Why Go Gluten Free?
Many people decide to eat gluten free due to a medical condition called Celiac disease. This means that Celiac suffers lack the enzyme necessary to process gluten, a protein found in wheat. Other people simply choose to go gluten free due to a sensitivity or intolerance (like me!) to gluten and/or wheat.
Diagnosing celiac disease requires a biopsy of the small intestines and / or a blood test. Many people with celiac disease don’t have any symptoms that can be pinpointed but they often report having body pain, stomach issues, and other problems that are often misdiagnosed as autoimmune problems. Celiac disease can actually be very dangerous and even cause death due to intestinal cancers developing in some individuals if not treated properly.
If you’re concerned that you may have gluten intolerance, talk to your doctor. You can also try eating gluten free for a while to see if any symptoms you do have are reduced or eliminated. Keep in mind that by eating gluten free you are eliminating a source of B Vitamins which are very important to good health. Supplement and replace nutrients accordingly when eliminating a food from your diet.
If you have any of the following conditions a gluten free diet may help. Talk to your doctor before making any serious changes to your diet.
* Brain Fog
* Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
* Chronic Migraines
* Irritable Bowel Syndrome
* Joint Pain
* Severe Stomach Pain
* Skin Rashes
* Weight Loss
This is just a small list. But, if you have these or a lot of nonspecific symptoms that your doctor doesn’t seem to be able to cure, try doing a gluten elimination diet. Keep in mind that simply stopping gluten may not actually do anything until the damage is repaired. This is why some people go on a two week gluten elimination diet and find no relief from their problems. Instead, try to go on a 100 percent gluten elimination program for at least 6 months to a year to ensure that you’ve tried everything.
Gluten hides in a lot of things and even the smallest amount can affect people with true celiac disease. It is a serious condition that is probably much undiagnosed due to the expense and time it takes to get a proper diagnosis. By some estimates there may be up to 5 percent of the population who has celiac disease and even more may be sensitive to gluten and benefit from a gluten free diet many of which may not even know it.
Is Gluten-free a Fad?
Everywhere you look you see product labels proclaiming the gluten free status. Even items that are naturally gluten free now say gluten free on the label. It’s a good marketing ploy because of the popularity of the diet. But, does this mean that gluten free is a fad diet?
The Truth about Gluten
According to WebMD.com, approximately 5 percent of the population is thought to be suffering from Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is a condition in which the body is unable to process gluten, a type of protein in wheat. This condition can manifest in many ways such as bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, body pain, and even intestinal cancers. It can cause very serious problems in the sufferer. In order to get relief, those suffering from Celiac Disease must try to remove all gluten from their diet.
Another five percent of the population is thought to be gluten intolerant (that’s me!), meaning that gluten causes some symptoms or problems such as skin rashes and stomach issues but is not life threatening. In these people lowering the amount of or eliminating gluten from the diet can help with the symptoms and improve the quality of life vastly.
For me I cannot allow gluten in my daily life because it’s side effects are so disabling. I get extreme brain fog and can’t focus on anything for longer than 1-2 minutes. When you own your own business, have clients and need to focus for a living, this is very disabling.
I also feel like a have the flu – my joints ache, my muscles ache and my grip strength is reduced to almost nothing. I easily drop things and my thumbs and fingers spasm where I can’t move them for a few minutes. The lock into the spasm and I have to literally force them apart. Scary stuff!!
I also become constipated and my belly bloats out like I’m 6 months preggers. I also find I get mildly depressed as well.
Giving up gluten has many benefits and can cause no harm. Therefore, even those who have no intolerance or disease can go gluten free. As long as they replace the potential vitamins that might be missed by eliminating gluten such as some B vitamins, they will most likely feel better.
Is This Fad Bad?
Certainly, companies are going to use gluten free in their marketing endeavours. They are always on the lookout to see where and how to jump on the newest bandwagon sweeping the nation. It’s just good marketing.
So while it may be considered a fad, it won’t harm you. In addition, giving up gluten can help improve your quality of life. As time moves forward more and more gluten free alternatives will most likely appear on store shelves. The trick is to try to only use ingredients that are as close to nature as possible. Avoid getting caught up in using too many fake processed foods.
Benefits of Giving up Gluten
Many people who give up gluten do not experience any difference in their lives at all, but some might argue that the reason is because they didn’t give it enough time. Unlike some allergies, it can take a long time (upwards of 6 month or more, depending on the severity of your intolerance and amount consumed for long periods of time) for the gut to heal from the damage caused by the gluten.
