Cleanse Clarity: 5 Tips for Leaving Gluten Behind

The gluten-free diet is imperative for those who have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the consumption of gluten—a family of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye (and their hybrids). In this case, gluten can cause the body to react in negative ways, damaging the small intestine and causing a wide range of symptoms, including but not limited to those that are gastroenterological. The most effective way to limit the pain and discomfort of celiac disease is to avoid gluten completely. Individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) also need to follow a gluten-free diet.

In addition, some health professionals recommend eliminating gluten from the diet to help manage and reverse a variety of medical conditions or as a short-term cleanse. Generally speaking, cleanse diets can range from ones that replace a couple daily meals with organic juices to more extreme types where food is more restricted. They can also range from one to two days to several months. Any cleanse that lasts more than two days should be supervised by a physician.

If you have been advised to eliminate gluten from your diet in order to cleanse your body, here are some key steps you can take. It’s important to note that if your doctor suspects you have celiac starting a gluten-free diet may be advisable following a biopsy. Going gluten free before might make diagnosis more difficult. Never make changes to your diet or start a specific cleanse diet before consulting with your health care provider first

5. Understand gluten

If you are considering a gluten-free diet, one of the most important steps is to understand what gluten is and how it can interact with the body. Gluten functions as a natural binding agent, allowing these foods to maintain their shape and consistency. While whole grains can provide necessary health benefits, for some people, digesting gluten products can be quite dangerous. Individuals who are considered intolerant to gluten have celiac disease. If left undiagnosed, celiac disease can lead to dangerous long-term effects and health complications from coronary artery disease to intestinal cancers. It is estimated that 1 in every 100 people suffer from some form of gluten intolerance, with 60% to 70% of those diagnosed with celiac disease being women. Celiac disease is often hereditary, and symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain in children and anemia or fatigue in adults as well as numerous effects for individuals of any age. 

4. Read ingredient labels

Typically, when purchasing packaged food, it is best to look for a certified gluten-free mark, which typically indicates a product has been manufactured in a gluten-free facility or contains virtually no gluten. However, even with stickers or advertisements, it can be difficult to truly know whether something is actually gluten free. The American Chemical Society argues that even gluten-free labeled products are not always completely gluten free. FDA labeling is an important clue for anyone looking to change their diet and pursue a gluten-free cleanse. It is vital to correctly read packaged food labels to ensure that you are not consuming hidden gluten.

In order for a food item to be considered gluten free, it must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten. It is also imperative to remember that “wheat free” does not always mean “gluten free.” For instance, the Celiac Disease Foundation provides a checklist for reading packaged food labels that advise consumers to check for obvious ingredients like wheat, barley, rye, oats (oats are often contaminated with wheat because they grow in the same fields), malt and brewer’s yeast. As well, consumers should always read the allergen statement indicated on food labels; typically the statement may read “contains wheat;” however, if the allergen statement doesn’t include a gluten warning, you should check the ingredient list in order to ensure the product in question is completely gluten free. 

While labels may state that something is gluten free, researchers at Kansas State University argue that not everything that is considered gluten free is healthy. This is key if you are eliminating gluten to cleanse your body. Mark Haub, associate professor at Kansas State and head of the department of food, nutrition, dietetics and health in the College of Human Ecology, urges those who are on a gluten-free diet to keep a close eye on their caloric intake since sorghum (a gluten-free alternative), corn or rice flour have a similar caloric density to wheat flour, which might lead individuals to over-eat, as they may believe they are consuming fewer calories. While approximately 1% of people have celiac disease, Haub argues that if diets are rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables in conjunction with portion control, a gluten-free diet can also be beneficial for those without celiac disease or related conditions. 

3. Clean out your pantry

To begin your gluten-free diet or cleanse, it is important to completely re-organize your kitchen. Products like regular bagels, non-gluten-free breads and pastas, some gravies and sauces, flour tortillas and chips are just a few common food items that are not conducive to the gluten-free diet. These products can have adverse effects on the body for those suffering from celiac disease and for those looking for healthful dietary options.

Fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meat, fish and most dairy products are gluten free and safe to incorporate into your diet. There are several healthy gluten-free grain alternatives to restock your pantry with, including sorghum, polenta, brown rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat. Sorghum, a type of bran, is high in antioxidants, surpassing levels found in blueberries and pomegranates. Researchers from the University of Georgia measured compounds within sorghum and found that two variates, black and sumac, had properties associated with reducing inflammation. Diane Hartle, the study’s co-author, argued that sorghum bran delivers not only fiber but many other antioxidants as well.

2. Create a gluten-free home

Another important step is to make sure other products within your home are gluten free as well. Many people are unaware that medication, cosmetics, toothpaste and hair products can contain gluten as an added, low-cost filler.

Luckily, some companies have started producing gluten-free cosmetics, including bareMinerals and Marcelle. Some companies already sell home care products that don’t utilize gluten as filler, such as Acure, Dove and Paul Mitchell. Researchers from George Washington University found that cosmetics, including lip and body lotion products, harbor gluten additives. Sometimes an individual with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can experience rashes and/or negative reactions to the skin. The researchers note individuals searching for gluten-free cosmetics and lotions have to observe ingredient labels or contact manufacturers to ensure the products are safe.                                                                                                                                                           

1. Drink lots of water

Last but not least, water is where it’s at! Consuming adequate amounts of water on a daily basis is important, especially throughout a gluten-free cleanse. Typically, water can help control weight and reduce sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake, all of which can be associated with a gluten-heavy diet. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted a study involving 18,300 American adults regarding water consumption and found that increasing plain water consumption by 1% can reduce the daily intake of sodium, cholesterol, sugar and saturated fat. Researchers detailed how adding 1 to 3 cups of water to your diet can decrease daily caloric intake by 68 to 205 calories. As well, cholesterol consumption can lessen by 7 to 21 milligrams and sugar can fall by 5 to 18 grams daily. 

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