Levels of Gluten Free? Part 2 “The Why”

** Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor. See more here**


Yesterday in Part 1 “The How” I went over the various reactions to gluten.

Today lets look at some areas you need to be aware of while eating gluten free, and given the reactions to gluten we looked into yesterday maybe make some sense of all the different opinions… 

Packaging

In the US, the FDA allows the advertising of “gluten free” on any product that tests lower than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Now that’s not quite gluten free. So if you’re avoiding gluten for a health reason, this isn’t particularly helpful.

Consider if you have celiac disease, in the presence of any gluten the body attack itself and damage is being done, regardless of what symptoms are experience, then almost gluten free doesn’t work. That would be constantly getting tiny doses of gluten, which would keep the body attacking and the small intestine would never be able to heal.

Cross Contamination

Cross contamination, commonly referred to as CC on forums, happens when gluten free products are prepared in the same area as gluten products. And there is the risk that either airborne particles or small amounts of gluten can be left in unreachable areas of machines, utensils, and cooking tools that can’t be cleaned out and makes it into these gluten free products.

If you’ve ever baked with wheat flour, you know it’s pretty fine. And you can quickly have a fine dusting over your whole kitchen if you aren’t careful! 

Considering the packaging requirements, these products can still say gluten free on them! They would pass the 20 ppm test, but still contain gluten.

But now some companies will say on the packaging what kind of plant the food was made it. You’ll often find that info near the ingredient list, you’ll see something like “Processed in a plant that also processes tree nuts, peanuts, and soy”. If it says processed with wheat, assume cross contamination. 

To fully eliminate any food from your diet you need to make sure it’s not prepared in the same building as the food you eat. Period.

Also, cross contamination can happen in buffets, potluck settings, or during prep in regular and commercial kitchens. Two spoons get switched, and the dishes are contaminated. A cook or someone in a buffet line touches another food with the spoon as they are serving, contamination happens. 

If the pancakes and eggs and bacon are cooked on the same griddle, that would be cross contamination. If they cook the mozzarella sticks covered in bread crumbs in the same frier as the gluten free french fries, well you guessed it cross contamination…

Some people with celiac can experience symptoms from eating peanut butter after someone made a sandwich with regular bread and dipped the knife twice in the peanut butter… That’s cross contamination. 

This obviously makes it hard for someone very sensitive to gluten to go any where. All other kitchens pose a threat. Often the easiest thing is to pack and bring your own meal.

Health & Beauty Products

It is recommended to use gluten free health care products.

As they say, the skin is the biggest organ. And things do absorb into your body thru your skin. Something to consider regarding everything you put on your skin!  

Gluten Free Dieting

The good – if you trade your current processed food items for whole foods, extra veggies, good proteins and fats you will probably loose weight. You however may also gain weight.

The bad – if you simply trade all your processed food items for gluten free replacements, you are trading gluten content for higher sugar and starch content. This rarely will cause weight loss. 

The problems:

  • it’s become a bit trendy and a fad so products that are not healthy, or even safe, are labeled “gluten free” to increase sales. Meaning those that actually need gluten free products have to do lots of reading and researching to double check products because labeling frequently is deceitful.
  • those who take it seriously fear those that don’t will cause those who serve food to see it all as bologna. And therefor not take it seriously when those who could get ill really need it to be taken seriously. 

So do everyone a favor, if you gluten free diet and decide to take a break… go for it. Just don’t brag to the whole place about how gluten free you are, and then order beer and a hamburger 😉

Conclusions
  • always read ingredient lists
  • also look for products that are “certified gluten free“, usually these are the safest bet
  • make sure that the processed items you choose to eat are processed in dedicate facilities
  • cook at home as much as you can, using whole ingredients so additives aren’t a problem
  • if you are very sensitive, consider making your whole house gluten free to avoid cross contamination
  • when you eat out, the best solution obviously is a dedicated gluten free place. That’s not always an option, so remember to consider not only sneaky additive ingredients, but also cooking surfaces if you are very sensitive
What I do

Since I had a negative celiac blood test and a negative allergy test, I fall into the gluten intolerance group.

If I stay away from gluten I’m much happier (literally). Since I don’t eat things made with gluten, I don’t experience many of these symptoms now. However, in small doses, I will experience bloating and constipation, and my face will break out. In larger doses it causes lack of coordination, clumsiness, brain fog, forgetfulness and the general feeling I’m loosing my mind (unpleasant!).

I do not seem to have issues with minuscule amounts. When we eat out, I will order something “naturally gluten free” (should not contain a gluten grain ie. salad, chili, steak and potato…), and after confirming that it doesn’t contain any additives that aren’t gluten free (seasonings) I have them hold the bread and enjoy my meal. 

When we eat out, the places we end up enjoying the most are places that start with good fresh ingredients, and don’t add much! It’s changed where we eat out. But we are healthier for it. At this point, we both experience stomach upset from highly processed foods! 

Our house is about 95% gluten free. Everything I cook for both of us is gluten free. There are a few packaged items I buy for my PB, that he likes, and so we have one shelf that is just his. All other products are purchased gluten free. 

We eat about 75% naturally gluten free. Items made specifically gluten free don’t make up the majority of our diet. They are more treats in between all the other “normal” food we eat!