After being diagnosed with celiac sprue I went to see a dietitian. Although, I have a higher education in food processing thus also a good idea what gluten is and where it can hide, I was curious what information is given to a patient by a dietitian in a hospital. I have achieved a master degree in diet for diabetics and followed nutri-science courses in Poland and in The Netherlands. Overall, nutrition is not an abstract term to me. Nonetheless, I am glad I scheduled a meeting with a dietitian, I was taught about Livaad.nl, NCV (Dutch Celiac Association) and the availability of gluten free brands on the Dutch market.
What I, however, did not like to hear from a dietitian was that E-numbers are good for me, dot. No need to watch out, no need to minimalize their intake, no restraints. What I do know is that every food additive has its maximum amount that can be consumed in order to not provoke any negative effect. Gluten free products are packed with food additives because the ingredients used need to mimic functionality of gluten. And the latter is so unique that gluten is used in almost all food products available.
Theoretically, a healthy person would consume random bread, muffin or cookie with a glass of milk. A Celiac will consume gluten free bread (containing guar gum or xanthan gum or both – just as an example), a gluten free muffin (same here) and a gluten free cookie (same here) with a glass of almond milk (same here). Now, each of the manufacturers is allowed to add a certain amount of guar gum per product so we do not suffer from undesired side effects. Each product, individually, can contain a ‘safe amount’ but nobody controls the daily intake of a particular food additive per day per individual person. Personally, I hoped to be warned about it by the dietitian but I had to leave disappointed. I even heard: ‘E numbers are good for you’. No exceptions?!
I read in multiple publications that ‘The gluten-free diet is the wrong prescription for Celiac Disease’. I have a reason to agree with it: ‘Only a few percent of Celiacs do not have inflamed intestine even after a couple of years on gluten free diet’.
Although, gluten is the main ‘offender’ in Celiacs health, we are not being informed that the Celiac’s gut is ruthlessly damaged and extremely vulnerable to poor food choices. There are theories saying that the human diet in highly developed countries contributes to the activation of an autoimmune disease. I cannot understand how a diet which induced a health condition is further prescribed to heal the condition. We are prescribed a diet that removes highly processed products containing gluten (must go!) and food additives but introduces new highly processed food products with a tiny amount of gluten (<20ppm) (still not sure about that one, you?) and a bomb of food additives (of which the most common side effects are gastrointestinal symptoms). Harsh food processing destroys nutritional value of foods and especially Celiacs are deprived of significant minerals and vitamins.
Once diagnosed with a celiac condition or even a few autoimmune conditions, we would do best by minimizing the intake of processed foods and increase consumption of fresh foods like vegetables and at home prepared meat or fish. To do ourselves even a bigger favor, we could choose for foods especially supporting the immune system’s health and decrease inflammation (anti inflammatory diet). I am not saying that we shouldn’t eat processed foods at all (unless you can and want) but in order to heal – the best is to use them in moderation and accompanied by fresh products. The most of the healing process takes place during the first year of being on a gluten free diet.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to cook from scratch and prepare our meals at home. I am aware of the fact that not everyone has the comfort of eating fresh foods during all daily meals. Due to the busy schedule which does not leave much time for cooking or baking from scratch, constant traveling or leading another busy lifestyle, we need to rely on ready gluten free food products. For whatever reason you can not eat fresh, do not worry. There are many gluten free products available. Some are of a better quality than other. Personally, I rely on ready products from time to time as well. This is why you will find products reviews on my blog too. I hope you will find them informative.
The best advice from me is to cook from scratch whenever possible. When this is not an option, try to increase the intake of healthy snacks like vegetables & fruits and nuts (one hand of nuts per day is considered healthy) – simple whole foods that can be enjoyed without prior preparation.
*Please, keep in mind that everyone’s body chemistry is different. What is considered healthy for one person might not be healthy for another person. Each person has its unique sensitivity level to the gluten contamination or other food sensitivities. I suggest to listen carefully to how your body reacts to individual foods.
Wishing you best,