How 'Gluten Free' are YOU?

Discover your rank in the realm of a gluten free life

Over the past years, there has been a significant increase in the number of people adopting a partial or complete gluten free lifestyle. Whilst some of these individuals avoid it out of choice, many are required to refrain from consumption of any wheat, rye, barley and oat products for life. This may be due to Coeliac Disease (an autoimmune disease where gluten cannot be tolerated by the individual, as consumption of gluten containing cereals flattens and inflames the villi in the small bowel), dermatitis herpetiformis (an extremely itchy rash made of bumps and blisters as a result of gluten consumption) or simply a gluten intolerance (where the body has difficulty absorbing nutrients from gluten-containing cereals).

More recently, particularly in Australia, we have seen a tremendous increase in businesses and brands offering gluten free products. This has, without a doubt, had an effect on more individuals choosing to go on a gluten free diet.

But how gluten free are you? If the answer isn't 'completely', then keep reading down. I have developed a self-ranking system. Individuals can always refer to this hub to see where they may rank on the ladder.

(Rank order 1-7)

1. The "fad" approach:

You're keen to give the gluten free diet a go, aren't you. You've heard all sorts of things about it. You've got to see for yourself. It may be to lose weight, become more physically attractive or feel less depressed. Your requirement is most definitely voluntary. You have intentions to keep it up for some time to see if it will make any difference to your health. You have a little bit of an idea of what needs to be avoided in your diet - flour and wheat. Whilst you intend to avoid foods which clearly contain gluten, you continue to find certain 'glutenny' foods just far too tempting to resist. So you'll sneak some of those old 'gluten-laden' favourites back into your diet from time to time. No mention of rye, barley or oats. You know very little, if anything at all, about interpreting ingredients listed on a product. If in doubt, you do all but 'leave it out'. You probably would not have realised (before reading this blog) that beer contains gluten; not to mention the Vodka, Whiskey, Rum and all the rest of it!

Example: You're at a party. Everyone's about to sing 'Happy Birthday' and they're ready to cut the cake! They're about to offer you some. It looks tempting! You feel as though you can't resist. You decide to give in. You 'gluten' yourself!

Another Example: You're keen to keep the bread away at breakfast but simply can't resist the divineness of crumpets, english muffins or croissants. You squeeze one or two into your so called 'gluten free' fad diet, and pretend to commit yourself to following a more strict diet in the future (usually failing to do so before the day is over).

You'll probably opt out of your gluten free diet before a week is over.

2. The "supposed" approach:

The doctor says that you need to go onto a gluten free diet, recommends alternatives and will usually only trial you on it it for a period of time if you haven't been 'officially' tested for Coeliac Disease. You don't seem to really want to avoid gluten. You love your bread and you simply can't give up that delicious italian wheat pasta that you've craved for all your life! Not to mention all the yummy goodies like donuts, baguettes, bagels, croissants, pies, sausage rolls, cakes and cookies. You may be willing to avoid these things but few go past this. You fail to realise that gluten is also present in rye, barley and oats. You probably eat all the flavoured potato chips and lollies, paying little attention to ingredient lists. It is disturbing how much you make life harder for yourself. You get increasingly depressed as you find it in more and more foods every day!

3. The "half-hearted" approach:

You are keen to support those gluten free brands. You certainly don't want to completely avoid gluten, as you already know how many things it's present in. But you certainly do like to make your intolerance to gluten a known fact. Getting pizza on a gluten free base but topping it with topping which aren't gluten free (because you think you know that you can tolerate a little bit of gluten) is an example of something you would do. You are pretty certain that high amounts of gluten cause discomfort and are normally quite willing to avoid most gluten-containing bread-based products, however you always enjoy the occasional gummi (usually with wheat starch in it) and probably are not too worried about cross-contamination. You have a reasonably good idea of what gluten is in. You may or may not avoid foods like gravy, depending on how you feel about it. You know that you need to work hard to go real easy on wheat, rye, barley, however you can't bear the thought of having to completely avoid all their products. You know a thing or two about oats. Some say they're gluten free while others say they aren't. You make a personal choice about oats based on these facts. You are far more gluten free than the average Australian, but far less gluten free than many on the diet.

