Should Your Beauty Products Be Gluten Free?

There is a bit of a controversy in the gluten-free world when it comes to beauty products. Should they be gluten free? Some say an absolute yes — your skin is your largest organ and it absorbs everything you put on it. Others say that it doesn’t matter as long as gluten is not ingested orally. 

Where do I stand on that split of opinions? As with nearly anything I speak about, I say you get to do you! There are three of us in my family who have celiac, and each of us reacts and responds differently. We each decide what works best for us.

Do you have a skin reaction to gluten? If so, you may need to steer clear of all products with this protein. Some with celiac have been known to have skin reactions, while others with an intolerance don’t experience any issues with gluten-containing beauty products. Your best bet is to work with your health care team and determine the best approach for you.

One condition for people with celiac to be aware of is dermatitis herpetiformis, also known as DH or Duhring’s disease. It’s a chronic skin condition caused by a reaction to gluten ingestion. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “the vast majority of people with DH also have an associated gluten sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease). Extremely itchy bumps or blisters appear on both sides of the body, most often on the forearms near the elbows, as well as on knees and buttocks, and along the hairline.” While research shows this condition is linked with ingesting gluten, some say that they have the same reaction when using products on their body that have gluten in them. So again, it’s important to work with your provider to decide on the best approach in your situation.

Tips for finding safe beauty products

If you are looking to replace some or all of your beauty products with gluten-free alternatives, here are three tips that can help.

1. Determine what is working for you and is safe. 

First thing to ask yourself: Are you currently having a reaction to a beauty product? If you are sure you’re not, then you may be all set and not need to change much. (It’s important to note, however, that sometimes our body could be reacting internally without obvious external signs.) To evaluate and replace products, I recommend first looking through all items that go around or on your mouth, such as toothpaste, lip balm, lipstick, or foundation or powder that you put near your mouth. As you run out of these items, replace them with safer brands. Once you have mastered the products near your mouth, then you can slowly move on to other products.

2. Find brands that you feel comfortable with.

Do your research to find brands that are using real and simple ingredients. You can Google products, or you can follow me on Instagram, as I share what products I use. For example, I love Shine Cosmetics — it is 100% gluten free, and they have the most beautiful shades! But Shine is just one example of an alternative option if you are slowly evaluating and replacing products. Be sure to look at the labels of your current items — are there many ingredients that you cannot pronounce? Look them up online or look on the company websites to learn more about them. You can also search for other brands that have transparent ingredient labels and work hard to ensure safe products.

3. Be loyal to those brands. 

I have now become a very loyal customer to several brands. When I find something that is safe and works, I am going to be loyal! In addition to keeping you safe from gluten, this can actually save you money: Indeed, if you are not persuaded at every store to buy the latest trends, you will save a lot. Sticking to specific brands will also help with ensuring you are using products with ingredients that you feel good about. 

I am so excited for you to go through your bathroom and see how you can improve the products that are underneath your cabinet!

Grieving the Loss of Gluten

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you may be grieving the loss of gluten. It is so important for people to understand that this grief is real! Awareness of this response can help normalize what you are going through.

Part of the grieving process is hope. What everybody wants is hope for a better life, and it’s totally possible. It takes work to get through the grieving process, but on the other side, life has so much potential.

In one of my Gluten-Free With Coral podcasts, I speak with my great friend and life coach Jamee Andelin about what it means to grieve gluten. This conversation can help anyone who may be struggling in their gluten-free journey.

The grieving process

There are five stages to the grieving process, but I like to think of it with two extra parts — the before and the after. At the start, the first feeling is really shock: thinking “What?!” And then there’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Through this cycle, there’s hope. So those are all part of the process, and we can find ourselves going through this cycle when we find out something difficult, like that we have celiac, or that there are serious issues in our marriage, or that we’re living through a pandemic. 

Grieving gluten

Sometimes we push away the idea of the grieving gluten, thinking “it’s only food,” and we don’t give ourselves permission to process those feelings. Even though we may think, “No one has died, I don’t have a right to be grieving,” its actually an identity transformation that we may be working through. But being aware and accepting that this is a normal part of being human can help us. 

Andelin explains how transitioning to a new “gluten-free identity” relates to the grieving cycle: What happens in our mind when we go through any change is that a new identity is being formed. And when that new identity is being formed, there is an old identity that is being lost. So as you’re transitioning into this new identity, there is a feeling loss of the old identity. 

Tools to work through the grieving process

Here are two key tools to help work through this process:

“Digest” your emotions

Learning how to accept the discomfort and to digest those emotions is the number one skill I recommend everybody develop. You have to digest the sadness, or whatever it is you’re feeling — those emotions have to be processed. It can be as simple as acknowledging, for example, “I’m sad,” or talking to someone about it.

