In recognition of Celiac Awareness Month, I thought I would share my own journey to a gluten-free food diet due to gluten sensitivities. First off, my struggles with gluten are nothing compared to the pain of living with Celiac Disease. The Reader’s Digest version of my backstory is that I had an accident as a child that broke bones and has led to a lifetime of pain and inflammation. A few years back, I turned to professionals to analyze my diet, as part of my pain and inflammation management.
Through a series of tests and elimination dieting, it was determined that I had gluten sensitivities (there was also something about avoiding nightshade vegetables, but that’s for another post). These gluten sensitivities were negatively contributing to my inflammation. At the time, I didn’t know what avoiding gluten truly meant, but I was determined to figure it out because I was willing to do anything to decrease my ongoing pain and inflammation. And so my gluten-free food journey began.
Do you know what has gluten in it? EVERYTHING!Late, great comic John Pinette
It didn’t take long for me to understand the ubiquitous nature of both hidden and unhidden gluten in my everyday food choices and I got to work on eliminating it. I knew the positive impact avoiding gluten had (and would continue having) on my body so I was set on working through the challenges of applying this new way of eating to my daily life. Step 1, was learning what gluten was and what was its purpose in food.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat, and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.The Celiac Disease Foundation
Step 2, I started cooking. You see, back when I first started this journey, gluten-free food products were not as readily available. It was just starting to become a thing that people were aware of so there was not a lot of shelf space in the average grocery store for it. You generally had to go to speciality stores or buy direct from the bakery or manufacturer. Most restaurants didn’t have gluten-free menu items either.
Through trial and error, I learned how to cook substituting gluten ingredients with gluten-free ones for the best end-result. With every recipe, my ultimate goal was/is making a dish that you couldn’t tell was gluten-free. I’ve become a bit of a gluten-free foodee in the process and I now share these gluten-free food recipes here.
Today, over 30% of North Americans follow a gluten-free diet for various health reasons with 1 out of 133 people likely suffering from Celiac Disease. These numbers continue to rise and the gluten-free product market has grown – and will continue to grow – in response. That’s great news for Celiacs and everyone living with gluten sensitivities. As new – and better – gluten-free food products become available, life gets easier to live and I will continue to learn and adjust and substitute. This is a lifelong journey for me and it’s just getting started.
Are you or someone you love following a gluten-free food diet? What are some of your favourite products or recipes? Please share them in the comments below.