Monday, June 4, 2012

Still Learning - A Gluten Exposure

People don't tend to want to tell you about their mistakes. Their trials and tribulations. The messy, working part of their lives. But something that maths class taught me is that the working out of the problem is at least as important as the answer, and sometimes even worth more. So I am here to tell you about my mistakes. What I did wrong. And hopefully save you from one more bloated belly of gluten induced discomfort.

Can you guess what I did yet?

I ate this;

Whats in it?
Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Rice, Sunflower Oil, Almonds, Tapioca Syrup, Maltodextrin, Molasses, Sea Salt, Malted Barley Extract, Vanilla Flavor.

Do you see it? Our offending ingredient? Neither did I, for months. Cascadian Farm's other cereals all have a nice big "CONTAINS WHEAT" in bold after their ingredients list, so when I didn't see wheat on the label I figured it was fine. After all, no one even uses those other funny old grains that contain gluten, right?

Then when I was researching something else I ate I rediscovered the list of what contains gluten;
Wheat, Barley, Rye, Triticale.

Oops. There it is; Malted Barley Extract. I guess they do still use those other grains.

I have been getting glutened from something for months, every now and again. I had racked my brains for what it could be, double, triple, quadruple checked labels, thrown out countless more suspect boxes and donated a few more, I had even noticed that I felt a little off after eating these granola's, but I had put it down to the high sugar content, since I had checked the labels of this particular product a thousand times, including after I made that observation!

I had only kept this product around for when I was really in a pinch for something fast to eat, which partly explains why it took so long for me to figure this out. The other reason is that my reaction to gluten is delayed by about 12 hours, and by then it can be hard to remember exactly what you ate, especially if it was grabbed as a bite or two on the go.

So here are my tips to my past (and present) self, and anyone else who is not an experienced gluten free expert, but needs to be;
  1. Keep a food diary. Seriously, do it.
    • I know you think it's a pain, especially when everything is going so well and you have managed to eat gluten free just fine without it for days. But it's really not worth feeling sick repeatedly until you somehow manage to figure out what's getting you.
  2. Memorize the other gluten containing grains.
    • No, they're not used very often. But it really is worth it to be able to recognize them when they do pop up, and to be familiar enough with them to still recognize them even when they are sandwiched between two other harmless sounding words. Even if you think you have learned them, take a quick look at them once a month or so to remind yourself. They don't show up very often, and that's why they are so sneaky; you don't recognize them as strongly as the dreaded wheat.
  3. Go through and get rid of gluten containing products in your kitchen.
    • Repeatedly, especially in the first few months. You will have learned to recognize more and more potential hazards each time. If you could afford to throw everything out and start from scratch with all officially gluten free labelled products, great! But I think for most of us in today's economy it has to be a bit steadier an approach.
  4. Never stop reading labels.
    • Even if you think you know what a particular product contains, read it. Brands change recipes, companies change hands, manufacturing processes change, and you will forget which labels you have read and which you haven't - there are a lot of them out there.
  5. Don't read too many labels.
    • I know, I know, isn't that contradictory to the last point? Well, kind of. It depends how you go about it. When I start reading too many labels, my eyes start to glaze over, I start skim reading, and I miss important details. So how do you read less labels and still stay safe? Buy less labels! Learn how to make as much as possible from scratch. It will save you money, and once you have the true basics stocked, you can make almost anything out of what you have in your pantry. Take this one product at a time, and you will gradually incorporate more and more truly homemade into your kitchen.
  6. Have safe snacks on hand.
    • This can either be a daunting or expensive task, especially for a newbie like myself. So far the best way I have found for handling both these problems is to have a weekly baking day - post coming soon!
These are all things that I am still working on, but I hope that someone finds this useful. It was certainly something that I would have loved somebody to tell me a few months ago. If that's you right now, hello! You can do this! I've been in your shoes, and it does get better.

If you are a seasoned gluten free eater, what advice would you give your past self?


  1. I just don't eat anything from a box anymore, that way there's no chance of getting glutened or soyed or dairy-ed etc :-)

    1. I am working on getting there; it is a big adjustment! So much to learn how to make from scratch.


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