Going Gluten Free

In my recent blog post, Dare to be Different, I mentioned that we had made the recent decision to go gluten-free. Now, I want to make something clear up front: we are not trying the gluten free diet to jump on the latest “fad”. We are not trying this for weight-loss reasons, nor do we think that wheat is an evil grain that is going to rot our body and brain, in fact, we rather enjoy wheat products – however, I will admit we struggle with moderation of intake of wheat. Wheat, like everything else, is best in moderation, potentially harmful in excess. This has nothing to do with a trend, or fad.

So why are we going gluten-free? For the children. Both children have symptoms of gluten-intolerance, and let me just interject right now and say that did you know there are over 200 possible symptoms of celiac/gluten-intolerence? It’s no wonder it is an often-misdiagnosed disorder. Ashley, especially has many symptoms of celiac/gluten-intolerance:

– chronic constipation

– mucousy stools

– floating stools (all three of these are strong indicators of gluten-intolerance)

– tiny appetite

– random rashes

– insomnia (insomnia is strongly linked to gluten issues)

She also has other risk factors:

– a diagnosis of ASD

– a diagnosis of Raynaud’s Syndrome (an auto-immune disorder that is recently being linked to gluten-sensitivity)

– a very prevalent family history of auto-immune disorders

 

Thomas, also has symptoms of gluten-intolerance, though, different:

– he is extremely gassy

– pale, with dark circles under his eyes often

– gets random red, hot ears, often after eating (which is a sign of food allergy/intolerance)

– hyperactivity

– inattentiveness

– slowed growth pattern

He also  has the risk factor of course, of having a family prevalence of auto-immune disorders, and also due to his diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (which also has a strong link to celiac/gluten-intolerence).

Our family doctor has run blood work on both Thomas and Ashley in the last year, due to some of these symptoms. Ashley had  a celiac screen run which came back negative, so I never gave it any more thought, honestly. However, we have since learned that it is rare to get a positive celiac blood screen in young children, at least until the ages of 5 or 6. This is because it takes time for enough damage to be done to the small intestines to create a positive blood test. The only way to know for sure would be to do a biopsy of her small intestine. Also, there is no test for gluten-intolerance, which while different from celiac, is a very real issue for many people, and tends to produce the same symptoms.  The only way to find out if your symptoms are caused by an intolerance is to try a gluten-free diet. So, here we are.

Honestly, I hadn’t given much more than a passing thought to gluten over the last six months or so since Ashley’s test was done. However, as her battles with constipation and of course, insomnia, have continued, I started looking more into it, and the research was overwhelming, both of our children based on symptoms and risk factors, have a high probability of being gluten-intolerant. So, we discussed it and decided that it is worth a try. We can wait another 6-8 months for the doctor to run the celiac screen again, or, we can try the gluten-free diet now, and potentially give our children relief in the meantime. If it helps great, if it doesn’t, well, then it doesn’t.

We have been gluten-free for a little over 48 hours now, and while it’s definitely too soon to tell for sure (it can take up to several weeks for symptoms to improve, especially behavioral and sleep-related ones), Thomas is noticeably less gassy, and I haven’t seen his ears turn red once. I noticed that yesterday and today he transitioned much better. As for Ashley, her appetite has definitely been better. Time will tell.

So, what are we eating? I mean, after all, going gluten-free seems to be synonymous with bad-tasting replacements and an extremely restrictive diet, right? Wrong.

Now, I will admit the bread is definitely different – it’s a denser bread, with a different taste, but not bad at all, especially when slathered in your childhood favorites like peanut butter and jam – both of which are perfectly fine on a gluten-free (GF) diet. We have tried two different varieties of boughten GF-cookies, both of which were truly delicious! We bought Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza mix, and tonight enjoyed tasty homemade garlic fingers and pizza with GF pepperoni and fresh pineapple. Due to the children already being on the Feingold diet which eliminates artificial colors and flavors, they were already eating two cereals that as it turns out, were gluten-free: Envirokidz Gorilla Munch and Frosted Flakes.

Here is a list of sample things we would eat in our house:

Breakfast:

GF oatmeal with fruit (all oatmeal is naturally gluten free, however tends to pick up cross-contamination during processing, and even growth when it is rotated with wheat crops)

Scrambled eggs with fruit (on the weekend we would add in GF bacon)

Waffles made with GF flour mix

Pancakes made with GF flour mix

GF breakfast cereals

Lunch:

GF bread with peanut butter, jam etc…

GF deli meat with fruit and veggies

Tomato soup

Leftovers from supper

GF hotdogs and beans (Yes, my children eat processed meats probably two or three times a week – there are battles we’ve had to pick. We do however, try very hard to make sure they only get the all-natural ones that are GMO, preservative, nitrate, artificial color, flavor and additive free.)

Oatmeal with fruit (we alternate oatmeal between lunch and breakfast)

Supper:

Traditional meat, potatoes and vegetables (beef, pork, chicken etc…) meal

Beef stew

Chili with cornbread (made with GF flour)

Tomato, Meatball and rice soup

Meatloaf with zucchini, and side veggies

Sloppy joes (served on GF bread)

Homemade pizza (made with GF mix)

Macaroni & cheese casserole (made with GF noodles)

Three-Cheese bake (a delicious casserole made with ground beef or chicken, rice and veggies, topped with cheese)

Beans & Franks with Cornbread (great for a night when we have to be out the door!)

Nachos

There are many more meals out there, these are just some of our favorite meals, that we already made – that we can still enjoy!

Snacks:

Lays plain potato chips, nuts, fresh popped popcorn, cheese, raisins, fruit, carrot and celery sticks, yogurt, corn chips, Mott’s Medley fruit snacks (we love these – they are artificial dye, color and gluten free). There are many normal candies that are perfectly fine for a gluten-free diet, however, since we do not eat artificial colors or flavors, we buy two special brands of candy: Yummy Earth and Surf Sweets. From those two companies we are able to buy suckers, gummy bears, gummy worms, sour candies etc… that are given out as reward sweets (going potty for Ashley, good behavior for Thomas etc…). There are also many types of chocolate that are GF, we just haven’t investigated into those too much, as neither of our kids are big chocolate eaters. And then of course there are GF cookies you can buy (my kids are currently enjoying biting the heads off the GF gingerbread men I bought), and lots of sweets that you can bake using GF mixes and flour. Chocolate macaroons will be made this weekend, using the GF oats we bought.

There are adjustments to be made in my baking supply cupboard and I still need to learn all the hidden sources of gluten (which I’ve learned include pre-ground black pepper and baking powder). However, the beauty of the GF diet is that all meat, fruits and vegetables are still perfectly fine, so that leaves possibilities wide open! Your problems are basically in the areas of breads, pastas, cereals and products with hidden sources of gluten (such as deli meats and condensed soups for example). And, it’s important to supplement with a good multi-vitamin since the alternative bread and pasta products have lower mineral contents (with the exception of quinoa).

And so, we have started on a new adventure in our life!

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