I promised that September (2013) would be the month this blog will focus on the true gluten-free diet transition. (If you are reading this at any other time, I am numbering these post so you can always go through them at your own pace.) However, there are some very important points that need to be made before we start, mainly because there are a variety of people and situations represented in the readers of this blog and those on our Facebook Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Support Group. So, I want to give what I hope is a fair representation of as many of us out there as possible as we move forward.
I am approaching this endeavor from a strict gluten-free standard. After you are strictly gluten-free for a while, it will be up to you to find out how sensitive your body is to gluten in the event of cross-contamination or accidental exposure in any way. It is impossible to know what symptoms gluten is causing until it is thoroughly out of the diet and 3 months is the recommended strict abstinence before testing in any way (however this is strongly NOT recommended!). I did not realize it was to blame for many of my symptoms until I was truly gluten-free!
Additionally, I want to be very clear that I am not a gluten expert! (However, Dr. Thomas O’Bryan is!) I am a fellow sufferer who has made many mistakes while attempting a truly gluten-free diet and this month I am sharing what I have learned in the process. Please check everything I say against the experts and know that although I may not cover everything, I am hoping to give you the best start possible! I will lead you to what I believe to be the best experts out there where I can, and also give you my experiences along the way. So, without further ado, let’s go gluten-free!
There are a variety of reasons people want to go gluten-free. Some reasons are below (not exhaustive of course).
You want to go gluten-free because:
- You know it has been proven to be connected in some way to your thyroid antibodies and would like to see Hashimoto’s reversed, or at the minimum, you want to see your symptoms improve. (This was my reason and it was successful!) For those of you who doubt this connection, Dr. Izabella Wentz has a great post on this subject here.
- You just want to lose weight!
- You are hoping to start eating a more “real food” diet (here’s a link to my favorite online classes – she has gluten-free substitutions available), as well as incorporating a true gluten-free diet, so you can be overall healthier. This would be a GREAT transition diet choice.
- You have a loved one that needs to be truly gluten-free and don’t know where to start.
- You have another autoimmune disease (or more) that you are trying to control by diet.
- You want to achieve a grain free, sugar-free and real food diet and know the gluten-free diet is a good starting point.
- You want to get inflammation in your body down and have heard that going gluten-free can help with this.
- You have problems with digestion and you’ve heard that eliminating gluten might be part of the solution.
All the above reasons are good motivation to go truly gluten-free. However, in my desire to be very honest with the audience that is before me, I must say some things that are necessary in order to gain better perspective as we embark on this journey through this series. These are some of the points I think need to be made:
- There are no guarantees you will see the success you desire but it is extremely common to feel a lot better on a true gluten-free diet. It can be tricky to be truly gluten-free. You can find a post with my experience on this subject here.
- Additional food sensitivities in those with Hashimoto’s are extremely common because they almost undoubtedly suffer from a leaky gut. (The link between intestinal permeability and autoimmune conditions is described here by Izabella Wentz on her blog at ThyroidLifestyle.com.)
- Because of these likely food sensitivities, each one of us may encounter different success levels when going truly gluten-free. Some may feel immediate relief while others (as in my situation) will need to find other culprits after the initial gluten-free stage. This may take some time and is why I believe the easiest way to approach it is going on an elimination diet like the GAPS Diet, the SCD Diet, a Paleo-type Diet, or many other good whole food approaches to eliminating the most common allergens at the same time. This allows you to then add them back (except gluten) once every 3 days (or as directed by your nutritionist or doctor) and find out which foods can be limiting your progress. I found this to be the most productive symptom relief I have ever had and I have had so much healing, I do not regret this step.
- You will need to decide if you will make your whole family gluten-free at home (meaning you may ask others to please eat gluten outside of the home if they want to have it) or you may have to make yourself a special “safe area” with special utensils and pots and pans to cook with. The latter is the harder option but I understand that with adults or older children in the home, this may have to be your option. If I were to suggest the best solution, it would be to make your whole kitchen a gluten-free zone. This cannot hurt your family’s health and will make it a LOT easier for you to navigate in your kitchen without so much risk of cross-contamination. In my home, gluten containing snacks may be stored in the garage pantry or in individual rooms in an air tight bin and eaten away from the kitchen. This way, each family member is responsible for their own gluten containing food, while leaving the kitchen non-contaminated. I will get into these options in more detail in my next post in this series.
