Are you following a gluten-free diet like me? If so, chances are you’re making a lot of mistakes.
For those new to the gluten-free diet, sticking to it is tough, but it does get easier with time. For gluten-free experts who have been doing it for a long time like me, this diet is a piece of [gluten-free] cake.
In fact, being gluten-free has made me feel healthy again. I’ve even put my celiac disease into remission.
Yep, I got rid of so many ailments including:
- Painful bloating
- Embarrassing gas
- Geographic tongue
- Red bumps on my arms (keratosis pilaris)
- Dark circles under my eyes
- Low energy
- Canker and cold sores
Once I learned I had celiac disease, I knew being gluten-free was my new way of life gluten-free for good.
However, it’s not so black and white for most people, especially if you’ve never received a clear cut diagnosis like celiac disease. Instead, many people transition to the gluten-free diet for their own personal health reasons. They usually try it for a few weeks or even a few months, and then, if they don’t feel better, they give it up.
What they don’t realize is that healing from the damages from gluten takes time, patience and some nutrition know-how. And they don’t know that gluten is slowly but surely chipping away at their health (in fact, gluten causes an inflammatory response to all humans – yep, it’s toxic stuff.)
I’ve seen so many people go on a gluten-free diet and make so many mistakes that sabotage not only their chances of being successful on the diet, but also sabotages their chances at achieving good health. (Then they say, “The gluten-free diet didn’t work for me, oh well.” I guarantee you that a large majority of those people made one or more of these mistakes.)
Top 10 Gluten-Free Diet Mistakes
1. Assuming Something Is Gluten-Free Just Because It Looks Gluten-Free
For many years, I had no idea that licorice was not gluten-free. It looks like it should be, right?
However, looks can be deceiving. The very FIRST ingredient in licorice is wheat flour! No kidding.
Remember, hidden gluten is often found in things like chicken broth, seasonings, BBQ sauces and salad dressings. Just because it looks gluten-free doesn’t mean it is gluten-free. Read 10 Surprise Products that Contain Gluten.
2. Assuming a Gluten-Free Menu Actually Means a Restaurant Knows Gluten-Free
Many people, including those in the restaurant industry, do not understand what “gluten-free” really means. I had a server once tell me I couldn’t eat a dish because it had rice in it (rice is gluten-free) and then another server insisted that farro was gluten-free (it’s not).
Never take your server’s word. Instead, ask questions about what’s in the dish, how it’s seasoned and ask your server to check ingredient labels and discuss your “allergy” with the manager and whomever is preparing your food. Always be on the lookout for cross contamination too – the biggest saboteur. The more questions you ask, the more likely you’ll get a safe meal.
Another way to become more certain whether or not your meal is gluten-free is to test it with a Nima Sensor. A Nima Sensor is a portable device that allows you to detect your food for gluten. Read more about the Nima Sensor in this article, What You Need to Know about the Nima Sensor, and check out my list of 20 restaurants I tested for hidden gluten using this gluten detecting device.
3. Stocking Up On Gluten-Free Packaged Foods
Gluten-free packaged foods are often loaded with sugars, inflammatory oils, corn and soy products, and all sorts of other white refined grains and starches. Just because it’s labeled “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
In fact, loading up on packaged gluten-free foods will most likely keep you sick and cause weight gain too. If you really want to heal your body from the ravages caused by gluten, it’s time to clean up your entire diet, not just take out the gluten.
This is something I learned only after being gluten-free for several years. I share the story of how I put my celiac disease into remission and finally healed my body in this article, How I Healed Myself from Celiac Disease.
4. Thinking a Little Gluten Won’t Hurt
Think again! Even a little gluten can undo all the progress you’ve made. If you have celiac disease, even a little gluten will launch an autoimmune attack in your body. If you suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, a little gluten can make you feel like crap and whatever symptoms you were trying to avoid will reappear. Eating a little gluten is just not worth it!
Please take a moment to read and bookmark this article, Don’t Cheat on Your Gluten-Free Diet. Did you know that cheating puts you at a MUCH higher risk at early mortality? That’s why most people with gluten sensitivities will die sooner than those of us with celiac disease. People with celiac disease are actively managing their disease, people with gluten sensitivities think “a little won’t hurt.” They’re dead wrong.
I also compel you to read more about the differences and similarities between celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity in this article, Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease. If you think that just because you don’t have celiac disease that you don’t have to take your gluten-free diet “as serious,” this article will make you rethink your approach.
