If you eliminated gluten from your diet due to Celiac disease, IBS, IBD, or another health problem, then you likely felt much better for a while. Does it now seem like your gluten-free diet “stopped working?” The truth is that if gluten was exasperating or causing your health condition, then the health benefits of eliminating gluten should never “wear off” or stop working.
The more likely problem you are having is that you are eating foods with ingredients or proteins that your body “thinks” are gluten due to their similar molecular structures. Read on to find out what these items are, so you can take them out of your diet and begin to feel healthy again!
1. Xanthan gum
Xanthan gum is a very common additive in gluten-free breads, pizza crusts, and baked goods. It is also added to many store-bought milk substitutes, such as soy milk, almond milk, and other plant milks.
Xanthan gum does not contain gluten, but it is a long-chain molecule with a similar structure to gluten. That is exactly why so many baked gluten-free products contain it. It “behaves” like gluten and gives those gluten-free baked products the texture and mouth-feel that gluten would.
It is added to plant milks as a thickener, although it is added to many, many foods and even used as a thickener in cosmetics and healthcare products.
Xanthan gum is so closely related in structure to gluten that even many Celiac disease sufferers must avoid it. If you eliminated it due to IBS, IBD, or other digestion problems, realize that the reason you likely had a problem digesting gluten was due to the long-chain molecular structure of it, which unfortunately, xanthan gum also has.
If you check labels well, you can likely find some gluten-free baked goods that contain other texture enhancers instead of xanthan gum. However, making your own gluten-free baked goods at home is the best alternative, because you can control exactly what goes in them.
2. Foods that Cross React with Gluten
When you have a gluten intolerance, there are, unfortunately, many foods that don’t contain gluten that you may also have an intolerance to. These foods contain proteins that are also similar in structure to gluten. The bad news is that there is a long list of foods that contain proteins of similar structure to gluten, but the good news is that not every person who is gluten intolerant or has Celiac disease will react to every one. You can find the list of foods that cross-react with gluten here.
How can you determine which pose a problem for you? The quickest way would be to have a blood test performed that checks for whether your blood produces antibodies when exposed to the specific proteins in these foods.
However, elimination diets can give you the answers you need without the medical testing. Instead of starting with a bland base diet and adding all the foods back in you eat on the list, you can instead remove the potential culprits one by one until you feel better. Good luck on your journey back to great health!