Practice self-compassion

Practicing self-compassion means supporting yourself through suffering. It’s not pushing the suffering away or denying it, it’s just acknowledging that it’s there. 

The number one thing that a lot of people feel when they go through a dietary change is isolation. It’s a massive lifestyle shift, and everyone close to the person is affected. You can start to feel lonely and isolated. So, for example, just acknowledging that “of course, I’m feeling isolated” can help.

Grieving gluten is 100% real — that is why it is so important to realize that when we feel and act certain ways about eating gluten free, there are steps we can take to feel hope again. I hope this helps!

Creating a Gluten-Free Food Stockpile for Emergencies

Living through a pandemic has been a huge wake-up call for the world, and it showed all of us how important it is to be prepared. But for those of us with celiac disease, food allergies, or any intolerances, it’s been especially frightening and has often felt like being in survival mode.

Now that grocery store shelves are stocked up again, it is important to get the shelves in our homes stocked, too, so that no matter what happens in the world around us, we are not in fear about what we are going to eat.

A good friend of mine has inspired me so much: She wrote a blog post that had me determined to follow her example. She simplified the process of stocking up and helped me to create a list of foods that I can stock up on as well. Her family is not gluten free, so I pulled some of her recipes and tweaked them a bit to ensure that they are safe for us.

I have 12 shelf-stable dinner meals listed below and have multiplied each one by 10 and stocked up on the ingredients, so now I have 120 meals available for my family — actual meals that we all would eat or already do eat regularly. Even without an emergency situation, this is smart to do so you have food on hand and never have to go to the store on those crazy days. You have meals in an instant! I created my supply two weeks ago and I have already pulled from these meals twice. Why not? It’s an easy planned meal! (I’m sure each time to be aware of what I take out of my food storage and replace it the next time I am at the store.)

Get creative and think of other recipes you can stockpile on. Or even pick seven of mine and multiply that by however many weeks you want to have food available for. That way, every day of the week is accounted for (e.g. Mondays are spaghetti nights, Tuesday are Taco Bowls, etc.) Buying, for example, 10 boxes of pasta, 10 sauces, and 10 cans of green beans is so easy to do. Even if there are never any emergencies (which is highly unlikely), you are set up for success in your regular meal planning. You could even go all out and get a year supply of these meals.

Gluten-free meals to stockpile

Here are the meals that I have personally stockpiled, and now I am not fearful of anything going on outside of my home. We are prepared, so I don’t have to fear — what a blessing. I hope this helps you and your family get prepared and as well.

Spaghetti and Sauce

  • Gluten-free spaghetti noodles (e.g., Jovial)
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Can of green beans

Chicken-Noodle Soup

  • Gluten-free canned chicken
  • Can of mixed vegetables
  • Chicken bouillon or chicken stock
  • Gluten-free noodles

Chickpea Taco Bowl

  • Oil
  • Can of chickpeas
  • Gluten-free taco seasoning
  • Gluten-free salsa
  • Spanish rice (see ingredients below)
  • Canned corn

Rice Bowls

  • Dry rice
  • Water
  • Gluten-free canned chicken
  • Gluten-free salsa verde
  • Can of beans
  • Can of olives

Fried Rice

  • Oil
  • Rice
  • Water
  • Can of veggies
  • Coconut aminos
  • Spam

Broccoli and Chicken Rice Casserole

  • Rice
  • Water
  • Gluten-free cream of chicken soup (e.g., Pacifica)
  • Freeze-dried broccoli

Chicken Alfredo

  • Pasta 
  • Water
  • Gluten-free alfredo sauce (e.g., Thrive)
  • Gluten-free canned chicken
  • Canned peas

Haystacks

  • Rice
  • Gluten-free canned chicken
  • Gluten-free cream of chicken soup (e.g., Pacifica)
  • Can of pineapple
  • Can of olives
  • Freeze-dried shredded cheddar cheese

BBQ Bean Bowls

  • Beans
  • Gluten-free BBQ sauce (e.g., Stubbs)
  • Rice
  • Water

Taco Pasta

  • Gluten-free pasta
  • Gluten-free taco seasoning packet
  • Diced can tomatoes
  • Jar of gluten-free salsa

Buffalo Chicken Rice

  • Gluten-free canned chicken
  • Buffalo sauce
  • Rice
  • Water

Spanish Rice and Beans

  • White rice
  • Oil
  • Tomato sauce
  • Seasoning salt
  • Chicken bouillon or chicken stock
  • Canned corn
  • Pinto beans

PB&J

  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Rice cakes

Extras

  • Gluten-free hard taco shells (check shelf life, and use and restock when needed)
  • Gluten-free tortilla chips (check shelf life, and use and restock when needed)
  • Dinty Moore Beef Stew
  • Hormel Chili

Desserts

Peach Cobbler

  • Can of peaches
  • Cinnamon
  • Gluten-free yellow cake mix
  • Sprite

Apple Crumble

  • Can of gluten-free apple pie filling
  • Gluten-free yellow cake mix
  • Cinnamon
  • Water

Brownies

  • Box of gluten-free brownie mix
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Applesauce

Pumpkin Cake Mix Cookies

  • Gluten-free spice cake mix
  • Can of pumpkin
  • Chocolate chips

Nonfood items

Happy stocking up now for a brighter and stress-free later!

Taking a Gluten-Free RV Family Vacation

The official start to summer is almost here! Are you looking for a vacation that will ease your mind and give you the freedom to enjoy family without stressing over exposure to gluten?

See below to learn how we got our family vacation down to $24 per person, per day, total!

Gluten-free RV vacation

A couple years ago, we decided to take an impromptu family vacation and began looking up RV rentals. To our surprise, they were so much cheaper than we ever imagined! The base price for an eight-sleeper camper was $50 a night, for a minimum of three nights. Of course there are always taxes and fees that creep in, but even with insurance, taxes, and mileage, it was going to only be a total of $400. Now that is incredible — when you have a large family, traveling somewhere for three nights and four days for $400 is unheard of!

Eating gluten free while traveling can often feel like a daunting task, and prepping food for a family with members eating both gluten-free and non-gluten-free diets can add more pressure. Our family kept all of our food 100% gluten free so there would be zero cross-contamination worries.

My greatest surprise was that when you rent an RV (at least where we rented), they don’t supply any dishes. To some people, that would be a negative, but for a gluten-free family, that was music to my ears: bringing all of our own supplies meant all of it was 100% safe.

Meal planning

Prior to our trip, I sat down and scheduled out every meal — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for three days — and then I went grocery shopping. I tried to choose realistic meals that I knew my kids would eat, that would be easy to prep, and that wouldn’t require a lot of ingredients and dishes. For instance, we bought precooked Costco bacon so we could heat it on the stove or in the microwave. I also got a rotisserie chicken and shredded it up and put it in a baggy. Preparing as much as we could before we left was key to our mealtime success. We had tons of fruits and veggies for quick and easy snacks and sides.

Here is a sample of what our menu looked like:

Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, hash browns, and fruit.

Lunch: Sandwiches, chips, and veggies.

Dinners: Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos.

Snacks: Popcorn, chips and guacamole (prepared before leaving), banana splits with yogurt, and gluten-free granola with a cherry on top. You can make it so fun and so easy!

Dessert: Hot cocoa with marshmallows and gluten-free S’mores.

Once I prepped all of the food the morning of our trip, we picked up the RV and loaded everything in — pots, pans, spatulas, and any other kitchen gadgets I would need.

In total for all of our groceries, the cost was $109.54, which I call a win. If we would have chosen to go to a hotel in a city, the cost of the hotel and eating out every meal would have been at least quadruple what we spent. And what’s more, we were able to eliminate the stress factor of potentially being “glutened.”

We just spent lots of time together, not worried about gluten. We played board games, went on a lot of hikes, and spent the nights in the comforts of our RV.

Our total for a six-person gluten-free RV vacation

Just to recap, our three-night gluten-free RV vacation cost:

  • $400 for the RV, tax, insurance, and gas
  • $60 for a total of three nights/four days for the campsite
  • $110 on groceries

Total: $570, which averages $143 per day, divided by six people: $24 per person, per day

A gluten-free vacation awaits

This was literally the best vacation we ever had in terms of not worrying about being glutened. So as you are planning out your next vacation, think of renting an RV and having a pure gluten-free vacation!

What Should I Eat? Dealing With Gluten-Free Decision Fatigue

Have you ever experienced that frustrating moment when you’re standing in front of the refrigerator thinking, “What do I eat?” You can combat gluten-free decision fatigue by preparing ahead! Making a meal plan, creating a shopping list, and finding new ways to make old favorites make it easy-peasy to eat gluten free. 

Dealing with gluten-free decision fatigue

To address this decision fatigue, we need a plan of action. To be more precise, we need to know how we are going to execute our day-to-day life. Let’s dive in and start simple.

Reading labels

This may be a no brainer for many of you, but it is important to ensure you are always reading labels. Companies change protocol and manufacturers frequently, and a food that was once gluten free may not necessarily stay that way.

So how do we read labels? These four easy steps can help:

  1. Look for a certified gluten-free label.
  2. Look to see if it says “contains wheat” or “contains gluten” at the bottom of the ingredients.
  3. Read through ingredients to see if you see any common gluten-containing culprits, such as wheat, barley, rye, malt, etc.
  4. If in doubt, call the company using the phone number that is listed on the package to confirm if the product is gluten free.

The Spoonful app can also be a big help.

Meal planning

The next thing to do is make a list of meal ideas — breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks. Have at least five to 10 in each category, depending on how often you like to eat the same things within a two-week time frame.

Think of what you already cook. Do you need to change any of the ingredients to make it gluten-free or even healthier? Don’t be afraid to alter a recipe you have had for years — this is where you get to experiment and have some fun! 

Choosing brands

Let’s face it — gluten-free shopping becomes expensive when you are buying products that do not taste good and don’t get used. I have a gluten-free guide with good choices for over 130 products.

Also, if you feel overwhelmed with your gluten free life, know that you are not alone. I have been there. I have been through the trenches trying to figure out how to wrap my head around it all. But let me tell you, I have learned some incredible things along my journey. These key principles help me stay in the right headspace and also be educated, informed and have children who thrive with their gluten-free lives. I have taught them how to advocate for themselves, and I want to help you do the same. 

How Do You Know If a Food Is Gluten Free?

One of the key elements to finding your gluten-free groove is finding safe foods to eat. For example:

  • Who can you trust?
  • What restaurants can you go to?
  • What foods can you buy in the store?

In a perfect world, we would all eat whole foods and shop the “outside aisles of the stores,” as the advice goes. But my reality is that I have four kids to feed while working part-time out of the house and working two businesses from my home. So I cannot make everything from scratch. I truly believe we need balance in life. Even balance in our food, and I try my best to do just that.

Tips to make sure your food is gluten free

So how do you ensure the food you’re eating from a restaurant or store is gluten free? Here are a few tips!

1. Scan with an app! I like the Spoonful app and recommend using it as a starting place when evaluating a new item.

2. Look for the certified gluten free logo from the Gluten Intolerance Group. I trust this logo 100%, but I typically will still follow the rest of my steps so I stay in the habit of checking.

3. Read the label, paying special attention to any words that might be hiding gluten, such as “modified food starch” or “hydrolyzed plant protein.”

4. Check the manufacturing information. Is the food made in a facility that manufactures products containing wheat or other gluten-containing grains?

Still not sure? Call the manufacturer! Many companies have their gluten-free information listed on their websites these days, but it never hurts to call directly.

You won’t believe the relief you’ll feel when your gluten-safe products are sorted, labeled and stored in a separate area. (Do you have a gluten-safe kitchen? Get tips for setting one up here!)

Five Top Tips for When You Get Glutened

Having a condition that can be controlled with a special diet is a blessing, but it can also be a curse.

If only gluten were neon pink, it would be obvious if we were consuming something with even a trace of gluten in it. But it’s unfortunately not that clear, so we have to be very careful about what we eat and where we eat it. Even when we try to take all the precautions, we can sometimes suffer major consequences if gluten has somehow found its way into our food. The following are steps that we take in our home when we have consumed gluten (or “get glutened,” as many of us like to say) that we find helpful.

1. Drink plenty of water.

A good rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water a day, but when you’ve been glutened, you need extra hydration. Try to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water to make sure your body is getting the replenishment it needs.

2. Drink herbal teas and/or bone broth.

We have implemented this for the last six months, and it has made all the difference in the world. I feel like it helps recharge your system faster than anything else I have tried. Even when we aren’t necessarily glutened, we find it’s a good way to help heal gut issues.

3. Try essential oils (with the guidance of a healthcare provider).

I wasn’t a “believer” in essential oils, but one night I watched my daughter toss and turn for hours on my bedroom floor in her sleep because she was glutened hours before. It broke my heart and I was desperate, so I decided to try a topical digestive essential oil blend that was deep in the back of a junk drawer. I pulled it out and applied a few drops to her stomach, and within a few minutes she stopped rolling around and laid peacefully throughout the rest of the night. Peppermint or ginger tea can be helpful (just ensure they’re gluten free!).

4. Pay attention to foods.

The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, [gluten-free] toast) is not just for the stomach flu. It can be helpful when you are trying to calm an upset stomach after being glutened. Eating anti-inflammatory foods is also a good choice for helping to counteract the inflammation occurring in your body, and eliminating dairy for a time may also help to calm your gut. (There are plenty of dairy-free alternatives for traditionally milky foods out there now that make this doable!)

5. Get enough sleep.

Rest, rest and more rest! It is often hard to function or focus when you have been glutened. Your body is trying to heal from the damage the gluten caused, so it is important that you do your part and allow it to rest as much as possible.

And a bonus tip: Hope.

Hope for a brighter day tomorrow! This may sound near-impossible in the midst of feeling like you were in a train wreck, but know that tomorrow is another day. Whatever got you down today, don’t let it get you down again — you got this!