New to Gluten-Free: First Steps
When I learned I needed to start living gluten-free, I initially felt devastated.
I love eating.
Specifically, I love eating bread.
I was still feeling sick. I was jaded after many years of trying Western medicine, Eastern medicine, and everything in between to feel better. I didn’t think it was going to help—and even worse, I thought it was just one more thing I loved that was going to be taken away from me.
If you, or your loved one, has recently started living gluten-free, it is important to give yourself a time to grieve bread and pie and cupcakes (at least in their previous forms) and anything else you cherish—you’re allowed to feel angry or sad or even skeptical about the transition process.
After the initial shock wore off, I enlisted the help of my family to begin the process of transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle. My sister had started the process a few weeks earlier, so I felt like I had a head start. I was lucky because I had a lot of help in those first several months with planning and preparing food that was safe for me to eat.
And it was still overwhelming.
Just as with learning any new skill, it takes time and effort to learn the nuances of living gluten-free. It is impossible to become an expert on living gluten-free overnight. Throughout this transition process, you will most likely get glutened from time-to-time. Instead of giving yourself a hard time, I recommend using these opportunities to analyze how your body reacts to gluten.
Symptoms of gluten contamination vary widely and aren’t predictable—your symptoms are specific to you. Once you know your tell-tale symptoms of gluten contamination, you will be much better at identifying when it happens and therefore avoiding its trigger(s) in the future. You will also get information about how sensitive you are to gluten, which is another piece of vital information that is not currently testable. Knowing your level of sensitivity will help you determine the amount of vigilance required to minimize the risk of environmental gluten contamination.
For instance, when I get glutened, I suffer from incredible fatigue, brain fog, dry or irritated skin, and occasional stomach upset—these symptoms usually start within a day or two and can last a week or more. My sister, on the other hand, suffers immense GI distress almost immediately. While my sister and I are both extremely sensitive to gluten contamination, she is much more likely to know what glutened her because of her immediate reaction to it. It’s more of an educated guess for me, which makes me feel a little more anxious about potential gluten contamination than she does and allows me to take precautions when I eat out that minimize gluten contamination risks.
Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle will hopefully begin to feel less overwhelming once you have a thorough understanding of how your health is affected by eating gluten and your level of sensitivity to gluten contamination. From there, you can begin to educate yourself on the basics of gluten-free living.