4. The "risky" approach:

You avoid additions of wheat, rye and barley. You know that these can make you rather queasy and unwell at times. You avoid them at all costs if they're added to products. You can tolerate small amounts of it. You have sometimes been alright after consuming gluten and you're not too worried about if your product is cross-contaminated with small amounts of gluten due to the nature of cooking/processing/manufacturing. You're quite happy to indulge on those fries or potato wedges even if they're cooked in the same oil as battered foods. These small amounts of gluten present in the contaminated cooking oils don't worry you at this point in time. You're keen to have a normal social life so you 'frequently' go and buy pizza on a gluten free base from a franchise or pizza shop that discloses a disclaimer on their menu that the pizza may contain traces of gluten. You may or may not enquire about gluten free toppings, just depends on how with-it you are at the time. The pizza shop takes very little (if any) care to prevent cross-contamination.

(I recently visited a family-owned pizza venue in a very backward area of Australia. There was a sign out front that said "GLUTEN FREE PIZZAS AVAILABLE!" Kids of about 9 or 10 years old were working there because they can't get any better workers in this sort of community. They offer gluten free bases that are bought in. There was very little knowledge amongst these kids about 'gluten free' so the manager came out to talk with me. I asked about gluten free toppings. He said there was no guarantee and was surprised I was so sensitive to gluten. We discussed some of the toppings ingredients etc. and found some that were safe. He then dropped the gluten free base in a heap of flour on the bench because there was no room elsewhere. I told him he'd have to start again because it was no longer gluten free due to contamination. He told me he had basically had enough and that I would either get it 'pretty gluten free' or 'not at all'. I chose the latter and refused to pay. The manager was annoyed I wasted his time but after all, if the term GLUTEN FREE is going to be used, it should be used legally and properly.)

5. The "low-risk" approach:

You are in the majority. Most gluten free individuals would place in this category. You are keen and willing to avoid gluten, and will always ask whether something is or isn't gluten free if unsure. You avoid oats and usually check ingredients reasonably thoroughly on products and are careful and particular about brands you choose. You are keen to keep away from gluten and try to avoid it at all reasonable costs. You are very trusting of places, and sometimes not quite as discerning as you could be. You may have a reaction if a mistake occurs between foodservice staff/chefs. You avoid barbecues at all costs (especially if sausages are cooked on the grill) as well as possibly french fries which contain residual gluten due to deep fryer oil contamination as mentioned earlier. While you are pretty willing to avoid gluten, you still enjoy the occasional gluten-free/friendly pizza from Domino's, Eagle Boys, Crust Pizza, Pizza Capers, or somewhere that offers pizzas of the sort. You, of course, ask about toppings (if you remember) but generally don't worry about cross-contamination in this instance. You only treat yourself to a pizza once every 2-3 weeks anyhow. You entirely trust the Coeliac Society of Australia (CSoA). You rarely look elsewhere for your gluten free advice. You appear to be fine with Wheat Glucose Syrup (as the CSoA, declares it as 'gluten free'). But most of all, you enjoy your gluten free diet.

6. The "Coeliac Disease Management" approach.

You are most likely subscribed to the Coeliac Society of Australia. You thoroughly look through all of their publications and receive the monthly magazine. You are very attentive to looking after your gluten free diet. You are especially careful when preparing your own gluten free sandwiches. You either use toaster bags (available at www.toastabags.com) or a dedicated gluten free toaster. You assume you will be ok if you use separate utensils for preparing your gluten free meals and avoid the four key gluten-containing ingredients namely, wheat, rye, barley and oats. You may or may not be aware that it is currently impossible to accurately measure the gluten content in barley and oats. You therefore avoid all ingredients derived from barley and oats. You probably do not, however, avoid all wheat-derived ingredients. According to the Coeliac Society of Australia, Wheat glucose syrup, Caramel Colour (from wheat), MSG (from wheat) and Dextrose from wheat are essentially gluten free due to being highly processed. You are somewhat discerning when it comes to buying pizzas promoted as 'gluten free' or 'gluten friendly' and may be hesitant to buy one unless you're really stuck for a meal. It may be contaminated... You are very discerning and always do your very best to look after yourself on the gluten free diet.

