I did when told I should adhere to a gluten-free diet.
When you have an autoimmune condition, gluten is highly problematic. Even if you’ve been told you’re not gluten sensitive or if you’ve tested negative for gluten-sensitivity or Celiac disease.
You can read more on my blog, 4 Reasons Gluten and Autoimmune Disease Don’t Mix.
Realizing that you should become gluten-free comes with a wide range of emotions, frustrations, and overwhelm.
When my functional medicine doctor told me to go gluten-free I was horrified. I reacted like I was just told I had a fatal illness. Not eat gluten? Yeah, right. My inner rebel cried out in agony and told me to just eat gluten anyway.
The next 5 years were a roller coaster ride on the “to be or not to be” gluten-free train. I’d go for short periods of time where I avoided it and other times I gorged. And, my health fluctuated accordingly.
Becoming gluten-free is one of the hardest things I’ve encountered on my own health journey.
It takes an incredible amount of discipline and requires a huge shift in how you live and eat. It’s especially challenging if you live in a household that still chooses to eat gluten.
Part of the struggle many people face is they feel they don’t have the tools they need to feel totally supported in this transition. Here are 8 things I wish someone told me when I went gluten-free.
- Gluten acts like a drug in your body.
When you stop eating it your body will crave it.
Gluten triggers endorphins (those feel-good chemicals) in your body. You literally feel euphoria after eating it.
No wonder you have to fight at times to not eat it! Your body is craving it so bad because it makes you feel good.
Knowing this is incredibly empowering. There’s a very good reason why this transition is difficult! Eventually, the craving will go away.
There are many gluten-free options.
Most “comfort foods” are loaded with gluten. Macaroni and cheese, pancakes, mom’s lasagna, and that hamburger bun holding that perfectly grilled summer treat. And, let’s be honest, football without beer is not the same!
But, there are many gluten-free alternatives available at your local grocery store. Many local bakeries have dedicated gluten-free ovens. Start asking around…you’ll be surprised at what’s available. Even ordering things online can be an great option.
A few words of caution. Many highly processed gluten-free foods can be quite unhealthy. They can be loaded with sugar and high-glycemic flour alternatives.
Gluten-free foods do not taste the same.
The first time I ate homemade gluten-free (and vegan) macaroni and cheese I was mortified. I overcooked the pasta (which made it soggy) and I was shocked that quinoa pasta didn’t taste like wheat (I know, why should it right?).
The textures and tastes of gluten-free options will be different. But, that doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means you aren’t used to eating these foods and it will take some getting used to.
Be patient and be willing to experiment. Use this as an opportunity to try new foods. Things like zucchini pasta or cauliflower rice are incredibly tasty (and healthy!).
- Be prepared.
Many people struggle when they are starving or when they only have gluten-filled options available. Quick fixes when hungry are almost always gluten-filled…a quick sandwich, a quesadilla, a bagel with cream cheese.
One solution is to always have snacks available. Carry a gluten-free protein bar in your purse for occasions where you’re “stuck.” Or prepare ready-to-go snacks that are easy to grab — like nuts, vegetables and hummus, or guacamole and gluten-free crackers.
When you’re meeting friends for dinner or trying a new restaurant, eat an appetizer at home so you’re not starving and ready to reach for the gluten-filled bread or appetizer your friends order.
- Create a mantra or phrase.
When quitting gluten “just saying no” isn’t always enough. It can be a struggle daily and even at every meal.
Creating an inner dialogue or a “mantra” can be very helpful. My phrase, “I no longer eat foods that hurt my body” helped me to make a conscious choice about what to put in my body.
Use an affirmation that reminds you why you’re doing this, “my body is healthy and healing everyday.” Pick a phrase that feels empowering to you and repeat it over and over.
Practice gratitude. Be grateful you’re empowered with information that will help your body heal.
- Use your voice.
Tell your friends and family that you are gluten-free and explain the challenges you face. Let them know that gluten “hurts your body.”
If they want to go to pizza for dinner suggest something else. If it’s difficult for you to resist gluten ask your family to not bring it into the house.
Be sure to speak up at restaurants and let them know your needs. Many times restaurants have additional menu items that are gluten-free or they can modify a meal. You’ll be amazed at how accommodating some restaurants will be.
- Use your resources.
You’re not alone on this journey! There are multitudes of blogs, websites, chat groups, local meet-up groups, and cookbooks that can help you make the transition.
The people who write these sources are amazing supporters on your journey toward a gluten-free diet. Many of them have experienced the same struggles you’re facing now.
Ask your health-care provider for resources and support. Functional medicine health providers are especially helpful with dietary changes.
You’re also invited to join my facebook group, Autoimmune Disease and Functional Medicine. You can ask for support and encouragement there.
- You will feel better
You can feel great and your body can heal. It takes time but you will feel better.
It’s not always easy but with support you can adhere to a gluten-free lifestyle.
Functional medicine is very powerful when it comes to healing autoimmune conditions and going gluten-free is one of the tools in the functional medicine toolbox.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
What was your reaction to hearing the “gluten-free” news? Have you transitioned into a gluten-free diet? What’s one thing that you wish someone told you when making this change?
Please leave a comment below.
Do you want to learn more about how functional medicine can help you heal? My FREE 10-Day email series, “What You Need to Know About Autoimmune Disease” may be very helpful to you. Sign-up below.