Gluten-Free: A Lifestyle, Not a Diet
May Celiac Disease Awareness Month sheds light on the realities of gluten-free living
In recent years, the gluten-free diet has grown tremendously in popularity. Not long ago, the only place gluten-free foods were readily available were hospital stores. Today, not only is it prominent in specialty health food stores, but also in mainstream grocery stores, and even discount retailers.
Gluten-free is the fastest growing specialty food segment with an estimated 18% market penetration and sales foretasted to exceed $6.6 billion in the USi this year alone – almost double its $2.6B size in 2010ii. Yet not long ago, only those suffering from Celiac disease (about 1% of the population) would ever dream about following this diet – a diet that once meant paying exorbitant amounts of money for cardboard-tasting bread, not being able to enjoy a simple birthday cake, and avoiding social dinner outings with friends.
While Celiac disease was once a little known condition, its awareness and acceptance has grown steadily over the past decade. With May marking Celiac Disease Awareness Month, now is the perfect opportunity to continue an open and understanding dialogue about a disease with many faces. An autoimmune disorder, Celiac disease triggers a patient’s immune system to mistakenly attack the intestinal lining in reaction to gluten ingestion. Symptoms range widely from digestive issues to unexplained neurological disorders, which can often make the disease difficult to identify and diagnose. There is currently no cure for the disease, and its only treatment is strict and lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet.
Eating gluten-free is not an easy diet to follow, especially given the typical North American diet which is full of breads, pastas and other wheat-based foods. Thankfully, by learning some simple rules of thumb and by spending some time in the kitchen to re-learn how to cook – it can be easy to embrace gluten-free as a healthy new lifestyle. Celebrated gluten-free author, Victoria Yeh, offers these simple tips to living gluten-free:
1. Don’t Cheat. Cheating on a gluten-free diet not only undermines your health, but can also contribute to more intense cravings. The more you cheat, the harder it will be for you to adhere to your diet.
2. Partner Up. Adhering to a gluten-free diet is much easier if you do it with a friend or partner. When you feel accountable to someone close, you’re more likely to stick to your guns. And if you and your partner do this together, you can purge your house of forbidden foods to remove the temptation (and ability) to cheat.
3. Look for Expert Help. Adapting to a gluten-free diet can seem very complicated at first. Seek the expert advice of the many people around you that have already made the journey successfully.
4. Substitute. Just because you can’t eat wheat or gluten, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy waffles on Sunday. There are great resources available, such as Where Do I Start? Your Essential Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Food Allergy Cookbook (www.GlutenFreeLiving.ca) to teach you how to make successful substitutions to make any recipe gluten-free.
5. Keep Your Goal in Sight. Remember, there’s a reason why you are going gluten free. There is nothing more important in life than good health.
Victoria Yeh is a Toronto based public speaker, educator, author of Where Do I Start? Your Essential Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Food Allergy Cookbook, and owner of GlutenFreeToronto.com. Nominated as one of Canada’s Best 2012 Natural Health & Wellness Authors and Motivators/Educators, Victoria is dedicated to helping others adapt to their specific dietary needs and achieve their very best health. For more information, or to purchase her book and personal cooking lessons, visit www.GlutenFreeToronto.com.