Gluten-Free and Keto Diet

Are You Gluten-Free and Considering a Keto Diet? 

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you know that Hubby and I have been on a gluten-free and keto diet for several months, and with good results. I have celiac, so have been gluten-free for many years. It’s the keto part that’s newer.

plate with salad, devilled eggs and keto-friendly bread

Here I’d like to share with you some facts about the Keto diet, special considerations if you have celiac or are gluten-free and my personal experience.

What is a Ketogenic or "Keto" Diet?

The purpose of the Keto diet is to put your body into a state called Ketosis where you burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Most people go on the Keto diet to lose weight.1

The Keto diet is very low carb, medium protein, and high fat. When following the Keto diet, you’re instructed to completely eliminate grains, sugars and high carbohydrate fruits and vegetables. This means no pasta, no potatoes, no rice, no bread. Instead, you focus your diet on whole foods like meat, low carbohydrate vegetables and healthy fats2. Sounds a little like what I talk about at naturally gluten-free doesn’t it.?

Is The Keto Diet Gluten-Free?

Yes, sort of.

Because the Keto diet calls for the elimination of grains, it’s gluten-free by design. However, be careful of Keto products. They are made for people on the Keto diet, not necessarily for people on a gluten-free diet, so they may contain gluten ingredients.

If you are on a gluten-free and keto diet and you’re buying any Keto products be sure to check labels for gluten ingredients or look for a gluten-free claim on the label.

Is The Gluten-Free Diet Keto?

No, the gluten-free diet is not of itself, Keto friendly. You’re familiar with gluten-free bread and baked goods, all of which are very high in carbs so not suitable for a Keto diet.

Why Would Someone with Celiac Follow a Keto Diet?

Weight Loss

Most people follow a Keto diet to lose weight. If you have celiac or a gluten intolerance, and you need to shed a few pounds, then following a gluten-free and keto diet may be right for you. It’s easy to stay gluten-free on the keto diet because most keto recipes you come across will be gluten-free. It’s very effective because once you get your body into that state of ketosis we talked about, burning fat instead of carbs, weight will come off much easier.

Are There Reasons Besides Weight Loss to Follow a Keto Diet?

Many people with celiac disease continue to have digestive issues even after eliminating gluten. These could be caused by lactose intolerance, or other food intolerances. But sometimes the cause is just difficult to get your hands around.

Inflammation and IBS

There is some evidence that following the Keto diet might help with inflammation3 and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. This may be because of the negative effects that sugar4 and refined carbohydrates have on the gut and the microbiome. It’s well documented that sugar and processed foods cause inflammation5 which leads to digestive issues like IBS.  So eliminating those foods should help to reduce inflammation and symptoms.

Is The Keto Diet Healthy?

I answer this question the same way I answer the “is gluten-free healthy?” question.

It depends.

With Keto, the goal is to reduce carbohydrate intake. To what degree varies according to your size, gender and what plan you’re following, but somewhere between 20 and 25 grams per day is a common recommendation. It’s what you replace those carbs with that matters.

Macros

On the Keto diet you’ll hear lots about “macros”. Macros refers to the macronutrients in your diet: protein, fat, and carbs. The Keto diet recommends a ratio of 70% fat, 5% carbs and 25% protein, compared with general dietary recommendations of 20-35% fat, 45-65% carbs and10-35% protein6.

If you’re drastically reducing carbs, you’re going to replace them in your diet with fat and protein. There are no other choices. So what matters is that you choose healthy sources of fat and protein. If you fill up your plate every day with whipped cream and bacon, that’s not so healthy. If you choose fats like olive oil and avocado and healthy gluten free meats like free range chicken and grass-fed beef, then round out your plate with lots of vegetables, you’ll be in a much better place.

My Experience Following a Gluten-Free and Keto Diet

At the time of writing, my husband and I have been on the Keto diet for four months. His reason was primarily weight loss, mine was more about the inflammation. I’m gluten-free (celiac), he is not.

The Food

Plated zucchini stew with tomato, onion, garlic and mint on side.

We've both loved the food!

Yes it was difficult to give up the pasta, potatoes and rice.  For me, bread wasn't so hard because gluten-free bread isn't great anyway.

To replace what we lost, we've been able to eat lots of vegetables, cheeses, creamy gluten-free sauces, meat and healthy oils.  We followed the Konscious Keto plan which is mostly Mediterranean style dishes so it's very nutritious and heart healthy.

Weight Loss

I’ve lost about 13 pounds; my husband has lost about 35 pounds. We’ve kind of stalled on the weight loss over the past several weeks, I think because it’s summer and we’re going out having the odd drink etc. We’re trying to stick to the diet even when enjoying food and drink with friends but it’s easy to go a bit over on your carbs when socializing.

Inflammation and IBS Symptoms

I’m one of those celiacs who’s continued to have digestive issues even after going gluten-free. I’ve determined on my own that I’m intolerant to casein and eggs, so I avoid both of those foods. Still, I get frequent bouts of diarrhea and stomach upset. My doctor ascribes this to IBS which is common with celiac.

Eliminating Sugar

I’ve known for a while that sugar is not my friend. When I eat sugar, my stomach just doesn’t feel well, and the bathroom situation is not pleasant. Two books I’ve reviewed recently, Becoming Sugar Free by Julie Daniluk, and Metabolical by Dr. Robert Lustig, both go into a lot of detail about how bad sugar is for your gut, so if you’re interested in learning more, both of those books are excellent resources.

Generally, I’ve been happy with the result. My stomach issues have reduced dramatically, and the bathroom experience has improved a lot. The only exception is if I eat too much of the sugar replacements that are common on the keto diet as they do seem to cause some stomach upset. As Dr. Lustig says in Metabolical, we just need to learn to enjoy our food unsweetened. 

Joint and Muscle Pain

I also experience joint and muscle pain which I’ve suspected is due to inflammation. I was hoping for better results eliminating these symptoms, but I don’t think the needle has moved much there. The search continues.

Other Food Intolerances

Dr. Stefano Guandalini, director of the Celiac Center at University of Chicago, said in a recent seminar I attended, that most food intolerances that accompany celiac disease should resolve when the gut heals. My known intolerances are eggs and casein. I’ve started to have the odd farm fresh egg with just a little gurgling in the tummy as opposed to full on explosive… well you don’t need the details. I’ve not tried cows milk yet but may brave it one day.

My Conclusion

Bottom line, after 4 months on Keto I’m seeing some worthwhile improvement. Even if I don’t stay on the Keto diet indefinitely, I think I will stay off sugar or at least keep it greatly reduced and will also keep my carbohydrate consumption down.

Gluten-Free Cooking for a Keto Diet

zucchini noodles with roasted cherry tomato sauce.

If you’re on a gluten-free and keto diet, your cooking will have to change a little, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

Thickeners

The ingredients you use to thicken sauces may need to change. You’re avoiding flours and starches so you need to replace those. Xanthan gum and guar gum are keto approved replacements and are also safe on a gluten-free diet. Here are some more tips for making sauces for your gluten-free and keto diet.

Sweeteners

Anything with sucrose in it is off the table for keto. The recommended keto-friendly sweeteners are erythritol, xylitol, monk fruit and stevia.

Sides

This is about meal planning. If you’re like me, you’re used to having a starch like potato, rice or pasta at every meal. For our gluten-free and keto diet, we need to eliminate these starches, so what do we do for sides?

I like to include a salad plus a keto-friendly vegetable with my meals. Cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans, zucchini and eggplant are vegetables that you’ll find in most keto plans.

Gluten-Free and Keto Friendly Products

If you look in the "free from" section of your supermarket or your local health food stores you'll find products that are suitable for a gluten-free and keto diet. 

15g carb-14g fiber=1g net carb
10g carb-6g faiber-2g alcohol sugar=2g net carb

Caution: Check labels carefully!

Not all keto products will be gluten-free so make sure there are no gluten ingredients listed and ideally, look for a gluten-free claim on the label.

Reading Labels

The number one most important thing is to ensure the product is gluten-free.

You may be all caught up in calculating carbs and forget that it's most important to be safe.

Net Carbs

If you are on a gluten-free and keto diet, you need to understand net carbs.  Simply take the total carbohydrate number and subtract the fiber and alcohol sugar (not sugar)7.   This is because fiber and alcohol sugar is non-digestible so it does not affect your body's ability to stay in ketosis.

Sugar

You're looking to keep the sugar number as low as possible and if possible keep added sugar to zero.  Some products will have natural sugars which is fine if kept to a minimum and offset by fiber. 

Gluten-Free and Keto Recipes

I’ve curated a selection of gluten-free and keto recipes for you. Many of these are recipes I’ve been making for years and have tweaked a little to make a keto friendly version.

I hope you enjoy them.

Sources:

1. Konscious Keto. (n.d.). Burning Fat vs Storing Sugar. Simple Keto 101, Quick Start Guide, 5.

2.Konscious Keto. (n.d.).What is the Ketogenic Diet? Simple Keto 101, Quick Start Guide, 9.

3.Konscious Keto. (n.d.). The Benefits of a Keto Lifestyle 101, Quick Start Guide, 25.

4. Daniluk, J. (2021). In Becoming sugar-free: How to break up with inflammatory sugars and embrace a naturally sweet life (p. 1). introduction, Penguin Canada.

5.  Lustig, R. H. (2021). In Metabolical: The truth about processed food and how it poisons people and the planet (p. 24). 

6. Keto 101. (2020). Prevention Magazine - Keto For Beginners, Special(1), 7.

7. Konscious Keto. (n.d.).Burning Fat vs Storing Sugar. Simple Keto 101, Quick Start Guide, 4.