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How to Make Your Way to ​a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

What Celiacs (and Non-celiacs) Need to ​Do to Eat Safe and Tasty 

by Mariana Lessmann


Have you been feeling sick lately after eating certain foods?  

How many times have you had ended up sitting on the toilet with a bad stomach-ache after eating at a restaurant?  

Is your stomach getting swollen or constipated after eating?  

I bet you are getting paranoid after each meal because you know there is something wrong going on, but you are trying to figure out what it is.  

You’re hoping to eat safe without getting gassy.  

You are tired of wondering what’s happening to your body.  

Basically, you are sick of getting sick, right?  

Tell me if this sounds familiar…  

No more bread, pizzas, cakes, snacks or any of the delicious meals you used to eat in the past, because now they are making you feel sick.  

You now prefer to stay home over going out with friends, because eating at a restaurant or at someone’s place, has become an awkward social situation.  

You ran out of options when cooking, and you have no clue on how to improve your diet and health.  

Well, I have good and bad news for you.  

So, here’s the bad news first:  

You probably didn’t know that you’ve had a gluten intolerance or celiac disease for a while, and you could have taken care of it if you would have known about it!  

The good news is:  

You probably didn’t know that you are celiac, or have a gluten intolerance, but you are finding it out right now through this article, and you will start taking care of your health.  

Say hello to a gluten-free lifestyle!  

I am not a nutritionist nor a doctor. I have a degree in Communications and Journalism, and over 10 years of experience as a writer.  

I happen to have a boyfriend who is celiac - maybe the most sensitive of all celiacs, you might say.  

His intolerance to gluten is surprisingly high, and I’m sure he could detect gluten in food almost as efficiently as Nima (I bet some of you have this same ability), which by the way is a very useful food sensor device that can help you determine if what you are about to eat has gluten or not. 

My boyfriend has developed this particular skill of almost detecting gluten just by smelling the food. All jokes aside, he really is a gluten sensor.  

When I met him, I didn’t know what celiac disease was. I had no idea what gluten-free meant, and I had no clue about wheat, barley or rye being such threatening ingredients for some people.  

Of course, he had to explain it to me several times: the deal with gluten, the painful symptoms it causes in celiacs, and the special care they have to take before, during, and after eating one meal.  

After a while, I actually got familiar with celiac disease. I finally understood the severity of it, and the repercussions it causes on some people.  

Not too long after we met, my boyfriend and I started traveling throughout Latin America.  

We visited Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Colombia.  

And then we settled down in NY, where we launched our first e-product dedicated to celiacs.  

In every city and place we visited, we researched about food options, so my boyfriend could have a safe gluten-free lifestyle.  

Surprisingly, what we found out was that the options were very limited.  

In some cases, supermarkets managers and restaurants chefs, were not even aware of what gluten-free or celiac meant.  

This made us look for a solution to this “information gap” about celiac disease.  

So, if you feel identified with this story, if you have experienced painful symptoms after eating, or if you are still wondering what's going on with your body, everything will be more clear after reading this article, because it was written for you.  

And for those who have already been diagnosed with celiac disease and want to have a gluten-free lifestyle, this article will be very helpful because we know you have questions, and there are a lot of myths and taboos that people don’t talk about.  

Before trying to figure out if you are celiac or not, you should be familiar with these terms first.  

You may have heard about them at some point, but you may not have any idea what they mean.

Gluten: The Enemy Celiacs Have In Common

Gluten comes from the Latin word "glue".  

It is a specific protein that can be found in different types of grains like wheat, rye, barley and triticale.  

In wheat, gluten is a combination of the gliadins and glutenins proteins, and it’s commonly found in: 

- Bread - Pasta - Cereal - Cookies - Cakes - Baked goods  

In barley, gluten is a combination of proteins called hordeins commonly found in:  

- Malted beverages and syrups - Canned soups - Food coloring - Brewer’s yeast  

In rye (which is lower in gluten than wheat), the gluten proteins are called avenins and are commonly found in:  

- Bread - Cereals  

This protein called gluten acts as a glue that holds food together, maintaining its shape. It also gives texture to the food, and stabilizes products for a longer shelf life.  

When, for example, a flour that contains gluten is mixed with water, the gluten proteins make the dough sticky and elastic.  

With a glue-like consistency, the bread gets chewy when it’s cooked.  

So the word gluten comes from the glue property that it adds to dough.  

Gluten is not a dangerous or harmful substance. Most people tolerate it really well.  

The negative thing is that some bodies mistakenly recognize gluten as a foreign substance and attack it.  

Unfortunately, those bodies belong to celiacs.

What Does Celiac Mean?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten causes damage and irritation in the small intestine and stops the body’s ability from properly absorbing the food nutrients. When the body recognizes gluten as a foreign invader, it behaves like someone threatened by an enemy, and the body ends up attacking the gluten proteins. Gluten intolerance is estimated to affect 1 in a 100 people in the world, can be developed at any age, and there are many symptoms manifested.

Most Common Symptoms of Celiac Disease:

- Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract - Gastric distress - Brain fog - Constipation - Bloating - Diarrhea - Gastric reflux - Heartburn - Headache - Irritability - Fatigue - Tiredness - Skin rashes - Depression  

Around 1% of Americans suffer from celiac disease, and in most cases, they don’t even know they have it.  

The cause of celiac disease still remains a mystery.  

But many celiacs agree that before been diagnosed, they suffered stress.  

Coincidence?  

The truth is that the only treatment for it, is a lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet that you will learn more about it here.

Gluten-Free…The Word Celiacs Use The Most  

The idea or main purpose of this article is:  

1. To help YOU, who are struggling with the following symptoms, and have no clue what could possibly be causing them:  

- Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract - Gastric distress - Brain fog - Constipation - Bloating - Diarrhea - Gastric reflux - Heartburn - Headache - Irritability - Fatigue - Tiredness - Skin rashes - Depression  

2. To help YOU, who despite have been in a strict gluten-free diet for years and have tried the most popular gluten-free brands in the market, are still experiencing the symptoms above.  

By now, we already know who is celiac’s #1 enemy, but we don’t know yet how to beat it.  

While going food shopping with my boyfriend, and cooking for him during the last months, I noticed you and him have something in common: you are getting gluten in your diet (despite you think the food you are eating is gluten-free).  

How is that possible if the foods you buy have "gluten-free” labels on? How come you are still getting gluten?  

We have the answer here.  

As you may know, the popularity of gluten-free food products has increased in recent years.  

Some of them are naturally healthy (they don’t contain gluten, are not processed and have no additives).  

Some others are processed to remove the gluten, but they still contain ingredients that are not very healthy.  

Avoiding gluten in a diet should be a “must” for people with celiac disease, because that’s their only way to stay healthy.  

Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA- a federal agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the control and supervision of food safety), issued a rule to help celiacs consumers when buying food.  

Manufacturers should claim a food product "gluten-free", if they meet the required standards.  

But some food products that are naturally gluten-free, don’t state on their labels that they are.

Naturally Gluten-free Foods 

Some of the naturally gluten-free foods that you can incorporate in your diet are:  

- Eggs: All eggs that have no preservatives added.  

- Fruits: All fresh and frozen fruits (apple, apricot, bananas, blueberries, peach, raspberries, watermelon), and 100% natural fruit juices.  

- Grains: Amaranth, yucca, buckwheat, chia, quinoa, chestnut, millet, corn, polenta, plain rice in all forms (white, brown, wild), cassava, tapioca, beans, and flaxseed.  

- Meat: All fresh meats (beef, bison, chicken, duck, ham, lamb, pork, turkey) with no preservatives added, and not processed.  

- Nuts and Seeds: Natural and non-flavored nuts and seeds that are not processed like peanut, cashew, almond, hazelnut, macadamia nut, pecan, pistachio, sesame seeds, chestnut, and walnuts.  

- Potatoes: All natural potatoes (and sweet potatoes) baked, boiled or mashed.  

- Seafood: Fresh and raw fish, and seafood (clam, crab, lobster, octopus, oyster, salmon, sardine, shrimp, snapper, swordfish, tilapia, tuna) with no preservatives or additives added.  

- Vegetables and Legumes: All fresh and natural vegetables and legumes (artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprout, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green bean, lettuce, mushroom, onions, parsley, peas, radish, spinach).

What Does Gluten Sensitivity Mean?

Gluten sensitivity is a condition that causes a person to react (in a less severe way then celiacs), after ingesting gluten, and leads to intestinal symptoms. Once gluten is removed or excluded from that person’s diet, the symptoms improve or disappear. All celiacs have a gluten intolerance, but not all people with a gluten sensitivity are celiac. If you think you may have celiac disease, you should consult with your doctor. And if you think you are sensitive to gluten, you should follow a strict gluten-free diet to see if the symptoms improve. In either case, something beneficial for your health, is to stick to a gluten-free diet.

Treat Gluten As Your Enemy

Keep this in mind: treat gluten as your enemy, as simple as that. Fight it, avoid it, don’t be close to it, cut it out of your life. As a real and mean enemy, gluten sometimes hides in places where you wouldn’t even imagine, and can take you by surprise. Did you know that gluten can be hidden in women’s makeup, shampoos, toothpaste, hair spray, soaps, facial cleansers, lotions, medicines, play-dough and herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements? I bet you didn’t know that. Well, I didn’t know either until I started researching. The products that you wouldn’t even think about as gluten-bearers, can contain grain and gluten based ingredients that can still hurt your health. Some celiacs, after sticking to what they consider a gluten-free diet, keep feeling sick. The reason why that happens, is that they are still ingesting gluten, but they don’t know how or when. One example of this is when a celiac’s lips or mouth touch makeup that contains gluten. One of celiac’s biggest mistakes, is not researching more, and not being aware that gluten hides everywhere. Their awareness is limited to “gluten is only in food”, when the reality points to so many other things. Unfortunately, the price they have to pay for not being well informed, is really high. You have to be careful with this, because most celiacs are too exposed to gluten without even being aware of it.

How Can You Know Where Gluten Hides? 

After reading this article, it will be very easy for you to detect where your enemy hides. You will be like my boyfriend, who has developed the skill of almost detecting gluten by smelling food. Sometimes, food products that you buy at the supermarket, state on their labels that they are gluten-free, but they really aren’t. You want to know why? The majority of food products commercialized as “gluten-free” may not contain wheat, but they contain other ingredients that can make you feel sick. Ingredients like cereal flours, sugars and gum, can cause some painful symptoms to your body, so you should try avoiding them when going food shopping. So, even though a food product is labeled as gluten-free, as long as it has those ingredients, it can still bother you. Hidden forms of gluten in food, cosmetics and hygiene products can cause major health issues, so you should be aware of it.

Why You Should Think Twice Before Eating Gluten-Free at a Restaurant  

Eating at restaurants can be delicious and easy. I mean, having someone who cooks for you is pretty comfortable, right? But the truth is: you should think twice before eating at a restaurant. Your health is first, so the safest option for maintain a gluten-free lifestyle, is to cook your own meals. That way you will know who cooked them, and how they were cooked. But if going out is something you really want to do, then you should keep in mind that there could be a big risk of food contamination. When someone is not celiac, or doesn’t have a relative who is, their awareness about the disease tends to be low because they aren’t informed, or they simply don’t care. Same thing with waiters. Cooks and chefs at restaurants have a lot of food to cook and serve every minute. The amount of food at that kitchen is significant. A lot of cooks and waiters come in and out, take dishes from the kitchen to one table, and to another one. Most waiters and cooks manipulate food without even wearing gloves. How many of those people do you think wash their hands or change their gloves (if they wear them) after touching a meal that contains gluten? How many cooks do you think use clean serving utensils for your gluten-free meal? Restaurant kitchens are usually very busy, and there could be less concern when making and serving a gluten-free meal. The truth is that as much as you emphasize to the waiter that your food must be 100% gluten-free, you will never know what really happens to your meal behind the kitchen doors. I have seen how in open-kitchen restaurants, my boyfriend has thoroughly requested for his orders to be gluten-free, and how the cooks have touched bread, and then his gluten-free lettuce wrap (even though they were warned about it). Not all chefs and not all restaurants do this, but the majority do. That process by which a gluten protein is intentionally, or unintentionally transferred from one food to another, can make you feel sick. If being very explicit when ordering the food and letting the cook know you have a serious reaction to gluten is not enough for them to be careful, can you imagine how they “take care” of your food in a closed-door kitchen? I think you have a better picture of the situation. Certainly, restaurants that have gluten-free menus are not 100% reliable either. The best way to eat safe is not eating at restaurants where the risk of gluten contamination is so high. If you know safe and serious restaurants where you feel comfortable eating at, just constantly remind them how severe your intolerance to gluten is, and the safety tips they should keep in mind.

Grocery Shopping 

Going food shopping is one of the starting points to your gluten-free lifestyle, so be smart from the beginning of the process. Make sure you know how to properly read the food product labels, and don’t be tempted to buy unhealthy food that can cause you painful symptoms. Sometimes you can be overwhelmed by the wide variety of food products displayed on a shelf in a supermarket, but be strong and don’t cheat, otherwise you will be hurting your health. Most gluten-free products can be pricey or expensive, so instead of buying 3 baguettes per week, try making your own bread. This way you will save money and time.

Quick Tips When Going Food Shopping:

1. Always look for naturally gluten-free food first like vegetables, legumes, fruits, seafood and grains.

2. Avoid processed food.

3. Choose natural fruit juices instead of sodas and artificial flavored beverages.

4. Be creative when planning your menu options so you can have an idea of what ingredients you need to get at the store.

Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean eating boring, it just means eating no gluten. You can still eat delicious food but with a gluten substitute.

Gluten-Ful Everywhere, Gluten-Free Nowhere

Unfortunately the gluten-free food options in most places are very limited. During the past 12 months I have been traveling within Latin America and the US with my boyfriend who, as I mentioned before, is celiac. After spending months in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Colombia, I realized how hard it can be to go food shopping for celiacs. After checking different supermarkets, and visiting restaurants with supposedly gluten-free menus, I noticed a pattern in those Latin American countries we visited: the gluten-free food options were limited, and in some cases, didn’t even exist. It was very hard to trust restaurants that displayed in their menus gluten-free plates, when they turned out to be cross-contaminated. It was also difficult to cook safe meals, since supermarkets didn’t have gluten-free brands. But my boyfriend and I chose to make our own solution to keep a safe gluten-free lifestyle wherever we where. We started creating different recipes with the few safe ingredients we found. And after months of trial and error, an idea came up. We created a Cookbook with 39 different gluten-free recipes that were not boring nor bland, because my boyfriend wanted to eat tasty food. When we later flew from Medellin, Colombia, to the US, everything was very different. A wide variety of gluten-free food brands were in almost every single supermarket. Having more options, certainly, can make your food shopping easier if you are celiac, but having so many options can be overwhelming too. Too many brands are commercialized as gluten-free but not all of them really are, so you have to be careful when going food shopping. You can easily get overwhelmed by so many food products in different flavors and in different shapes and colors. You need to learn how to find gluten-free food products, even though they don’t have a label on.

The Dark Side Of Gluten-Free

Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. Having a gluten-free lifestyle can be tricky. Why? The reason is something that we have already skimmed over before, and we are going to get deeper on: a significant amount of food products that are labeled as gluten-free are fake gluten-free. If you have bought a popular gluten-free brand, and after eating it you felt sick, you are probably not making up the symptoms. Sometimes popular brands process their food products, and add so many preservatives and additives, that can end up hurting your health. Processed food equals non healthy food. Even if a food product doesn’t contain wheat, it can bother your stomach due to the processed ingredients it has. Ingredients like cereal flours, sugars and xantham gum, can cause you constipation, flatulence, swollen stomach, and some other painful symptoms. Avoiding those ingredients is key to staying healthy. So keep in mind that minimally processed and natural foods are an important part of a healthy gluten-free diet.

Reading Labels 

One of the most important things to keep in mind when having a gluten-free diet is proper label reading.  

Some labels can be tricky. They may state “wheat-free”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “gluten-free”. Some others don’t state anything at all.  

It’s better to stay away from products that state “may contain wheat”, because if it really has gluten, you will end up feeling sick.  

On the other hand, some food products have a gluten-free certification logo, meaning that the product has gone through different processes to be considered safe for celiacs.  

The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is one of the gluten-free internationally recognized certification leaders in the world that was established in 2005, and since then, they have been helping celiacs to live a healthier life.  

They provide assurance to consumers who look to eat safe gluten-free food, by certifying producers’ products through a controlled and safe process where they audit, inspect and monitor suppliers and ingredients, and they ensure their high standards are met.  

They have certified thousands of products from different companies around the world.  

Why look for gluten-free certificated products ?  

After consulting over 5000 consumers on a survey, researchers found that 80% of respondents said they buy gluten-free products.  

On another hand, 76% of the consumers who were consulted, agreed that when buying food, they look for gluten-free certifications.  

This means that most people expect to improve their diets by sticking to a gluten-free lifestyle and looking to buy certified products.  

For consumers’ piece of mind, GFCO requires the following:  

- All ingredients used in the certified food products, are required to go through a strict approval process.  

- All food products must contain 10 ppm (parts per million) or less of gluten.  

- Ingredients based on barley are not allowed.  

- Equipment and finished products are tested.  

- Manufacturing plants are inspected.  

Gluten-Free Food Service Certification (GFFS) is a program for different types of food service establishments (restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals) that offer gluten-free food options to consumers.  

They provide certifications according to the number of locations and type of food establishments, and set up best practices in the production of safe gluten-free food products to build trust and piece of mind in consumers.  

GFFS reviews food services procedures, policies, standards, preparation process, cleaning and cross-contamination, looking to provide safe and healthy products.  

On the other hand, cosmetic companies aren’t required or obligated to list wheat as an ingredient on their labels.  

Wouldn’t it be easier for celiacs to have a reliable gluten-free label on any products they buy?  

Sometimes cosmetics ingredients are not listed under the words “wheat, rye or barley”. On the labels of these products, you may find the scientific names that companies use, that you may not be familiar with.  

Watch out for:  

- Triticum Vulgare (wheat) - Hordeum Vulgare (barley) - Avena Sativa (oatmeal) - Vitamin E (Vitamin E is sometimes derived from a wheat germ)  

These trustable certifications give consumers piece of mind. Nowadays it’s not only celiacs who look to buy food with no gluten, people without that disorder do it too.

How To Avoid Cross-Contamination

Now you know that gluten hides in places you couldn’t even imagine, and you need to do everything you can to get rid of it. Even if a company claims to use ingredients free from gluten in their products, there’s still a chance that the product was cross-contaminated during the manufacturing process. Keep in mind that an important step to stay gluten-free is to avoid gluten in any way possible.

Follow These Steps to Avoid Cross-contamination:

1. Make your kitchen gluten-free. 2. Read labels properly when buying food. 3. Don’t be scammed by food products that say gluten-free on their labels but they really aren’t. 4. Be familiar with the brands that are good on your stomach. 5. Think twice before eating at a restaurant. The risk of cross-contamination is very high. 6. If you eat a restaurant, let the cook know that they must change their gloves when touching your food, that they can’t use the same serving utensils for your food than for other food, and let them know your health is at risk. Don’t trust the restaurant just because they have a gluten-free menu. 7. Wash your hands thoroughly before manipulating food. 8. Cook your own meals, this way you will know for sure they are safe. 9. Eliminate 100% gluten from your life. 10. Clean the counter or any surfaces you are going to use to make the meals before starting to cook. 11. Keep your gluten-free food stored and sealed separated from food that contains gluten. 12. If possible, buy brand new kitchen utensils, and don’t share them with people who cook food with wheat. Especially a toaster because the crumbs tend to stick. 13. Don’t share silverware, utensils and chopping boards with people who eat gluten, and have your own knife for spreading butter or different creams in your food. 14. Use stainless steel cookware because nonstick pans can absorb gluten. 15. Use a brand new special non-porous cutting board because crumbs tend to stick to it. 16. Buy new dishwashing supplies and do not use them on anything that has touched gluten. 17. Keep one sponge or scrubber for your pots, pans, and utensils just for washing your dishes. 18. Wash everything twice after using them. 19. Don’t get frustrated because you “can’t eat delicious anymore”. The truth is that you can keep eating very tasty, even more delicious than before you were diagnosed with celiac disease. If you want to cook tasty gluten-free recipes in 30 minutes or less with 10 ingredients or less, click here to learn more about our “Easy Gluten-Free Recipe Cookbook”.

Planning Your Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Preferring to stay home rather than going out for dinner with friends, worrying before going on a date because you don’t know if the restaurant you are going to is safe for you, and a simple lunch with family have turned into social moments you no longer want to be part of. I totally understand that. Your social life feels better now at home where you can eat anything you want without feeling awkward about the special cares your body needs. Whether you are celiac or not, your life doesn’t have to be boring when eating. It’s time for you to join a gluten-free lifestyle today! If you are already in one, improve it with all the information you now have. If you are the kind of person who likes planning, and have everything on schedule, you should start by designing your own delicious gluten-free daily menu. Eating gluten-free does not mean you should go vegetarian, or that you have to cut off your life tasty meals. You can still do that. You can still eat delicious and stay healthy. If you are looking to eat safe, stick to your 100% gluten-free diet and do not cheat. Don’t be tempted by food that seems safe but you haven’t even checked. One cookie bite, a sip of soda, or just one small piece of candy bar that contains wheat, rye or barley that you didn’t check, will bother your stomach anyway. It doesn’t matter how small the portion is. Once you eat it, it will be in your body and the repercussions won’t be desired. So don’t assume something is gluten-free because you heard that from another person, or because it has a label. Always read, research, double check, and then eat. If you are meeting people at a place and you know you will eat at some point, just bring a lunch box with gluten-free snacks. That way you won’t starve, you won’t miss that social event, and you won’t feel sick when you go back home. Being celiac means you can’t eat wheat, rye or barley. It means you can’t eat a chocolate donut made from wheat flour, but it means you can eat a chocolate donut made with brown rice flour. If you already had a diet in the past that you really liked, there is no need to modify it completely because you are going gluten-free. Just substitute the ingredients that are a threat to your body (wheat flours, malted beverages, rye cereals, etc). You can play with the ingredients that are safe for you. For example, make your donuts once with brown rice flour, and some other day make them with lentil flour.

Here’s an Easy Guide for Substituting Ingredients:

1. If you are making bread, cakes, donuts or cookies, substitute the wheat flour for any other flour (tapioca, coconut, lentil, chickpea, etc). 

2. If you are making a dessert with chocolate, substitute the chocolate with additives for pure and unsweetened chocolate. 

3. If you are making a smoothie, substitute flavored juices and fruits with additives for natural juices and fruits. 

4. If you are making a pizza, substitute the wheat flour for a gluten-free flour dough, and substitute the canned tomato sauce with a fresh homemade sauce. 

5. If you are making fried food, substitute the oil for water (cook the meat in the oven, or sautee it). 

6. If you are making pasta or noodles, substitute the brands that are made from wheat with the ones made from lentil, corn or rice. 

7. If you cook with soy sauce, mustard or mayonnaise, substitute those ingredients for natural salt, pepper or gluten-free Worcestershire sauce. 

8. If you are eating muesli and wheat based cereals, substitute them for corn and rice based cereals. 

9. If you are making tortilla chips, use corn flour instead of wheat flour. The fewer preservatives and additives added to your food, the healthier.  

Now start designing your daily, weekly, or monthly menu by joining a tasty and safe gluten-free lifestyle!

by Mariana Lessmann






LET'S MEET


We are Mariana Lessmann and Matt Ackerson.

Mariana graduated from Communications & Journalism in Caracas, Venezuela, and has over 10 years of experience as a writer. She has worked on Digital Marketing, and for over 10 prestigious Cable Television Channels aired in Latin America. Matt graduated from Cornell University in New York. He started his own company in 2010, and has been running it by himself since then. Matt is an expert in Marketing, Sales, and creating 6-Figure Funnels for online businesses.

Over the past year we decided to start a company together and created "Vookies", that later expanded and became "Be Breader". We have been helping celiacs around the world to optimize and improve their health by incorporating safe and delicious meals into their daily menus.

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