You sit down at the restaurant and the first thing that arrives is a basket of bread. You haven’t even ordered yet but there is a big basket of gluten. Gluten is in so many foods and many of them are tasty foods that you couldn’t imagine giving up. It is one of the first foods that I recommend patients give up because it is inflammatory, and it increases permeability of the gut. That’s also known as leaky gut. Most patients wonder, “How do I give up gluten?” It can be a shock at first, but you can do it and it will lead to better health.

Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that is mostly known for that chewy texture it gives to breads. You also find it’s in many other foods when you decide it’s time to give up gluten. We are learning more and more about how gluten is being tied to so many autoimmune disorders. It can cause serious damage for those with Celiac disease and for those with autoimmune diseases but it’s also harmful to others.

Many people might not see an immediate response after eating foods that have gluten, and think they are fine eating gluten. Unfortunately, gluten can still cause inflammation and effect the body systemically. Your brain, your skin, your gastrointestinal tract and every tissue in the body can be damaged by gluten. Now think about if your gastrointestinal tract is damaged. Your body absorbs nutrition through the gastrointestinal tract. If your GI is damaged, you can eat very healthy but still be malnourished. Gluten-free isn’t a fad that’s going away. Eating gluten is what needs to go away.

Learn more about Celiac disease and why everyone should give up gluten in this video:

But Seriously, How Do I Give Up Gluten?

Trust me, I understand it can sound overwhelming to give up gluten at first, but I have seen thousands of patients do it and feel better doing it. You need to focus on all the good healthy foods you can eat and how you are going to be so much healthier doing it. I do have a few more suggestions and tips to make it easier.

Know What Common Foods Have Gluten

What foods can’t you eat when you give up gluten? There are some very obvious foods that have gluten like bagels, breads, crackers, cakes, pies, and other baked goods but there are also some you might not think of. Soups often have flour (and gluten) in them as a thickening agent. Other common foods that have gluten are sauces, marinades, lunch meat, pasta sauces, rice mixes and French fries. Wait, you thought French fries were just potatoes? A popular chain, fast food restaurant has 19 ingredients in their fries and that’s before they go in the fryer.

Read Labels and Watch for Ingredients

Gluten isn’t always labeled as wheat. It’s in other grains such as barley, rye, spelt, semolina, durum, and triticale. Oats are also often contaminated with wheat. Also, watch for seitan, bulgur, cereal extract, couscous, flour, Triticum and malt. Other ingredients that may contain gluten are, dextrin, food starch, artificial flavoring, natural flavoring, maltodextrin, vegetable protein and monosodium glutamate.

Better Yet, Ditch the Labels

Just because the label says gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I’ve seen “gluten-free” cotton candy before and that’s not healthy. Foods with artificial flavorings and MSG in them aren’t healthy even if they were gluten free. Your best bet is to look for organic, whole foods. Vegetable, fruits and other foods that don’t need labels. Foods without labels are the best foods when you give up gluten. You can be sure if they have gluten in them or not.

Try New Spins on Old Dishes

When you go gluten-free, you have options and opportunities to be creative. Missing pasta? Try spaghetti squash or vegetable noodles. There are also many good alternatives with rice, quinoa and even cauliflower. If they can make noodles out of cauliflower, then you my friend can give up gluten.

When you cook at home you can often find ways to make your favorite dishes without the gluten. Check out the healthy recipes on our website for gluten-free options. We also love the Yummly app for cooking with allergies that makes it easy to find gluten free options.

Bring the Gluten-Free Dish to Pass

Parties and social gatherings can be hard for people who are new to giving up gluten. You think about the buffet of food and wonder, “What can I eat if I’m gluten free?” Offer to bring a dish. You will take some pressure off the host and ease your own mind. You will be sure that you will have an option and there will most likely be others looking for gluten-free options too.

Don’t Forget the Beverages

You brought your gluten free dish to pass but there is also gluten in some beverages. Be careful with drinks, like colas and apple juice, with caramel coloring. And don’t forget about the beer that is loaded with gluten. Don’t worry if you’re a beer drinker, there are options. Check out our article on cleaner alcohol options for some better beer alternatives.

You Can Give Up Gluten

When you know the impact that gluten can have on your body, and after a few weeks of avoiding gluten, you will wonder why you thought it couldn’t be done. By giving up foods that cause inflammation, many people experience symptoms being alleviated they didn’t even realize they had. Headaches, joint pain, skin issues, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and more are common symptoms that start to dissipate. After a while, you will wonder why everyone else doesn’t give up gluten.

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn