Going Gluten-Free With Multiple Sclerosis

Your 4 Week Plan to Going Gluten-Free

gluten-free baked goods
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Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) decide to give up gluten. Going gluten-free is suggested by several diets for MS, including a key component of the popular Best Bet Diet and the MS Recovery Diet, and can help with food sensitivities in MS. Anecdotally, many people with MS who have changed their diet or given up gluten claim huge improvements in how they feel.

This article is not about whether you should go gluten-free or not, rather it is about how to give up gluten if you decide to do it.

When you go gluten-free, you might initially think that just means giving up bread and baked goods. However, these things are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more food items that contain gluten. 

Four Weeks to Becoming Gluten-Free

It may take some trial and error to figure out how to adapt your diet and your lifestyle in the process to becoming gluten-free. This is a four-week, four-step plan to going gluten free. Of course, you may choose to either extend or condense the weeks to suit your preferences. 

Step 1: Eliminate the Obvious

This is probably the most challenging part of giving up gluten. You will cut out all obvious foods that contain gluten – anything with wheat, barley, or rye. No doubt, many of your favorite foods will be on this new "no-no" list. You will make mistakes. You will fall "off the gluten wagon" when you are first starting. Keep trying and you will eventually find solutions to some of your biggest gluten challenges and maybe even find things that you like better.

Step 2: Find (and Eliminate) Hidden Sources of Gluten

During this step, you will take a much closer look at what you are eating. Hopefully, you have successfully gotten rid of many of the gluten biggies – pasta, bread, beer, baked goods, etc. Now it is time to really start reading labels and learning about the places where gluten hides. This can be intimidating at first, but you will quickly learn to identify foods by reading labels that are potentially problematic, as well as find gluten-free solutions.

Step 3: Master Restaurant Situations

It's one thing to follow a restricted diet when you are preparing your own foods, but when you go to a restaurant, things can be more challenging. You will need to practice reading menus very closely for hidden sources of gluten. You also need to get comfortable asking waiters about menu items and asking for substitutions, which can be a challenge in itself for many people. Eventually, you will become comfortable asking for vegetables or salad in place of pasta or for a simple butter sauce rather than the flour-containing Alfredo sauce on your fish.

Take heart – many, many restaurants have made this much easier for you by offering a gluten-free menu, which you can ask for when you are seated. Not only does this get rid of much discussion about individual items, but it also helps avoid the temptation and stress of combing through the full menu.

Step 4: Experiment

As you get more comfortable shopping for and preparing gluten-free foods, you'll want to expand your horizons. Experiment with new recipes and cuisines. Take gluten-free cooking classes. Try regional cuisines – most Asian food and Mexican food, for instance, can be prepared in a gluten-free way. And if it turns out that going gluten-free isn't for you and you see no improvements in how you feel, don't be harsh on yourself. It's easier to incorporate the gluten back in than it is to cut it out, and you've lost nothing. 

Bottom Line

Focus on what you're adding, rather than what you're taking out of your diet. Following the steps outlined above will help you to tackle the process in pieces. Think of it as a challenge. Reward yourself with special (gluten-free) treats as you successfully make it through whole days and weeks without gluten. 

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