7. The "dedicated" approach

You are one of the few [ED or perhaps NOT so few (based on some of the below comments)] individuals at the top end of the ladder. You know the gluten free diet inside out, and you're not going to give in, regardless of any circumstances. You are very discerning and know that the Coeliac Society should not be solely relied upon (they use a disclaimer on each and every publication, in case some of you may not have previously been aware of this). You question practices offering gluten free meal options to seek the truth. You avoid all ingredients derived from wheat, rye, barley and oats including those as deemed safe by the CSoA (i.e. wheat sugar syrup, wheat colourings, wheat MSG, etc.). You know your rights as consumers. You are always right. Companies and businesses have to conform to you. Perhaps making your voices heard would help enhance the safety and quality of a gluten-free lifestyle. Remember, though well respected by many bodies around the country and the world, the CSoA definitely has its flaws. This is the rank at which I would situate myself at this point in time, and I would encourage more of the fellow coeliacs out there to work toward the top level. Not only will it keep the Coeiliac Disease symptoms under control but, with persistence in finding meals to suit your needs and desires, you will be able to eat again confident in the knowledge that you are taking all necessary measures to look after your disease!


Poll

Rank your status: How Gluten Free are YOU? (please read the above article before answering!!)

See results without voting

Answer the Poll ----------------->

The above levels of approach outline some common scenarios of individuals who identify themselves on a 'gluten free' diet. If more of us move up the rank we may be very surprised at how our needs are met in society. Join me in this post by leaving a reply and adding your 'gluten free status' to the poll. You could specify where you think you might fall in the ladder...

(look forward to seeing what you have to say!)

More by this Author


Leave a Reply 20 comments

CYBERSUPE profile image

CYBERSUPE 6 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

Awesome Hub, very informative to me for we have two people in my family with Coeliac. Many Thanks for sharing this material.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks CYBERSUPE! Having had many years of being gluten free, I have observed many individuals adopting similar diets. Whilst some do this out of choice, others (particularly those with Coeliac Disease) are required to exclude all gluten from their diet for life.

I created this hub to help inform individuals (not just in Australia) but around the world about possible risks associated with not being completely gluten free.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

I think I have some Gluten in my diet, but not huge quantities. This hub has helped explain some things I did not know about it before. Cool! Thanks for the Hub!


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

problem is that for those of us who have been diagnosed for many many years, we have lived with different instructions from the medical profession! Initially my mum was told i would grow out of it and when i was a teenager I was told I was clear!! but it returned with a vengeance after baby No 3!So i vary between low risk, management and dedicated which is where i am at the moment


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

I have found that individuals who state require 'gluten free' can look after their diets quite differently. My experience has led me to believe that there are commonly about seven different types of gluten-free individuals.

I have posted an interesting topic about how our food can is tested for gluten (or, rather, how it ISN'T!). I found the fact that gluten is only detected in wheat and rye VERY interesting, myself. Take a look: http://hubpages.com/food/food-testing

An interesting case with Lindt (in relation to barley malt in their milk chocolates) can be found here: http://hubpages.com/food/Lindt

CASE1WORKER - I'd be interested in knowing some more about what it was like living gluten free at that time. I feel for the fact that many of our support groups would have been non-existent at that point in time. I also know that our gluten free industry would not have been what it is. I guess we get the good and the bad both ways!

Keep me informed of your findings!


Sharon Olson 6 years ago

In Canada, you can buy gluten free oatmeal - it is guaranteed to be wheat free.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

Sharon Olson - I agree that it is possible to get guaranteed wheat free oatmeal, however there are three unfortunate limitations regarding the labelling of oats as 'gluten free' in Australia that many are unaware of. Oats may well be suitable for wheat-allergic individuals as long as they're not contaminated by wheat or other *gluten containing* cereals.

1. All grains contain some form of gluten. Whilst the gluten in corn, rice, millet, buckwheat, etc. appears to be suitable for coeliac-affected individuals, there is no actual evidence that these grains are free of the same type of gluten present in wheat, rye, etc. We need to be wary of all grains. [There is a bakery near me in the ACT that uses no grains or grain products on premises. Their breads and treats are all made of nuts, seeds and legumes. They craft delicious food every day and since having trialled a grain free diet, I almost wouldn't look back.]

2. Oats contain avenin. Avenin has been known to cause symptoms in a number of coeliacs similar to that of gliadin, secalin and horedin (i.e. wheat, rye and barley respectively). Even though the oats may be 'free of wheat, rye and barley' they are not necessarily suitable for those with coeliac disease (in fact it is very unlikely to be safe for those with coeliacs).

3. It is currently impossible to accurately test for the oat protein (avenin) content which contains gluten. In Australia, any product with barley or oat-derived ingredients cannot be categorised as 'gluten free'. More information: I have published a hub on this topic: http://hubpages.com/food/food-testing

Those gluten free oats you speak of may well be unsuitable for coeliacs. The Coeliac Society of Australia urges individuals affected by coeliac disease or gluten intolerance to avoid oats (despite their limitations). Wheat contamination is barely an issue.

I am aware that many americans consider oats to be gluten free, however I would strongly advise you to be tested for gut damage, etc. before you start consuming them in your normal life!


girly_girl09 profile image

girly_girl09 6 years ago from United States

I liked this hub, nice work! I am a #4, but never ever eat fast food so the pizza scenario doesn't apply. :) I'm not worried about slight contamination, however I do not have Celiacs, rather a gluten intolerance. That is what my food allergist calls it, anyways. I wasn't willing to start eating all sorts of gluten-laced products in order to be officially tested, so I just chose to eliminate it. It's not too hard for me to eat gluten-free as I eat all organic food anyways and it is mostly meat, veggies and fruits. It is difficult to find gluten-free foods that aren't overly processed and are organic, though! I am *extremely* thankful that I can eat possibly cross-contaminated foods such as oatmeal, millet, and brown rice without any noticeable side effects. I thought I'd miss whole wheat (I used to eat that almost daily), but after realizing how amazing I feel now that it's gone, I don't miss it at all!


nzleagle 6 years ago

We found out my daughter had Coeliac after having her treated for cronic costipation from the age of 9 months old, when she was 22 months old I saw a TV segment about coeliac, and noticed that the symptoms they were mentioning were exactly what my daughter was suffering, so we rung the doc, and got the blood test done, her test results came back higher than the doc had ever seen, and pretty much diagnosed her from that, pending a biopsy, 2 weeks before her 2nd birthday she had the biopsy, and since that day we have had her in level 7.

Untill reading this post, I had never heard about glucose surup derived from wheat is possibly gluten free, but our daughters health is too important to us to risk it, the change in her since been GF has been amazing.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 6 years ago from Australia Author

You sound very sensible nzleagle. Glucose syrup is a saccharide, not a protein, and therefore non-allergenic. The advisory statements (stating the presence of wheat) are necessary in case not all of the wheat proteins were removed from the substance.

Unfortunately, very few long-term studies have been done on this front and despite the Coeliac Society's views on this I know of a fair number of Coeliacs who cannot eat glucose.

I have gone with my gut, accepting that wheat glucose syrup is used in a large variety of foods, and avoided it nonetheless. I also, after all these years, have yet to find a product labelled 'gluten-free' that contains wheat-derived glucose syrup.

Thank you for commenting!


moonbun profile image

moonbun 5 years ago from London

I saw a restaurant on a coeliac site, it was 'featured'. Sounded great so I went and had a look at their menu. No mention of gluten free. So I dug some more and found this blog post: http://fooddorks.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/wahaca-g...

Just some of the quotes sent to the blogger by the restaurant:

"therefore should be gluten-free."

"if you follow a wheat-free but not gluten-free diet, or are willing to take a gamble"

"so run the risk of some cross-contamination with wheat products."

"some of the dishes above contain no gluten. Because of the nature of the busy kitchen,we can’t guarantee that anything is strictly gluten-free or doesn’t contain at least trace amounts. Hopefully you will find something for yourself that you feel confident eating."

A place for those with a risky approach only.

Unbelievable.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

I'm not celiac, but I do have a problem with wheat. Fortunately spelt flour is widely available here in the UK, and I do most of my baking with it these days. I wonder what it is about wheat which makes it so difficult to digest?


