Goodbye, gluten! Hello, new year! If you’re going gluten free in 2017 due to a diagnosis of celiac disease, gluten sensitivities or for personal reasons, we have news for you. You don’t have to give up pizza! Or, cookies. Or, cake! Making the transition takes some effort, but eventually your new lifestyle will become a habit and you won’t miss gluten one bit.

But, first, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in several grains. The most common include wheat, barley and rye. For some people, ingesting this protein causes an immune response in the intestine which leads to damage and malabsorption of nutrients from your food, according to the Mayo Clinic. This results in digestive upset, bloating, anemia, mouth ulcers and extreme fatigue. Bottom line: If your doctor says to give up gluten, do it! Here’s how.

Read Every Product Label

Thankfully many manufacturers put gluten-free stamps on food packaging or list gluten in the allergens statement on product labels to make it simple to determine if the food is safe for you to eat. If not, scour the ingredient list and look for anything mentioning wheat, barley, rye, gluten or any derivatives. Some are tricky.

Here’s a list from the Celiac Disease Foundation of common sources of gluten to learn.

Tidy Up the Kitchen

Once you’ve stocked your cupboards with gluten-free food, don’t lose ground through cross contamination.

If there are members of the household who don’t have to eat gluten-free, pay close attention to sharing tubs of butter (toast crumbs tend to linger there) or using the same toaster to make bagels and frozen waffles. It’s best to have your own dedicated foods and appliances when it comes to staying 100 percent gluten free.

Evaluate your Personal Care Items

Gluten may linger in makeup, shampoo and lotions. Although you don’t eat these items, they do come in contact with your lips and could cause an adverse reaction. Next time you purchase body wash, lipstick, sunscreen or facial cleansers, peek at the ingredient list. Again, most companies that offer a gluten-free product will proudly note it on the package.

Live your Life!

Going gluten-free requires diligence and patience. Get used to asking questions about products and reading labels. This also includes eating at restaurants.

Many establishments offer gluten-free pizza, beer, salad dressings, rolls, soups — you name it! Talk with your server and explain your dietary concerns and work together to find a meal that meets your needs. Sometimes simply eliminating a sauce or marinade can make an entree gluten-free.

Transitioning to a diet free of gluten takes time. Don’t be surprised if it’s a gradual process and you find yourself still trying to consume old favorites on occasion. But, once you feel healthier and happier, you’ll realize the gluten-free lifestyle is worth the extra effort!

Gluten Free