This might be the most important place to start. You could be eating all gluten free food and still be getting “glutaminated” (this word was made up by my friend Diana so I am giving her credit for it). Keeping a sense of humor is crucial to getting through this transition. There are many areas to look into when going truly gluten free! Okay, let’s start!
Look at your kitchen. Do you have any dedicated gluten free pots, pans, or utensils? The mission for this week is to analyze, not change, everything in the kitchen as you prepare your snacks/meals (don’t critique the food yet) and make a note as to the tools you use on a daily basis. Do this throughout the week and make a list of them. Those are the pots, pans and utensils you will need to a) either buy new, or b) really clean up so they have less chance of cross-contamination. Here is a good post from About.com on which cooking gear needs to be replaced (as well as excellent links to other details you will need to know) to ensure you are cooking in a gluten free environment. I had to give up my prized iron skillet because they are known to be very porous and are almost impossible to clean up to be free of gluten cross-contamination. I almost attempted re-surfacing it, but it meant using a sandblasting method to bring it down to a smooth surface and then re-seasoning. With all those particles flying around and the trouble and mess, I just figured that project was not for me! And I truly recommend you don’t skip the important step we are focusing on today. It could really sabotage all your hard work in cooking with gluten free ingredients. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of this project, let me confess a little secret to you that might make you feel better…I have at least 5 boxes of my old gluten-laden kitchen tools in my garage! Yes, it’s okay to take some time to say “good-bye.” I did this because I was sure that one day they would be back into my life. And in some cases, that could happen but right now I don’t want to risk low level gluten exposure, so perhaps soon, I will have a nice, big, garage sale and get some new gluten free kitchen items! But for now they serve as a “security blanket” of sorts.
When I first started the GF Diet over 2 years ago now, I started marking new utensils GF in permanent marker so my family would not use it for anything else. I also marked a safe pan or two with GF (with masking tape on the handle) so I would start with safe tools. Certain stainless steel pans and pots that I thought I could turn into gluten free cookware were furiously scrubbed with Bar Keepers Friend by my husband. I am still using those today. However, I found out after many months (which is sad it took that long) that this was not good enough for my sensitivity to gluten. You see, I was washing all the dishes in the same water together. Gluten is gummy and sticks to things. After a while, I realized I was cross-contaminating myself by this habit. This was frustrating indeed and why I turned my kitchen into a 100% gluten free kitchen! Now everyone might have a different level of sensitivity and this little bit of risk might not cause problems for every person out there. But I did not know how low level gluten could cause underlying symptoms that I just didn’t see improvement in until I removed this one area of risk. If you are not feeling better, this could very well be a culprit for you too!
For those who want to continue to share a gluten free kitchen with a kitchen that is not fully gluten free, here are some tips:
You can also keep a pantry like this which has all your special food and cooking tools stored separately if you desire this way instead (this would be my preference):
Take some time to “build” these items. I found that stress to get this done real fast was worse for my Hashimoto’s than actually not going on the gluten free diet immediately! Take time to prepare since this will likely be for the rest of your life. It will also take time to add to your stash. Over time, the goal is to have a good base of cooking tools in one place so it makes it easy for you to work in the kitchen.
If you are sharing a kitchen with gluten, something to remember would be a plastic tub or basin to wash your gluten free dishes in or some idea of how to keep yourself from being cross-contaminated during dish washing. Here’s a post I did while I was traveling which shows my method of protecting myself towards the bottom of the post. You can have sponges or dish clothes and rags marked with GF on them if you would like too. I had to do that when I used to visit my Mom. That post also gives you a glimpse into the meticulous ways I will be going into when looking at your food supply. But we will leave that to another post.
For now, take your time as you analyze your kitchen. Don’t get overwhelmed. You will know when you have enough ready to start your new diet (or clean up your current one). Keep in mind if you need to purchase new pots and pans or other cookware, be sure to research the safest options. I have added ideas for those options in my “resource center” here. Of special interest would be things like cutting boards (where bread has been cut and other gluten containing ingredients have been prepared) and porous surfaces which may be hiding gluten.
When you are ready to move forward, you will need to clean the spaces (or the whole kitchen) as thoroughly as possible in the areas you will be working with your gluten free food. Here’s an article from Dummies.com in how to do this. There is no easy way around this. You can use baking soda and vinegar so you lessen exposure to toxins in the harsh chemicals. Perhaps someone can help you do this chore one day in exchange for a nice gluten free meal as a reward. I actually did this before I was truly gluten free so I wouldn’t be concerned so much about handling these surfaces.
In the next post, we will talk about the food in your kitchen. I want to begin that segment next week so you have a few days to first assess your kitchen tools. If you are wondering what foods have gluten so you know which tools are contaminated, don’t worry too much about that – assume your kitchen and tools are already contaminated because they most likely are.
Remember this is a journey, not a race. If you have severe symptoms and need an immediate start, my best advice is to not put anything in your mouth or on your body unless it is specifically marked gluten free (except fresh food like fruits and vegetables) and take these steps in your kitchen at the same time.
See you next week with Part 3 of this “Let’s Go Gluten Free” journey!
If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.