The good news is that there are thousands of more resources available online and in print that can help you succeed when switching to a gluten-free diet if you suffer from gluten intolerance. The other side of the coin is that it is still you who has to do all the work. Just as we do not see everyone getting rich quick just because of the proliferation of 'get rich quick' publications, the public will not all succeed on their gluten-free diets just because of the glut of literature and pop advice that has flooded bookstores and the internet in the past couple of years. This article will cover some of the key elements which might be overlooked or underestimated when beginning a gluten-free diet for the first time that may contribute to an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate gluten or to alleviate symptoms.
The first question I like to ask individuals is, "Just how intolerant are you?" The truth is that while some have a good idea, especially if they are at either end of the spectrum, many more are not sure how to respond. The blank looks I get generally stem from a few different reasons. Some people may have gone gluten-free a long time ago and now are essentially symptom free, although they do not know even if they are gluten sensitive, gluten intolerant, or full blown celiac. I do meet people who have taken the proactive step of eliminating gluten from their diet when they identified that they symptoms they were experiencing could be caused by a gluten issue. Even where this step was based upon a self-diagnosis, if that individual now has a much higher quality of life, with a great reduction in symptoms, why should they really need or want to get any additional testing where it would involve the resumption of a gluten-based diet for weeks or months. Other people are not celiac but somewhere in the middle and are not sure if they can get away with any cheating or not. I could go on here, what I am getting at is you should have a very honest opinion about whether you need an absolute and lifelong gluten-free diet. If the answer for you, like for me, is absolutely yes, then two things need to happen. You need to never cheat. In addition, you need to learn how to protect yourself from gluten that surrounds you and the cross-contamination in the nooks and crannies of your lifestyle. I believe that there are any people who are very gluten intolerant who fail because going completely and absolutely gluten-free is so very difficult that they will assume that they have eliminated all of it and when their symptoms do not disappear, they falsely believe that something else other than gluten intolerance must be the cause. It took me years to eliminate all the gluten from my life and alleviate 98% of my gluten intolerance related symptoms.
As you can see, if you are just starting out, even knowing the basic ins and outs, such as terminology can be difficult. This real problem with that is that a successful long-term diet needs to be based on habits just like any other behaviours that stick over the long term. If you suddenly find yourself in the position of having to radically alter the way in which you eat and live, building habits out of all of these new experiences and behaviours, as well as making the proper adjustments where you make mistakes, is a very large challenge.
Focus on and value each element that you are altering in your life. You want them each one to stick. You need them all to. Remember that if anyone fails you will be suffering again. Every small change is essential to your long-term success and that is why you need to value each one of them. Eliminate idea from your mind that the thought that cheating is acceptable in any form. Not only is it essential for you to stop damaging your intestinal villi, but you also will be damaging your resolve and devaluing your habits, making it easier for them to dissolve, returning you to the suffering of reduced wellness.
The three major ways in which I see people succeed and eliminate their symptoms and get on the path to habits that will last a lifetime are as follows:
- A support group to reinforce each new idea and help you screen behaviours and guard against setbacks. This does not have to be an organized group or twelve step. There are an almost unlimited way to find like minds and share experiences in a way that will reinforce how important the goal of staying gluten-free really is. This is one time when complaining to each other over tea for hours about old suffering stories might actually help.
- Starting out with the very basics. This is what I did, and it really was not a cup of tea, to tell you the truth. I started out with rice and veggies, along with plain meats. Slowly over the years, one product per week or per month I expanded my diet, while doing my best to avoid gluten pitfalls. The benefit of this method is it requires no support, and it allows you to identify ingredients or products one at a time in isolation, determining if they are safe or not. You do not want to introduce many new products at once, and then suffer gluten intolerance symptoms but have no idea which product or ingredient is the cause.
- You can study hard in the beginning with the resources on the internet, discovering the ways that the recipes that you already eat can be modified with certified gluten-free ingredients. The advantage of this method is that you do not have to rebuild the way you lead your life very much. If you get past the initial very steep learning curve, you can really do well in maintaining your quality of life compared with option number 2.