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Not everyone has to avoid gluten, but if you are among the 20% of people who are gluten sensitive, then eating gluten can cause serious health problems and activate multiple crippling auto-immune diseases, so if you are gluten sensitive, then you should eat 100% gluten free all the time. And in truth, nobody really needs to eat wheat to meet their nutritional need anyway—you can meet all your needs without any wheat at all. When wheat is ground into flour, it acts just like sugar, accelerated how you age and adversely impacting your health. So eating less gluten is likely a good idea for most of us.

I am sure if you are gluten sensitive you have learned the hard way as to what questions you should have asked in restaurants. And I’ve heard loud and clear that many of you have been “Glutened” more than once and paid the price.

Even when you think it’s safe to go into a restaurant, beware! Sauces typically contain something to thicken them, typically something with gluten, such as white flour.  And let’s not forget the ingredients in salad dressings!

Your best bet is always a Certified Gluten Free Restaurant, but they are few and far between for many of us. And many times they are not where our friends congregate. Obviously you should aim for restaurants that offer a gluten free menu, but that doesn’t guarantee your food isn’t contaminated with gluten products. So let’s ask all the questions you can to try and keep yourselves healthy, gluten-free, and still have a great social life!

Here are our Top 5 Questions and Tips When Dining Out:

  1. What is in your salad dressing? Seems safe, but be wary. Ask about the content of salad dressings, French fries (who would have thought they dust French fries with flour before frying them—and you really should not be eating fried potatoes anyway!), soy sauce, sushi rice, soups, because there may be gluten added to all of these.
  2. Do you have Gluten Free soy sauce? If they do, make sure to ask them to bring it to you in its original package. If they don’t, I’d suggest sending it back. Better yet, bring your own!
  3. Do you serve gluten free alcohol? When out for a social occasion remember that not all rums are made equal and neither are all wines. Do your research in advance and ensure that you ask for the brands of alcohol you know are safe for you.
  4. Is your brown rice, corn tortilla, or any grain you think is safe, gluten free? Ask your waiter or the manager if you can see the actual package the product came in to ensure that there are no hidden sources of gluten.
  5. Are you familiar with what ingredients do and don’t have gluten in them? If your server is not knowledgeable enough to give you a high degree of confidence, don’t be shy. Ask politely to speak to a manger so you can get the answers you need. You’d be amazed how open and thankful the staff usually are for the opportunity to learn so that they can be more helpful to their next patron with a gluten sensitivity.

Final Tip: Even when you can’t imagine there being gluten in something – ASK.  Like the olive oil and garlic mixture that goes on those yummy grilled artichokes.  Really? They add flour to the oil?  They may.

If you are gluten sensitive, to provide some extra insurance to keep you healthy, then anytime you eat away from home, either a restaurant or a friend’s house, I suggest you also take a product that will help to break down and digest gluten proteins, before they activate your immune system. Fortunately there is a product that does this very well, called GI Shield. For more information on this product, please click here. Take 1 pill prior to any suspicious meal—and some times that may even include a product in your own home.

By the way in case you didn’t know. If you are looking for gluten free recipes, I have some good news, all the recipes in my last book, The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, are gluten free. And, in my new book, Smart Fat—Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now, which will be released by Harper One on January 19, 2016, all those recipes will be gluten free as well.

I wish you the best of health!

Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS