Becoming Gluten Free
The last nine years of my life have been a roller coaster with gluten.
I’m going to take the time to tell a little bit of my story… because it’s my hope that it may bless and help someone. (If you are pressed for time and just want the bullet list of 17 Hidden Sources of Gluten In Your Kitchen, scroll down.)
Nine years ago I began making my own homemade bread, using my Bosch mixer to crank out 6 loaves of delicious gluten goodness every week. When you make 6 loaves of bread every week, you go through a lot of flour – I was buying one or two 5lb bags of flour every week!
It wasn’t long before I took the plunge and invested in a flour mill. I became a whole-wheat flour convert – grinding my own flour and sharing it with friends. Every few months I’d purchase a buy a 50lb bag of wheat berries, milling them in my flour mill.
Fast forward a few years
One of my kids developed a massive gluten intolerance, due to some difficult GI issues. For her health and safety, we ended up going grain-free (GAPS diet) for 18+ months.
God gave her some miraculous healing and we slowly worked grains back into our lives – this time experimenting with sprouting and soaking. I would soak my wheat berries, sprout them, dehydrate them, and THEN mill them in my grain mill – all to create sprouted flour. Which I THEN would bake into bread.
Talk about a time investment!
That regimen was WAY too much to keep up with, especially with a new baby in the house.
We still tried to keep our overall wheat intake lower, focusing on spelt, einkorn, and other non-traditional grains.
My Own Health Crisis
Everything changed Thanksgiving 2015.
First, I came down with shingles on Black Friday. I was unbelievably sick and exhausted for a month, unable to leave my house until Christmas. In order to survive, we relied more and more upon grains to get us through – though we still tried to make healthy choices: whole grain crackers, einkorn noodles, sprouted Ezekiel bread.
January – We discovered that I had a thyroid disease. So the dance of regulating my thyroid began.
February – I contracted mono. My energy went from low to zero.
March – I had slipped into a pretty deep depression, fueled by absolute exhaustion. My joints hurt. I was gaining weight like crazy, despite hardly eating. I felt like I was living in a fog and it was a desperate struggle to just keep up with life.
It was from this place of desperation that I wrote from my heart about how to cook for your family when depression strikes.
April – This month ushered in some very serious health problems – too many to write about. We bought cereal for the first time in years. Lunch was cheese and crackers. Dinner was pasta or frozen pizza or grilled cheese.
Without realizing it, our diet became gluten, gluten, and more gluten.
May – My husband and I did a Whole30 type challenge. I was surprised how quickly I began to notice an improvement…
My joints didn’t feel like cement.
I wasn’t bloating like I was 7 months pregnant by the end of the day.
I felt clear headed and saw the first glimmer of energy in months.
I could make it through the day without having to lie down every other hour.
Things didn’t finally click until July 2016, when the doc diagnosed me with Celiac Disease – a disease where your body essentially attacks itself when it consumes gluten. Without removing gluten, serious harm can occur.
Going Gluten Free – Again
I was no stranger to eating gluten free. We stopped eating wheat, rye, spelt, and einkorn. We watched out for gluten additives in food. We used gluten-free soap, shampoo, and toothpaste.
But I was still getting sick.
After doing some research, I realized I needed to deep clean my kitchen and replace a lot of my equipment.
The difference has been astounding. Friends keep commenting on how healthy I look. I’m losing weight. My energy is growing. I’m more emotionally stable and have energy to spend time with my kids.
ALL BECAUSE I REPLACED MY COOKING TOOLS.
Rather, I would NEVER have dreamed that my [clean] kitchen equipment could actually still be making me sick. Gluten cross-contamination is a real thing. We were blessed with friends from around the country who pitched together to help me replace my kitchen. Please read the following with hope, not despair.
17 Hidden Sources of Gluten In Your Kitchen – Gluten Free Kitchen Rules
I was able to save my pyrex bakeware (scrubbing it really well), but I had to get rid of my high quality muffin tins – because gluten build up can hide in the cracks and joints.
2. Pots and Pans
Remember all that pasta I had been boiling? My pots had interior rivets. Even though they were stainless steel, they still had a ring of pasta-scum around those rivets. I scrubbed a long time… and couldn’t get it clean. I tried ‘cheating’ and keeping them, but they still got me noticeably sick.
3. Baking Pans
Notice that lovely patina on the bakeware? That patina seasons your pan and helps your items to not stick. Sadly, that patina can be formed from oil + flour, which traps the gluten. My pans also had some grooves and scratches. So they had to go.
4. Wooden Anything
My beloved bamboo tools? My trusty cutting boards? My wooden rolling pin? My artisan hand-carved wooden serving ware? All had to go. Wood is porous and no amount of cleaning was able to make it safe for me.
5. Cooling Racks
Years of making bread, muffins, cookies, biscuits, cracker – all cooled on my cooling racks. There’s no way one can scrub all the sides and corners of these.
6. Anything Open
My toothpicks (used for testing the doneness of baked goods), muffin liners, foil wrap, parchment paper rolls – all were touched with floury hands or were suspect to cross- contamination.
7. Colanders and Strainers
This probably goes without saying, but if you have a colander that has strained wheat pasta STOP USING IT. There’s no way you can clean out all the little holes and crevices. Pasta water is VERY sticky and pervasive. I also used my strainer to rinse wheat berries that I sprouted. Sniff.
Although we try to avoid plastics, some were still unavoidable in our house. Because plastic is porous, all my plastic (and Tupperware) had to go.
Speaking of porous material, all stoneware MUST go. There is NO amount of cleaning you can do to get gluten out of stoneware – which is very sad.
10. Cast Iron
If you’ve been a KS reader for awhile, you’ll have heard me sing the praises of enameled cast iron. I’m so so SO thankful to report that I was able to keep all my enameled cast iron! The porcelain coating provided a barrier to keep the gluten out. (Phew.)
However, my regular cast iron had to go. I’m told that one could strip the pan and re-season it to possibly make it safe, but my reactivity is strong enough that it wasn’t worth the risk.
11. Miscellaneous Kitchen Tools
My high-quality kitchen scoops (used for scooping muffins, cookies, meatloaf, etc) had too many moving parts to get them clean. Similarly, my rubber spatulas had removable heads. I couldn’t guarantee that I could get them clean. There were many small tools that I thought “Oh, I don’t need to get rid of this!” and so I would use it and promptly get violently ill.
12. Storage Containers
Okay – go ahead and laugh. Yes, this is me. Keeping gluten-free Larabars in my old wheat gluten powder container. I was trying to be frugal and reuse old containers. Likewise, I stored my 40lb bag of rice in my old wheat bins. So I had to give away all of my rice because of cross-contamination. Scrutinize what you keep your stuff in!
13. Freezer Food
Oh, this hurt. I had made a bunch of freezer meals right before I was diagnosed with Celiac. I thought, “Hey, these are gluten-free! I should be fine!” But they were made with my old equipment. And sure enough, I got so so so sick. So I had to purge everything out of my freezer. The bright side? I was able to bless some friends in need.
14. Opened Spices, Herbs, Baking Supplies, Oils, Condiments
See these beautiful, grain-free chocolate cupcakes? I got violently ill when I ate them. Turns out that I used ingredients that had been previously cross-contaminated with wheat (baking soda, cocoa powder, coconut oil, etc).
Since gluten goes airborne, it’s easy for it to contaminate. Even if you don’t double-dip, if the containers are open while flour is involved, you run high risk. And I got whammied. Similarly, watch out for your butter dish, open containers of nut butters, jelly jars, honey pots, mayo jars, even salad dressing jars – any of these can become cross- contaminated!!!
15. Toaster / Toaster Oven
If gluten is an issue, you must must must replace your toaster / toaster oven. If gluten is still in your house, keep a dedicated toaster just for those who must go GF. I personally don’t believe that bread is evil, but your body will think so if you cross-contaminate your toaster!
16. Silverware Drawer
I would never have thought of this until a friend pointed it out. The silverware drawer somehow becomes a magical collection of all-things crumbs. This is a pic from a [very clean] lodge we stayed at for a week. Sure enough, the silverware drawer had a large assortment of crumbs.
We didn’t get rid of our silverware divider, but we did empty everything, run it through the dishwasher, scrub the container, and replace it. Actually, even if you don’t have gluten issues in your house, go clean your silverware drawer! It will equally surprise and scare you…
17. Check Your Food!
I never thought I would find wheat on my nuts. But after eating a handful (and getting sick), I flipped the bag over and was horrified. These nuts were: “Processed on equipment that also processes peanuts, other tree nuts, milk, soy, and wheat.” I never, ever would have thought to double check my nuts, dried fruit, or other ‘safe’ foods.
So there you are. The 17 unsuspecting places we found gluten in our kitchen. I don’t expect your journey to look like mine and you may have issues with gluten and be able to use everything from this list just fine. But if you find you’re not feeling the best you could, it might be worth doing a gluten-hunt in your house.
Looking for more Gluten Free Posts?
- Easy Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins
- Packing a Gluten Free Lunch
- Balancing a Gluten Free Diet while working from home with 4 Kids
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Recipe
- Gluten-Free Soft Pumpkin Cookie Recipe
- Gluten-Free Apple Flax Muffin Recipe
- Gluten-Free Camping Menu
- Easy Gluten-Free Pancake Recipe
- 7 Easy Steps to Gluten-Free Survival Mode
This is perfect if you’ve just been told you need a GF diet, if you have a friend or family member eating GF and you’d like to cook for them, or if you’re just curious what it’s all about!