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Do I have to be Gluten-Free?

Let’s be real.. No one wants to be gluten free. The thought of sacrificing those delicious cinnamon buns, Italian subs, poppy seed bagels, chocolate chip cookies… It’s tough.

For some of us, the thought of being grouped with a lot of the other gluten free fanatics that see it almost like a religion can be unappealing too...

But, the truth of the matter is we can’t force feed our body something it is vocal about not liking.

Gluten reactions occur in the majority of its consumers. The reactions are varied though. I myself get brain fog and feel lethargic. Others break out or get rashes. Some have stomach aches or diarrhea. The list goes on. Here are some common symptoms… any sound familiar?


  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Brain Fog

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Arthritis

  • Fatigue

  • Tooth enamel defects

  • Diarrhea

  • Bone or joint pain

  • Infertility

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Irregularity in menstrual cycles

  • Extremity numbness

  • Skin rashes or acne

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures

  • Foul smelling, pale colored stool


One of the reasons gluten causes a variety of reactions in people is because gluten is an inflammatory, which means it causes inflammation in your body. That will manifest itself differently depending on the person.

If you are more prone to breaking out or getting skin rashes, gluten will magnify that reaction. If your digestive tract is a little less stable, inflammation will probably manifest itself there. This is why gluten sensitivities are hard to nail down because there’s no one size fits all diagnosis.

Gluten has also been shown to cause thyroid and cerebellum problems. Thyroid issues are rampant these days. There are more people with thyroid dysfunction now than ever. That’s not all gluten’s fault of course but it certainly doesn’t help. Cerebellum problems can show up as vertigo, dizziness, balance issues… to mention just a few.


So if you think you may be having reactions to gluten, or are just interested in giving this a shot and see what your results are, here are foods you should avoid (some may surprise you). Ignore those below if they specify they are certified gluten free on their packaging:

  • Grains: Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats 

  • Baked goods

  • Beer

  • Pasta

  • Processed meats

  • Breads

  • Couscous

  • Crab cakes, meatloaf

  • Gravy

  • Soy sauce

  • Candy

  • Chips

  • Fish sticks or anything battered

  • Croutons

  • Marinades and sauces

  • Veggie burgers

This is not a comprehensive list. There are other items that can contain gluten but for those who are not celiac, cutting out the major sources of gluten is an excellent start. These days, too, companies are very aware of the need to provide gluten free options so they are generous with their labeling… I’ve even seen water bottles with the Certified Gluten Free label…. Overkill?

Look out for this label on items to know it's a go:

So, what can I eat?

Ok, here are some alternatives to some of our favorite gluten goodies to get you going. Most of these are available at New Leaf, Staff of Life, Aptos Natural, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Costco or any of your local natural food stores.

Flour:Bob’s Red Mill, Pamela’s, King Arthur, Arrowhead, Glutino

Pasta: Ancient Harvest, Nuovo, Jovial, Sea Tangle, Manini’s

Bread:Melinda’s, Udi’s, Rudi’s, Canyon  Bakery, Sonoma, Silver Mill

Granola:KIND, Boulder, Udi's

Pizza:Conte’s, Amy’s Rice Crust Pizzas, Daiya

Pastries: Han’s Kitchen, Hail Merry, Mariosa, WOW

If you're local, check out some of our go to Santa Cruz places that offer tasty options.


Donuts at Melinda’s bakery

Coconut macaroons by Hail Merry found at New Leaf or Whole Foods

Brownie Mix at Trader Joe’s

Savory: Gluten free pizza at East Side Eatery

Gluten Free sandwiches at Zoccoli’s or The Farm

Staff of Life, New Leaf, Whole Foods food bars

Bread: Fresh gluten free honey oat bread from Melinda’s

If you've found some delicious menu options, recipes, or local restaurants that you think we should try out, please leave comments below!

I hope this has made you as hungry as it’s made me. Time for a snack…


If you’re the sciencey type like my husband and are interested in understanding the science behind gluten reactions, please let us know!

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