The Gluten Imposters
I call these foods are the ‘gluten imposters’, you think they are gluten free when in fact they actually contain gluten. Going gluten-free is trendy today, and the term “gluten-free” has been thrown around a lot lately. Some people are actually diagnosed with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, others actively experiment with a gluten-free diet for digestive health reasons whilst others are diagnosed as being a celiac. Please read our other pages on going gluten free and celiac (links just below) as well as Food Allergies And Food Intolerances and also Leaky Gut Syndrome to get a good perspective on digestive health and what it means to be really gluten-free as far as your diet is concerned.. Naturopaths like me are coming across more and more patients who react poorly to gluten, but we also see many who believe that they react to gluten when in fact they have other underlying (often unresolved) digestive issues going on such as poor bowel flora, drinking alcohol regularly, stress related digestive issues (very common these days) and a host of other causes which often go unresolved. You may like to read The Intestinal Flora And Probiotics.
Articles on Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease
- Gluten Free Baking
- Going Wheat And Gluten Free
- Celiac Disease And Going Gluten Free
- What Is Gluten And Gluten Intolerance?
- Going Gluten Free And 8 Tips For The Celiac
- Gluten Free Bread Recipe And Pizza Bases
There is no doubt though, even though gluten sensitivities are nothing new, they tend to be better understood and more accepted today and as a result are being detected and diagnosed more often. May experts believe that 1% of the population suffers from actual celiac disease, although many agree that gluten sensitivities (and not actually gluten allergies or being celiac) is hugely a under diagnosed in our population. Before you decide however that you are “gluten intolerant”, I’d like you to carefully assess your diet and particularly your lifestyle, ask yourself these questions before you decide to eliminate all gluten from your diet:
- Could I be drinking alcohol a little too much, too regularly? How much do I spend on alcohol each week?
- Are my bowel motions well formed and daily? Do I have stools which are too loose or too firm?
- Do I suffer with bloating or flatulence which could be contributed to too much sugar, salt or fatty foods in my diet?
- Do I like to consume take-out food several times a week?
- Am I always eating in a rush? Do I eat my meals whilst reading, being on a computer or watching TV?
- Do I take different pharmaceutical drugs and dietary supplements for several different health complaints?
- Do I get enough rest and sleep? Do I spend a lot of time on my computer at night when I know I shouldn’t?
- Do I argue with my partner or kids, employer a lot?
If you can answer yes to several of these questions, then before you decide to make radical changes and eliminate ALL gluten from your diet, try these suggestions:
- See your naturopathic physician for a good assessment of your diet and lifestyle, there may be issues which are best sorted out before you decide that gluten is the cause of all your problems.
- Make sure you get LOTS of sleep, many people I see simply don’t get enough or have insomnia.
- Make sure you relax when you eat, avoid screens, newspapers and books. Enjoy your food and chew it well.
- Cut our the junk from your diet, read my nutrition page for good advice here.
Gluten Is Common In Manufactured Foods
It is very important to realize that gluten isn’t necessarily an evil thing. It is simply a composite of the two proteins called gliadin and glutenin and is naturally found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye and to a much lesser extent in oats. Although gluten is more commonly found in its natural form, it is also used extensively as an additive in the food manufacturing process. The more refined you find the food. the more you will see that gluten becomes used as a stabilising agent in products such as tomato sauce and ice cream and even soy sauce. You will need to be careful here, it is prudent not to always expect to see gluten on a food’s ingredient list: in fact, if it is used in the manufacturing process it is often not mentioned on the actual label of the product itself and you could easily become fooled!
Take Out The Gluten Containing Foods First
If you’re looking to follow a gluten-free diet, the smartest thing to do initially is to make very sure that you are not eating any products that actually contain wheat. This task is easy to follow simply by reading product ingredient lists. In simple terms, you’ll want to avoid products such as pasta, breads, cakes, biscuits and breakfast foods like pancakes and bagels as well as the obvious dessert offerings like pies and cakes. We know this sounds like a monumental task, but thanks to the rising incidences of gluten allergies, replacement foods are readily available. Most health food stores now offer entire gluten-free aisles, and many grocery stores are also following suit.
Here’s where things can get tricky. Because gluten is often used as a binder, it’s not always mentioned on food labels, which makes it difficult to maintain a gluten-free diet. Before shopping, it’s worth checking out company websites of any foods you’re suspicious of or contacting the companies if the information isn’t provided. Likewise, when dining out, don’t be afraid to ask if a certain dish contains gluten. Servers at upscale restaurants will likely know offhand, while others will ask the kitchen for you.
Top Ten Gluten Imposter Foods Top Avoid If You Have Gluten
No. 1 Cream soups
Don’t you just love creamed soups? You can get these in a packet form, canned or you can make your own. The problem here is that the secret to making any cream soup is the “roux”, which is basically flour, butter and milk or cream. Not many people really think about wheat flour when they get ready to dig into cream of asparagus soup, for example, but is is highly likely that a wheat flour product was used to thicken the soup. With a bit of effort, you will be able to track down a gluten-free creamed soup. But be very careful, because lots of prepared soups contain gluten, so soups aren’t a good option until you’ve safely identified friend from foe.
