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Steps to a Gluten-Free Diet for Improved Mental Health

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For people with gluten intolerance, good physical and mental health requires a complete diet change. At first it can seem impossible because so many foods contain gluten.

But the popularity of the gluten-free diet is now making life just a little simpler for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website includes a plethora of information about gluten-free foods. They even have some recipes for people who can’t consume gluten, ranging from coconut chicken soup to spinach pesto, to chicken and asparagus pizza.

The website also has a “safe gluten-free food list,” which includes items like corn, eggs, fruit and milk. Some oats are acceptable to eat, but it depends on whether or not they’ve been contaminated with gluten in processing.

For people who don’t know if they’re gluten intolerant or not, it might be time to try a trial gluten-elimination diet.

“Eliminate it from your diet for no less than four weeks and then reintroduce it,” said Heather Schrock, a nutritional therapy practitioner.

“If your symptoms return, you are sensitive. It is very important that you completely eliminate it though and that is where the difficulty may lie. Gluten is hidden in thousands of food and personal care products. That's right, even gluten in your lotion can affect someone with gluten sensitivity.”

Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, a training director at Bay Area Family Therapy & Training Associates, said in an email that there are numerous gluten-free grains that people can consume as part of a healthy diet.

For example, in order to bake bread, cookies, cakes and pizzas, people can use gluten-free flour such as tapioca, coconut, rice and corn. She added that people can now choose from some gluten-free noodles now as well.

“Changing diet may seem like a daunting task, but really, everything is out there ready to be used as substitute,” Beaudoin said.

“The main challenge is the first step: figuring out what you’ll eat at every meal. Once that transition is accomplished, the dietary change can be completely enjoyable and easy to follow.”

She also said that in order to find out if you’re intolerant to gluten, you can take a test, but you have to be eating gluten at the time so the blood test shows your body’s reaction to gluten. Or you can try the elimination diet and go off of the potential reduction of negative symptoms.

Dr. Wendie Trubow, the quality director of Visions HealthCare who has celiac disease, said in an email that sometimes people who eliminate gluten from their diets will have a “washout period” where they feel worse during the elimination time period.

However, she said it’s best for people to stick with a gluten-free diet for at least two weeks, and then reintroduce gluten for two days at every meal to see if they are really tolerant or not.

She added that people on a gluten-free diet still have plenty of food options, such as an assortment of rices like jasmine, brown, basmati and wild rice. Buckwheat, quinoa and millet are also grains that are gluten-free. She suggests putting them in a rice cooker to save time in food preparation.

There are a potpourri of websites and resources that contain gluten-free foods, recipes, and even lists of gluten-free (or gluten-free friendly) restaurants.

What are your favorite gluten-free resources, and what are some gluten-free foods you enjoy eating? Do you have any special gluten-free recipes you like using?

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