If you have been considering the rather daunting task of switching to a gluten-free diet, have no fear! Many websites, book series, forums, and even local support groups exist for those of us who are new to eating gluten-free meals. While it might seem utterly impossible to live a gluten-free lifestyle in today’s market full of delicious pastas, fast-food burgers, and tempting cereal choices, rest assured that many people have already embarked upon the wheat-free conversion, and it seems like every day more and more companies choose to cater to those of us who either need – or simply want – to eat gluten-free food.
Can you really improve Fibromyalgia and gluten-free living?
My decision to try gluten-free eating began when I had several physicians or medical professionals mention an increasing belief that Fibromyalgia – I condition I was diagnosed with over 13 years ago – is somehow connected to a wheat allergy. Considering it wouldn’t hurt me to try a gluten-free diet – and I had my doctor’s approval, of course – I decided there was truly no harm in trying out a wheat elimination experiment to see if my Fibromyalgia symptoms improved. As an added bonus, I had success with low-carb diets in the past, and I was excited to simply eliminate bread and pasta to test this gluten-free theory.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as simple as that.
A gluten-free lifestyle requires you to read nutritional labels and ingredients very closely.
The first step I took towards living a gluten-free lifestyle after researching the basics online was to enroll in a local cooking class that offered a lesson in gluten-free cooking and several recipes. I learned quite a bit about gluten-free eating, the problems gluten creates in people with Celiac Disease, and how many people live for years without ever knowing they have a gluten intolerance or wheat allergy.
Little did I know that you can find gluten in all kinds of non-bread grocery items! Shredded cheese is often manufactured with a sprinkling of flour to keep it from sticking, and my favorite brand of imitation crab was loaded with gluten (for reasons I can’t even fathom). Soy sauce was suddenly out of the question, unless I was willing to pay for the higher priced gluten-free version, and even oatmeal was questionable due to the possibility of gluten contamination. In class, I learned that unless a label reads “gluten-free certified” or something along those lines, there was no guarantee the product wasn’t produced on the same equipment as gluten-laden foods.
Never underestimate the power of support groups.
Prior to making the decision to go gluten-free, I never stopped and considered how overwhelming a life change like this must be. The connection between wheat intolerance and Fibromyalgia is still only speculation, but I couldn’t imagine being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and being told I must eat gluten-free goods to get nutrition. After finding out that many of my favorite foods were ambushing me with unsuspected gluten, I took to the ‘net and tried to locate local support groups in the Denver Metro area for other people trying to live gluten-free lives.
I found a ton of Facebook Fan Pages associated with gluten-free choices, suggestions, recipe swaps, and coupon exchanges, and several Meetup groups for local residents with wheat intolerance or allergies. Several of the local health food stores offered free or inexpensive classes on gluten-free cooking, eating, and recipe conversion; quite a few locations even had gluten-free tours, in which an employee would take patrons around the store to show them wheat-free options.
Living gluten-free and still loving your meals.
Once I felt prepared and educated enough to continue my transition without losing all of my favorite food choices, I challenged myself to tweak recipes (and discover new ones) that were gluten-free and utterly delicious. Fortunately, I have a cousin nearby who has been living gluten-free for several years, so she was readily available with tips, moral support, and favorite recipes. If you can find even one person in your area that is avoiding gluten and still trying to enjoy cooking, I highly recommend working together on this rather huge lifestyle change.