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia Author

moonbun - Thank you for sharing this with me. That has to be one of the worst forms of 'false gluten free advertising' I have seen to date. I particularly take offence to one particular statement you mentioned about following a wheat but not gluten free diet and especially the "take a gamble" business.

Have they absolutely no idea at all about the implications of Coeliac Disease. Do they not care about our health. And to say that those on a wheat free diet can consume their products when they have come in contact with wheat?

I will be taking this restaurant to task once I find out more and will keep you posted. Thanks again for sharing.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia Author

Amanda Severn - Thanks for stopping by. I think that gluten, as the name implies, can often act like a particular 'glue'. I personally feel that the whole gluten topic is still seriously understudied. That being said, some wonder whether there is such a condition as gluten intolerance, as more people are now developing Fructose Malabsorption Allergies. Though not presently as common as lactose intolerance, fructose is present in a vast array of foods and one food in particular that is quite high in fructose (oddly enough) is wheat (along with apples, onions and honey just to name a few of the main sources of fructose).

There is little evidence of this as being the main source of non-coeliac gluten intolerance, however - this was just mentioned at the last gluten free expo.

But thanks for asking about this as I'm quite interested in the topic myself, too.


moonbun profile image

moonbun 5 years ago from London

I mentioned this elsewhere and the restaurant contacted me asking me to email them.

I did and this was the response I got:

Thank you very much for your message.

To get involved in all things Mexican and market related, why not join our mailing list?

Sign up now. Visit http ://www.wahaca.co.uk/html/9_registrationFORM.html

Automated rubbish.

Glad to share any instances like this with you, the more people are aware the better off we'll be.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia Author

Hi moonbun,

You're absolutely right. Whenever I post on any business to criticise their false/illegal 'gluten' free labelling, I always give them the courtesy of contacting them via email. They can respond as they wish to outline their position with regard to gluten free labelling (though I must admit I still have not received ANY replies at all from many of these - sometimes I just get greeted with automated rubbish, just as you mentioned above).

Grill'd is a business in Australia that I am really rather ticked off with at the moment. My post on them http://hubpages.com/t/210f4d highlights this.

Hopefully through blogging, some of these concerns can be addressed.

Thanks for stopping by.


Margaret 5 years ago

This is condescending and rude. I have been diagnosed as a coeliac (and obviously I'm at "level 7" on your hierarchy), but I have met people at your other "levels" with other health problems, and I don't see what is so wrong with their approach. There is nothing wrong with someone who is depressed or who has indigestion or who has trouble losing weight cutting back on gluten to see if it's part of the problem. I wouldn't refer to someone who has a health problem such as an inability to lose weight as a "fad dieter". That's just rude. I have a good friend with Crohn's disease who becomes very ill if she eats large amounts of gluten, like a slice of bread or bowl of pasta, but she can tolerate small amounts, like a bit of wheat flour in a soup or sauce. She's not a "fad dieter" or "half-hearted". She simply has different needs, but Crohn's is a serious autoimmune disease just like coeliac is!

Obviously if someone does not have coeliac disease they don't need to avoid every source of cross contamination, but there is a lot of scientific evidence linking gluten consumption to many other health problems, which has led some people to simply cut back on it. There is nothing wrong with their approach, and certainly no need to make pages "ranking" how gluten free someone is and mocking people by saying things like, "you know very little, if anything at all". It's rude and uncalled for! I don't feel like I am better than other people simply because I have coeliac disease! We're all in this together and we need to support one another, regardless of how severe our need to be gluten-free is.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 5 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for stopping by, Margaret. Yes, you are right in that there are many conditions associated with gluten sensitivity and many remain uncovered.

I never intended to be rude or condescending toward anyone, and I do apologize if it came across this way. I constructed this hub mainly in the interests of those suffering from coeliac disease, as this is the most well-known and severe manifestation of the whole 'gluten sensitivity' picture. Hope this helps clarify some of your concerns.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 4 years ago from USA

I have Crohns disease that just hasn't been controlled by medication. I already know that I can't tolerate milk, but I think I will try getting the gluten out of my diet and see if matters improve. Thanks for the good education I received here. Even the comments are helpful.


infonolan profile image

infonolan 4 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for commenting Barbara. Hope it's all going well. :-)

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