To really experience the benefits of giving up gluten, make it a goal to give up gluten for at least 6 months to a full year to see what the long term effects are. Many people report clearer skin, improved digestion, weight loss, and other benefits of going gluten free – but only if they remember that gluten free baked goods are still often high in fat and calories and should be limited when eating.
Ideas for Substitutions in Gluten-free Baking
When embarking on gluten free baking it’s important to accept that the foods you love most may not taste the same in gluten free form. However, you may find that you like them even more than before so don’t lose all hope. In addition, you need to understand that there is no identical substitute for foods and the textures and flavours will be different. They won’t taste bad, just different.
When trying to convert an old family favourite to gluten free it’s important to understand what the ingredient does to the recipe in terms of texture and flavour. Even the raw texture will be different. Batters might be thinner than what you’re accustomed to, or just look completely different. It’s important to not adjust the recipe expecting it to be the same as the gluten versions.
The other important thing to remember is that if you aren’t using a commercial gluten free baking mix you will likely need to mix in more than one type of flour to get the results you want in the recipe. It’s also important to take a lesson from baking schools. In bakery school bakers learn to bake by weight and ratios based on the desires of the final results rather than by cups and spoons full.
If you learn the ratios of the different types of baked goods you’ll be able to substitute easier when you know how everything works. Michael Ruhlman has a great ratio chart to learn on his blog. It is not for gluten free baking but it can help to learn these ratios so that you can take any recipe and make it gluten free. Learning to bake by weight and ratios will help you create better recipes over all. When a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, try using 140 grams of a gluten free substitute instead. Better yet, mix two different gluten free choices together for a better result.
Most of the things you cook at home are really truly simple. Pancakes, muffins, quick breads, are as easy as switching out the regular flour for a gluten free variety. For yeast breads like pizza dough you will need to add another binder and thickener to ensure that it works better such as chia or flax seeds. It’s also important to learn the different qualities of various flours. For instance coconut flour holds liquids very well; you might need to add extra liquid to avoid a dry result.
The most important thing is to just try different combinations to see if it works. Other than that, you can carry on as normal when turning your baked goods gluten free. Make your own flour mix and try it out. Try mixing different combinations of rice flour, oat flour, sorghum flour, millet flour, and potato starch. Store in a cool dry place and use in all your recipes. Using a mixture of different flours will give you a better result.
Items for the Gluten-free Baking Pantry
Stocking a gluten free pantry is simple. You really won’t be giving up much by buying gluten free options. In fact, once you learn how to stock your pantry and what is available today as gluten free products you’ll eat better than ever. A well-stocked gluten-free pantry should have these items:
Steel Cut Oats
With gluten free steel cut oats you can make breakfast, but you can also ground it into gluten free flour suitable for making many different types of breads.
Used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in baked goods, some people have reactions to this ingredient so, if you find that you do, don’t use it.
Ensure that you buy the corn meal and not mix. The mix has flour in it and isn’t the right type of corn meal to buy. You can use corn meal in a variety of recipes including corn bread.
Brown Rice Flour
You can buy already prepared brown rice flour or make your own by putting 1 cup of brown rice into a high speed blender or flour grinder and grinding until it’s the consistency you want.
You can make nut flours from any raw nuts that you purchase. Buy unsalted raw nuts to use for any type of nut flour like almond flour. The harder the nut the better flour it will make when blended in your high speed blender.
You can buy any kind but of course the 100 percent is best and dark chocolate will give a richer colour and flavour to anything you make with it.
You can make your own using the leftover pulp from making coconut milk. You can also make it from dried coconut flakes using your high speed blender. I prefer to buy it here.
You can purchase aluminum free baking powder at the grocery or online.
Any baking soda is gluten free.
These are great blended into flour and used as a binding agent in baked goods or puddings.
Buy whole flax seed instead of flour and grind it as you need it because it will last longer.
Expandex Modified Tapioca Starch
This is the best tapioca starch that you can use in your baking. It can also be used as a thickener without adding heat.
You can make awesome chickpea flour with dried chickpeas and a high speed blender. You should wash them first and pick through the peas for stones, then dry them in the oven for a couple of hours on 200 degrees.
Looking for replacements for gluten filled ingredients isn’t hard today. There are entire sections of the grocery store, especially in the baking area, devoted to gluten free cooking and baking. There is no reason to do without when going gluten free.
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