5. Not Properly Investigating a Product for Gluten
Gluten goes by many names so it’s important that you do your due diligence when shopping at the grocery store. I’ve created a cheat sheet that lists 100 Alternatives Names for Gluten, which is a handy tool for uncovering alternative names for gluten in packaged foods.
When eating at restaurants, a great way to protect yourself from accidental glutening is by using your Nima Sensor. Nima has saved me many times from getting glutened when eating out. (You can purchase a Nima Sensor here and please use my coupon code, GOODFORYOUGF for $25 off). I also wrote an ebook, Eating Out Gluten-Free, to help you eat out more safely.
The best way to avoid gluten, however, is to eat as naturally gluten-free as possible. Load up on lean meats, fatty fishes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Always be mindful (and ask loads of questions) related to how your food was prepared before digging in.
6. Not Vetting Beauty Products for Gluten
Research indicates that shampoos and beauty products that contain gluten can’t be absorbed by the skin and therefore won’t harm someone with celiac disease. This means you can touch gluten; you just can’t eat it (and you should definitely wash your hands after touching gluten!).
However, if there is a risk of ingesting the product, such as the case in lipsticks, lip balms, lotions and hand sanitizers, then you must use products that do not contain gluten.
I recommend lipsticks and beauty products that are certified gluten-free – just to be safe. A lipstick and lip balm brand that is certified gluten-free and I personally recommend is Red Apple Lipstick. This stuff is the best. You can get smooth and moisturizing lipstick and lip glosses that are totally gluten-free and come in a variety of colors too! (Personal favs are the Ruby Glass lipgloss and the Paris lipstick with almond oil.)
7. Not Understanding the Risks of Cross Contamination
Your food can’t touch gluten, period.
This means you can’t pick the croutons off your salad or remove the bun from your burger and be okay. It means your food can’t be handled or cooked on the same surface as something that contains gluten and your pizza can’t touch the same surface in the oven as the gluten pizza. It means your fries can’t be fried in the same fryer as the breaded chicken fingers either.
Remember, if you want to be truly gluten-free, and give the diet a fair shot, your food must be thoughtfully cooked and served in an environment completely free from gluten contamination. You can read more about the perils of cross contamination, and how to avoid it, in this article.
8. Not Keeping Your Food Separate
You can get cross contamination in your home too! Things like tubs of butter, peanut butter and jelly jars, toaster ovens and colanders are home to itty-bitty bits of gluten. Someone may dip their knife in the tub of butter, spread it on their gluteny bread, and then dip the knife in the tub of butter again, leaving gluten bits behind.
Keep your food separate and labeled in your house. Also, keep your food on the top shelf of the pantry to eliminate the risk of gluten-containing cereal or other products dripping down on your gluten-free food. Here are more tips to setting up your kitchen to be a gluten-free safe zone.
9. Giving Up Because It’s Not Working
This is a BIG one!
So many people give up on their gluten-free diet without giving it a fair shake. They may go gluten-free for a week and feel no different. Give it some time – like months and years. Undoing disease in your body is going to take more than eliminating one food group and one week total time.
A lot of people go gluten-free for months and don’t feel different. What they later realize is they’re eating the same crap as they ate prior to being gluten-free, only they’re eating gluten-free versions of that crap. For example, they’re simply swapping bread for gluten-free bread and cookies for gluten-free cookies. Oh, and they’re usually not taking their diet seriously (aka, they’re cheating).
Remember, what you put in your body is just as important as what you take out. Fill your body with naturally gluten-free foods that are nutrient dense and good for you. Avoid sugars and white refined grains – even gluten-free refined grains – like the plague.
Read more about how I healed myself from celiac disease – it took a lot more than just eliminating gluten from my diet to nurse myself back to health.
10. Not Getting Help From an Expert
So many people try to be gluten-free and fail. It’s often because they don’t know how to maintain the gluten-free diet for the long haul and/or they lack support from someone who can truly help them.
Working with a health and/or nutrition professional will not only help you jumpstart your gluten-free diet, but also will help you learn techniques and tricks for maintaining your gluten-free diet for life.
If you’re looking for someone to help you transition to a gluten-free diet, fix your diet, or help you learn how to maintain your gluten-free diet on a day-to-day basis, please consider working with me. I’m a health and nutrition coach – and I happen to have celiac disease too – so I uniquely know what you’re going through.
Please take a moment to read some of my other top articles:
- Is There a Cure for Celiac Disease?
- 12 Interesting Facts about Celiac Disease
- 10 Facts Your Doctor Doesn’t Know about Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivities
- What Causes Celiac Disease and Can It Be Prevented?
- 10 Gluten Sensitivity Symptoms [With or Without Celiac Disease]