Living with a Gluten Intolerance? 4 Tips for a Successful Gluten-Free Lifestyle

gluten freeIn today’s world of quick convenience and packaged food, eating gluten-free can be a challenge. It’s everywhere. Most breads, pastas, cereals, pizza, cakes and crackers all contain gluten. It’s also used as filler for many processed foods.

Gluten itself is a protein found in wheat and other grain products. It’s what allows the product to be flexible but still hold together. Picture rolling out a pizza crust.

If you are gluten intolerant, which includes celiac disease, wheat allergies or gluten sensitivity, the protein becomes toxic in your system and damages your intestines. And that’s when you’re hit with abdominal symptoms like bloating, cramping and diarrhea.

But with careful planning and some homework, you can learn to eat gluten-free. Follow these tips from Gayle Jennings, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian with Memorial Medical Center, to make the transition less overwhelming.

  • Understand what to look for. Grains containing gluten are wheat, rye and barley. But there are many overlooked sources of gluten like beer, lunch meat, sauces and broths. Some    medications, vitamins and even lipstick contain gluten. Study the different sources and read all labels.
  • Get to know your grocery store. Many stores have gluten-free sections, but others may have a symbol that indicates a gluten-free product among regular foods. If one of your staple items isn’t there, talk to one of the managers. They can special-order products and help find the foods you need.
  • Speak up when eating out. Make sure the server knows your diet restrictions. Ask how the food is prepared and don’t be afraid to request a special order. Go with meat, salad and veggies.  Skip the bread. It might also be a good idea to ask if the food preparer could change gloves to ensure there is no cross contamination. Even the smallest gluten particles can upset the digestive system.
  • Make it a household change. It’s easier if all family members eat the same way so no person     is singled out. If that won’t work, use special containers that are carefully labeled for the gluten- intolerant family member. Buy new jars of basics like peanut butter or mayonnaise. Cross contamination can also be a factor at home. Even your toaster should be replaced.

Remember, there are many resources that can help. Your primary care physician can refer you to a Memorial dietitian who can review your diet and any other nutritional needs. You can also visit