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Lessons You Learn After Spending a Year Gluten-Free

Lessons You Learn After Spending a Year Gluten-Free

Let’s just get one thing straight right away - cutting gluten out of your diet entirely is not a lifestyle choice.

For the vast majority of people, gluten is completely harmless. For the same vast majority of people, there’s absolutely nothing to gain whatsoever from cutting out gluten - nothing at all. 

One of the most widespread myths regarding gluten is the suggestion that eliminating it from your diet could be good for anyone. In reality, ask any doctor or qualified nutritionist and they will tell you this simply is not the case.

Unless you need to reduce or eliminate gluten consumption due to an intolerance (mild, moderate or severe), you will not benefit from doing so…period. Nevertheless, millions have bought into the whole gluten-free lifestyle fad, for which we mostly have misleading marketing to blame. 

Fact Vs Fiction 

For those who cannot eat gluten for medical reasons, the gluten-free fad can be infuriating to say the least. You’ve those who genuinely believe cutting out gluten is good for them, along with those who just cut down on gluten because it’s ‘trendy’ at the time. 

If your body cannot handle gluten, the consequences of consuming even a small amount can be catastrophic. Hence, when folks claim (or pretend) to be gluten-free as part of a new dietary fad…well, you can forgive celiac disease sufferers from getting a little hot under the collar!

Make no mistake about it - discovering you’re genuinely gluten-intolerant is not particularly pleasant. But at the same time, it at least paves the way for a lifestyle free from the pain, discomfort and irreparable damage gluten could be doing to your guts.

After which, the whole thing becomes something of a lifelong learning experience only gluten-sensitive people will understand. Specifically, there are 10 things you’ll only be able to relate to after at least a good year or so excluding (or attempting to exclude) gluten in its entirety.

Check out the following and see how many sound all too familiar:

1.  Most people genuinely have no idea

First up, it’s important to draw distinctions between ignorance, naivety and genuine misunderstanding. You’ll find that as time passes, the number of people you meet who genuinely do not have a clue what gluten-sensitivity really means remains constant. And yes, this also refers to servers in restaurants, shop assistants in speciality stores and even your closest friends and family members.

Even after explaining yourself a thousand times, they still think that “just a tiny bit” of gluten in something isn’t the end of the world. Or even give the impression you’re being picky and/or overreacting, when refusing to eat something that could actually cause you permanent damage.

2.  Eating out can be heaven or hell

Make the effort to dine at eating spots famed for their fantastic gluten-free menus and you’re looking at heaven on earth. Right now, more creative and innovative chefs than ever before are cooking up the most inspired gluten-free dishes for diners and takeout customers. Elsewhere, one or two token gluten-free items stuffed into the menu is often all you’re treated to.

The problem being that with restaurants and eateries that don’t really cater to celiacs, gluten-free doesn’t always mean gluten-free. It sometimes means they’ve simply reduced a dish’s gluten content and jacked up the price, which may still contain traces of gluten. 

3.  Shopping can be expensive but doesn’t have to be

In some instances, gluten-free versions of ‘conventional’ products are excessively overpriced. This typically applies to the kinds of fad products that are as much of a fashion statement as they are a dietary choice. Depending on the brand and products you choose, you could end up paying four times more for a gluten-free alternative. 

Nevertheless, strategic and sensible shopping while following a gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s simply a case of focusing on the kinds of products that are naturally gluten-free - not those that are engineered to replicate gluten-rich foods and priced astronomically for the privilege. 

4.  The market for gluten-free products is enormous and impressive

The growth and expansion of the gluten-free product market over the past few years has been quite spectacular. Along with an astonishing range of specialist gluten-free products to choose from, thousands of major manufacturers are also working to remove the gluten from the products they’ve been selling for decades. This has a tendency to be true in the confectionery aisle in particular, where excluding gluten entirely doesn’t mean being confined to one specialist (and overpriced) shelf. 

Plus, the joy that comes with discovering a new gluten-free product (or reformulated product) you absolutely love is something else. And something only those who’ve been forced to give up a ton of things they wish they could still eat will truly understand.

5.  Food plays a role in almost everything you do

It’s not until you begin following a strict eating regime that you realise just how much of everything you do involves food. All types of social occasions and meet-ups, birthday parties, even your everyday regime at work - there is almost always food involved in everything you do. Hence, you suddenly find yourself in a position where you need to rethink almost everything you do, in order to ensure you have something to eat when the time comes.

This is why a lot of people who cannot consume gluten take snacks with them almost everywhere they go. As even today you cannot count on people to automatically take your dietary requirements into account, you often need to look out for yourself. 

6.  It never stops becoming a point of conversation

And when you do take out your own snacks and food items due to there being nothing available that you can eat, you can rest assured it will be a conversation starter. Your ‘weird’ gluten-free snacks catch the eye of someone chowing down on a massive piece of chocolate cake you’d love to dive into, and you know what’s coming next - questions on what you’re eating, why you’re not eating the stuff on the table and so on. 

In most instances, this will be attributed to genuine curiosity and intrigue than criticism. Nevertheless, when it is happening for a thousandth time, you can forgive yourself for getting slightly frustrated.

7.  There aren’t many people you can trust to cook or bake for you 

Just to clarify, this has absolutely nothing to do with the intentions or best efforts of the individual or individuals involved. It could be your closest friends, members of your own family or those you’d assume to be ‘experts’ working in catering environments. Nevertheless, you soon discover there really are not many people you can completely trust when it comes to what actually goes into your food. 

Of course, you cannot always realistically expect a complete disclosure of every single trace of every single ingredient that goes into something you eat.  Precisely why you need to be extremely careful with your dietary decisions, as traces of gluten have a tendency to find their way into everything. Even when somebody genuinely believes they’ve cooked or baked something that’s perfect for you, there’s a good chance it isn’t!

8.  Occasional mistakes are practically impossible to avoid

Last but not least, one of the most important lessons you only learn after spending a year gluten-free is the inevitability of the occasional slip up. Even if you manage to go quite some time without consuming so much as a scrap of gluten, it’s something that is probably going to happen at some point. It could be that you didn’t triple-check the components of a dish due to the server being rushed off their feet at the time, or that you didn’t want to offend your colleague who painstakingly baked something quite spectacular in your honour.

Whatever the reason, the outcome is more or less the same - discomfort, pain, regret and several hours (or days) spent beating yourself up about the whole thing. Don’t - it’s more or less inevitable and is something you just have to accept for what it is. Learn from these occasional mistakes and try to take something positive or useful away from them…like knowing which restaurants to avoid at all costs in future!

Final Word…

Always remember that under no circumstances should major lifestyle changes (like excluding gluten) be made without first consulting a doctor or a qualified nutritionist. Unless you are specifically instructed to reduce or eliminate gluten from your diet entirely, it is not considered necessary or beneficial to do so.

Upon being diagnosed as celiac or gluten-intolerant, you will be provided with all the advice and information you need to make safe and healthy dietary decisions. If you believe you may have an undiagnosed gluten intolerance, book an appointment with your GP at the earliest possible stage for an initial assessment.

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