Gluten is in many processed foods – soups, tomato paste/sauce, soya sauce, mustards, condiments, spices (especially pepper – maintains dryness), malt vinegar, malt, oats, flaxseed oil, canola oil, baked goods, candies, medicine, vitamins, potato chips, chocolate and so much more. Seed oils and oats may contain gluten as when they are harvested, the whole field is harvested, if there is a stalk of wheat growing, well, it is added in to the mix. Some make-up contains gluten and while we don’t usually “eat” make-up, we do eat lipstick, also, although minimal, creams/powders can enter our system through touching our face and then our mouths.
Even if it is labeled Gluten Free it doesn’t always mean 100% Gluten Free. All governments have a labeling standard with percentage guidelines. This means that if there is some Gluten in a product it may be legally labeled Gluten Free. One key word I always look for on an ingredients list is “Dextrose”. It may be from corn or other vegetable or it may be from wheat. It is not always apparent – so if it says “dextrose”, I don’t buy it.In Canada: “Although Health Canada’s regulatory requirements for “gluten–free” foods do not refer to any specific threshold for gluten in products represented as “gluten–free“, Health Canada considers that levels of gluten protein below 20 ppm generally do not represent health risks to consumers with celiac disease.”
The Canadian government link to labelling food products. If you are from another country, please check your country’s labelling guide.
When buying processed GF products, make sure the factory/bakery where the product was made is gluten free or at the very least has a separate section for manufacturing gluten free products.
Dining out is always a challenge due to cross-contamination which is hard because we all like to go out sometimes! Friends, family may invite us to a celebration at a restaurant or at their home – what to do? Personally, I always eat a little before going out. In this way, I am assured some sustenance for the evening and am able to find some vegetable or salad option. There are many restaurants that do advertise gluten free menus and having eaten at several I can honestly say it’s hit and miss. Sometimes I get through the meal without any difficulty, sometimes not. Anything grilled is usually the best choice. Going to a restaurant BEFORE the lunch/dinner rush is highly recommended as they will have more time to focus on NOT cross-contaminating your meal! It is difficult in the dinner rush to maintain a gluten free space to make one meal. When ordering always make it a point to say you are Celiac and very sensitive, this usually puts the kitchen on high alert. Last tip: CALL AHEAD! I do this every time I go to a place I have not been to. Ask the questions – What is on the menu that is gluten free? How is it cooked (with other foods, pre-cooked, marinated)? What is it served with? When is the best time to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination? It is a little embarrassing at first but with time you will think nothing of calling ahead and asking questions. Most places are very helpful – even in other countries!
Many vitamins now are labelled Gluten Free. If not, they probably contain some amount of gluten. Most medications contain gluten and many also contain dairy. Doctors seem to think there is not enough gluten in either the former or the latter to affect you but in my experience, the gluten and dairy present is more than enough to make me quite ill.
Best option when you are Celiac? Cook at home with fresh, natural ingredients, buy organic spices (they tend to be pure and without any additives), cook with dried beans instead of canned (or buy organic – most are labelled gluten free but are expensive), purchase bottled ingredients such as roasted peppers, artichokes, beets, pickles etc. from an ethnic store – I buy from the Greek store here in Calgary. Europe has strict regulations for food growing, preparation and labelling. Always read the ingredients list!
Be wary of health food store items or foods that advertise being healthy, gluten free etc. They are not always as advertised. Just because something is sold at a health food store doesn’t mean it is healthy! If it says Gluten Free there may be a trace of gluten in the product. It is easier, in a way, for me to test products, as I am extremely sensitive and therefore when I see a product I would like, have read the ingredients list and all looks good, I’ll try it. If it makes me sick, (I usually know with the first few bites) I give it away and never buy that product again. For someone who is asymptomatic or not as sensitive it can be very difficult, as any amount of gluten will cause some gut damage to a person with Celiac disease.
Also be wary of beverages – most contain some gluten. Juices, ciders, beer, some sweet wines, vodka (unless you find the pure potato vodka), some tequila, and most other spirits. Read the ingredients list.
Enjoy all the food options you DO have. There are so many fresh foods to savour! Read labels. Try new foods, cooking methods, flavour combinations, restaurants and experiment with your food! This all adds a little fun to the Celiac diet which can seem quite daunting at first.
Some other links for you to read and research:
Celiac Sprue Association
Celiac Organization Canada
Kali Orexi! Bon Apetit! Savour the Flavour!
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