- You may have to explore the possibility of having to remove foods that might be causing gluten cross-reaction before feeling better. Sarah from ThePaleoMom.com explains this well in her post here. For many, unless this possibility is addressed, they may not get well. And if you click the following link, you will hear on this 34 minute podcast with Dr. Peter Osborne (thanks to SCDLifestyle.com), that there are other known gut irritants which can produce intestinal permeability thereby making gluten less likely to be the only culprit here. But starting with gluten is sometimes enough to help many people. You might want to just take it a step at a time. I’ve provided the above links for people who are ready to jump ahead. For those focusing on just going gluten-free, it’s probably best to avoid those links for now.
- I will not be covering recipes this month but I will give ideas for food preparation here and there (and perhaps links to my favorite recipes).
- I will refer you to what I consider to be experts in the areas I don’t feel adequate in. Although I don’t recommend replacing processed foods with their gluten-free counterparts, I will talk briefly about those options and give you alternative choices to consider.
- I am focusing on a truly gluten-free diet as a foundational first step and want to re-iterate that this step might likely just be the first step for you too! It is common to build upon this step in order to recover but it is incredibly important to get this step right as a significant foundation to build on!
- If you feel you need some help along the way (meaning you would like to supplement your efforts) with a natural supplement that has gone far and beyond the healing just going gluten free gave me, you can read about my success story with this weight loss and blood sugar balancing supplement here.
Finally, my best advice for those just beginning to grasp the true gluten-free diet is to take this month to become more familiar on the whys and the hows of going truly gluten-free before fully embarking on the journey. I did this for a long time before actually going truly gluten-free. And understand there will be a learning curve but it’s best that your learning curve is as minimal as possible once on the truly gluten-free diet, because getting accidental gluten exposure just feels worse once you begin to feel better.
I would like to take a “bite” at a time so as not to overwhelm anyone. In fact, I am keeping these posts down to about 2 per week so the information can be absorbed throughout the week, especially since I will be providing you with “off-site” links for your review at times. Consider this a month of exploring and planning for the true gluten-free diet. You might not want to jump in just yet. A month of preparation could be a great way to keep this low stress. It took me over 6 months to switch over my kitchen to a truly gluten-free place so don’t try to do it in one month. You will find that there will be some basic needs at first in the kitchen that you will have to invest in but for the less sensitive individual, you may be able to get away with some of your current cookware. It will be your decision how far to go. I will describe what I had to do but I am a very sensitive case so please take my journey as a guide, not as the exact path you will need. For those already gluten-free, you might use this month to assess whether you have covered all the bases to make sure you might not be getting some accidental gluten exposure from somewhere if you are not feeling well yet.
Unfortunately, for those new to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, all this may be quite overwhelming, as it was for me and countless others! For you, I recommend you not worry if you can’t grasp some of the additional information (beyond gluten-free) I will need to provide during this journey and consider it a “fly by” of what you will want to learn later. Focusing on just being 100% gluten-free will have enough concern of its own. However, for those who are a bit advanced, I will be including extra details that are an inevitable part of this journey.
Bear with me as I attempt to give you the right bits of information for a successful transition. And please forgive me in advance if I miss anything. This is a very detailed journey and one that I will not be able to cover perfectly. But I think you will get the feel for the process and be ready to take it on yourself by the end of this month!
As a side note: I have been asked so many times what tools, utensils and resources are best to have when embarking on this journey, that I decided to do something I have resisted for years. I have made a “resource center” through my affiliate partner Amazon, so you have a more direct path to some of the resources I might be talking about this month. You will be able to access it from the right sidebar of the blog at anytime also. I think this will avoid me putting so many links in to give you reference to the tool or product I am describing in each post and allow you to look around on your own. In the future, I will just say you can find it in the reference links in my “resource center” and hopefully that will make it easier for everyone.
And I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get a good guide for your Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in order to heal the root cause. For this, I highly recommend Izabella Wentz’ book on finding the root cause which you can find here or even better, you can get the information faster and more conveniently through her eBook here which is great news for those needing immediate help! If you haven’t seen my book review with my personal video at the bottom, you can find that post here.
I hope this series will be a great help to many. I would have loved to have something like this as I was starting out. Remember not to stress over this transition and allow yourself time to adjust to all the details needed to be truly gluten-free. Before long, you will have mastered this transition and in the process, hopefully will also feel much better!
I am going to number the posts in this series so you can go back through them again at any time for review. You will also be able to go to the category section and click “Let’s Go Gluten Free” which will bring up all the posts in the series in the future. Take your time. You have the time to make this transition as slowly as you need to.
Here’s to our healing journey!