No. 2 Soy sauce
Soy sauce containing gluten would have caused many a problem for those who want to go gluten free. If you’re looking to avoid gluten, you should be very careful if you go to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant. You can bet that the soy sauce on the table will contain gluten. Soy sauce may seem like the least of your worries, but that innocent looking black stuff almost always contains wheat and may or may not mention it on the label. If you enjoy the taste of soy sauce, just bring your own gluten-free soy sauce or go for Tamari soy sauce, which is most always wheat free and tastes great as well. Many Asian restaurants now have gluten free soy sauce, but I think it is best to bring your own, just to be on the safe side.
No. 3 Many Ice Creams
Now here is a tricky one – your favorite ice cream may contain gluten, that’s right! Who would have thought the ice cream contains gluten? Here is where those ice cream fans get caught out, they get excited for example about their tub of triple fudge brownie, only to (maybe) remember that those brownies are full of wheat. You should be able to spot wheat on the ingredients list, but really – who is going to check an ice cream container to see if the product contains wheat or gluten? Make sure to carefully read any ice cream that’s simpler than plain vanilla. Try making ice cream at home — it’s better for you and you’ll know exactly what’s in it. If you want a healthy alternative, go for coconut (dairy-free) ice cream.
No. 4 Salad dressing
Another trap you may fall into is salad dressings. remember, gluten or a wheat product may be used to thicken ANY sauce, including a salad dressing. Whether it’s a cream- or oil-based dressing salad dressing, there is a chance that gluten is used in the product’s manufacturing process; in this case, it may not even be mentioned on the label! My advice as per usual, if in doubt then contact the manufacturer to determine if gluten is part of their sald dressing offerings, or better still, make your own — it’s far healthier and will save you the time of a phone call or e-mail.
No. 5 Many Sauces
Most people who void gluten know about this food trap, but even the most experienced gluten avoiding person can still get caught out at times. You will be aware that most all cream soups are likely to contain wheat, many sauces do as well and they need to to thicken them. This is where it gets complicated – some companies list wheat whereas others don’t. You are most likely to run into trouble at restaurants, where wheat is commonly added to sauce as a way to increase its quantity at a low cost. I encourage those who are strict in their gluten avoidance to make their own gravies and sauces at home, that way they now what they have added to thicken and don’t get caught out. You don’t need to use wheat flour to thicken your gravy, use corn starch in its place, you will find it to be a barely noticeable gluten free alternative.
No. 6 Some Dietary Supplements
This is where many of our patients have been caught out in the past, taking dietary supplements containing all manner of undesirable “extra” ingredients they had not bargained for. Some multi vitamins actually contain various starches, fillers and binders and you would be probably most surprised to know that some vitamins actually contain gluten! This is where it really stinks – when used in the actual supplement manufacturing process, gluten won’t even need to be listed on the bottle, but occasionally you’ll see a vitamin that boasts its gluten-free qualities! These unscrupulous companies are not even at liberty to disclose if gluten was used (if they did not add it) and it came shipped to them as a material for insclusion in their product. This is why I only deal with a handful of companies I know and trust to do the right thing.
No. 7 Potato Chips
Yes, even those tasty potato chips may contain gluten – always check that label or call the freephone on the side of the packet and speak to somebody from that company. Most chips are safe, but make sure to check each brand before buying. Some brands, especially those with heavy seasoning may contain wheat or gluten. It’s easy to mistakenly suspect potato chips are free of flour, when in fact they maybe – but they could even be manufactured or packaged on the same machinery which handles foods containing wheat or gluten. You will generally find that reputable health food stores often sell 100% gluten-free chips, and you are fine to try regular chips at the grocery store after you have carefully studied the ingredients list.
No. 8 Tomato Sauce
Most all brands of commercial tomato sauce will contain gluten. Your bottle of tomato sauce will no doubt list ingredients such as tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and spices, but what that bottle won’t announce that gluten was added during the product’s manufacturing process. Gluten-free tomato ketchup and soy sauces are common items at the health food store, but you may well have to to pay two or three times the price of a “normal” bottle for it. Just to let you know, Heinz tomato sauce is gluten-free, as are many of the company’s products. Heinz has listened to its consumers and has taken steps to highlight each of its foods online and identify whether or not each contains gluten. Smart move by a smart company.
No. 9 Candy
Who would have thought that sweets contain gluten, but yes indeed – most lollies (or called candy in America) actually contains gluten, and once again – gluten rarely if ever appears on the product’s list of ingredients. It makes sense for the manufacturer to add gluten, the stretchy and pliable protein helps bind all that sugar, color and flavors together and keeps them chewy. Watch out for sweets — and any other heavily refined carbohydrate foods that contain the words “natural flavor” among the ingredients. Natural flavor can mean many things, and it often means “gluten”. Go to your health-food shop and ask for Xylitol candy which is gluten free, these kind of sweets are available and contain NO gluten or “bad” sugars and are your best healthy alternative, otherwise avoid these kinds of treats entirely.
No.10 Sausages and Prepared Meats
These highly processed foods most always contain gluten. Food manufacturers often bulk up processed meats with wheat because gluten costs a lot less than real meat, and the manufacturers cleverly know that once they have added enough spices and flavors, you the consumer won’t be able to tell the difference. I want you to completely avoid luncheon and delicatessen meats, sausages (unless pure 100% meat) and “flavoured” hamburger patties. Go to your health-food store and lookk for gluten-free sliced (preferably organic/free-range) meats, “real” sausages without gluten (which should be clearly stated on the label) and only ask for 100% pure beef patties. You should ba able to locate an organic source of meat in your area, Google will help here.