The hero (more like the villain – sorry Gluten!) of this week’s topic is GLUTEN. I don’t eat gluten because it aggravates my Autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Gluten intolerance is not the only cause of Autoimmune diseases but one of several factors that triggers an autoimmune response and contributes to making an Autoimmune condition worse.
Having read the books written by Dr. David Perlmutter, Sarah Ballantyne,PhD, Dr Terry Wahls and many others on the effects of wheat and gluten, it was no wonder I was becoming sick eating a westernised GMO filled diet that contained gluten.
I never imagined that I could have a gluten intolerance until I stopped eating it. The improvements I saw in my health was astounding just within 3 months of being STRICTLY gluten free. When I intentionally or accidentally eat anything that may contain gluten, I suffer a flare up of my autoimmune symptoms for days and sometimes weeks. It is just not worth that slice of pizza or curry puff. There is no 80/20 rule when it comes to gluten intolerance or sensitivity. So I just don’t eat it, period.
It is definitely not easy to be on a gluten free diet or in my case a whole food clean diet. There are many factors that make it difficult to avoid gluten in our daily lives. Almost every processed food contains gluten unless something is specifically stated gluten free. Now, buying gluten free processed foods creates another conundrum, they are full of sugar and other additives that are not exactly healthy for us either. So I don’t buy processed anything besides the occasional 100% wild rice pasta and rice bread. I prefer to cook, bake and make my own. Yes, it is a lot of work and requires a tonne of discipline.
But this is what I have learned in my own journey towards wellness and healing so far :
Good health is not built on short cuts
Cross contamination is also another factor to consider when I have to eat out. Some people with gluten intolerance sometimes don’t react too much when exposed to a tiny amount but others may and I do.
If you want to learn more about the signs of Gluten Intolerance, you can read this article here by Dr. Amy Myers, a renowned leader in Functional Medicine.
Eating out from time to time and having a social life with the people I enjoy spending my time with, is important for me to live a healthy, happy and balanced life. Although, whenever possible I do bring the social life to me so I can cook for guests and also gives me a peace of mind knowing that the food will be always gluten free.
This is how I avoid getting “Glutened” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
- Most south Indian food is gluten free except the obvious ones like curry puffs which use wheat based pastry.
- I always eat curries (Indian, Thai, Indonesian & Malay) when I have to eat out because curries are made with fresh and dried spices and not sauces which may contain hidden gluten
- Rice is gluten free for those who don’t know and there is plenty of rice to be had here.
- I avoid Chinese food when I eat out as much as I can because of the soya sauces they use in their stir fries
- Some restaurants here have an option to have vegetable stir fries with only garlic. I have chosen this before and clearly emphasis that I am allergic to Soya sauce (and the gluten in it). Most local food courts & restaurants here don’t know what gluten is. Soy sauces and any other type of sauces the food courts and restaurants use will most definitely gluten. So I keep it simple “NO sauces please! I am allergic”
- When I order grilled fish or meat and if it comes with sauce, I always ask for the sauce to be served in a separate dipping bowl.
- Eating at five star hotels here in KL with a gluten & dairy intolerance has been a breeze so far. Most restaurants in these hotels know what gluten is and can advise you what you can eat from the menu. Typically, I advise the hotel beforehand when I make a reservation that I can’t eat gluten and dairy.
- Hotel buffets are also a great idea, that way there is a huge selection and I can always find something to eat that is safe, e.g. local curries, salads, fruits, south indian dishes and grilled meat. If I suspect something to be contaminated I always check with the chef first before eating.
- Salad bars are also a safe option just make that the salad is not already premixed in salad dressing which may contain gluten and check with the staff what goes into the salad dressing e.g. vinegar, oil etc.
Dinner/Lunch invites and Parties
- Always inform the host that you have food intolerances and offer to bring your own food if they don’t mind or a potluck dish that others can share.
- If you are unsure what food might be on offer at a party and it is not possible to bring your own food, then eat something at home before you leave.
- Sometimes people you have just met may not understand your illness or why you can’t eat certain food and might still end up making a dessert with gluten or dairy saying “I only used a little bit of butter or oyster sauce(these sauces normally contain gluten) and expect you to eat it. Be firm and politely refuse. It is better to hurt their feelings than suffer for weeks. I have learned this the hard way. Just remember that if they matter then they won’t mind and if they mind then they don’t matter anyway.
Lunches at work and business meetings
- Bring leftover food from the night before, always cook extra portions. I brought leftover dinners for lunch the next day and so did my husband when we were both living and working in Australia.
- If you do have to eat out, just follow my above tips on eating out.
- During lunch meetings advise the admin staff to order something rice based for you instead of sandwiches or suggest to buy and bring your own lunch.
- When attending lunch meetings outside of office, advise your colleague of your food intolerances and suggest that you pick a restaurant or food place that is safe for you to eat in.
Most people are understanding of the choices we have to make in order to heal ourselves and those who love us, our family and dear friends want the best for us and are always there to support us. Just as we would do the same for them. People who have known me before when I was ill and how I am now after I started making changes to my diet, have also made positive changes in the way they eat.
It is normally the ones who fail to see how certain foods even however small in quantity can aggravate and in some cases cause chronic illnesses or other issues, are the ones who rely only on medication or pin their hopes in the latest medical procedure to solve their problems and continue to eat the way they have always eaten. The same ones who have parted their ‘wisdom’ to me – life is too short not to eat these foods. Perhaps, that is what life will be for them, too short.
I prefer to think otherwise for myself. Life is too short & precious to eat processed gunk and food that poisons my body or involve myself in anything that aggravates my illness. I respect my body, my mind and my spirit. Almost everyone I know has some health issue or other but not every one makes the changes needed in their lives to heal.
It is not a fancy lifestyle choosing not to eat foods we are intolerant to. It is simply a choice to heal and live a long, full and healthy life without just relying on medication.
Just because one doesn’t go into anaphylactic shock after eating gluten doesn’t mean that eating it does not make them chronically sick. The same goes for other food intolerances.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food ~ Hippocrates
I am making a stand with my choice, are you?