Since we’re discussing a lot about gluten, celiac, and eating gluten free this week I asked a few of my blogging and facebook friends to help me out and answer a few questions about going gluten free. I hope this gives you all a small insight into what it’s like to live gluten free and how to make the transition! Each day I’ll post a few of the questions and their answers.
Meet the panel:
Katie from Finding Your Life in His : I am not a Celiac but I have two children who are. Their symptoms very very different. My 1st child was underweight 3yrs old and 23lbs. Always constipated. My 2nd child was normal in weight but had constant diarrhea (6-7BM’s per day) and respiratory problems.
Amy (30): I live in France. I am originally half English, half Egyptian born in Dubai, UAE. I’m married with a baby girl who is 4 months old. I don’t have a blog yet! I diagnosed myself as being gluten intolerant when I was at university in 2001. My symptoms were: Extreme fatigue after eating gluten, bloatedness, shooting pains in my stomach, constipation, gas, heartburn, inability to lose weight I took a blood test in 2009 and it came back negative for celiacs disease so I started eating gluten again and all my symptoms came back and my weight skyrocketed!
Jen: I’m a wife and mother to a super busy one-year-old girl. I have a blog detailing my experience doing the GAPS diet and grain free/gluten free recipes at Eating My Vegetables. I spent a good chunk of my life feeling chronically sick and getting little to no answers from health “professionals.” After a challenging pregnancy, my own daughters obvious GI issues and food intolerances led me to finally make big changes. I started really implementing Nourishing Traditions, decided to do the GAPS diet, and cut out various types of foods as I tried to figure out her issues. Along the way, my whole family’s health has dramatically improved.
Cara: from Health Home and Happiness follows the GAPS Diet for her young daughter.
Emily: four years ago I lived in an apartment that had heavy smokers underneath. The smoke permeated the building and caused my seasonal, mild eczema to bloom into a severe rash that covered my face, neck, upper torso, arms, and hands. Not fun! Knowing that cortisone was not the answer I sought help holistically and began seeing a chiropractor that works with nutrition. She immediately took me off dairy and gluten and thus it all began.
Michele of Frugal Granola: In 2008, I picked up the book Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern from the library. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. I was amazed as I read her story- fascinated to realize that perhaps this was the answer to some of the “medical mysteries” in my life. I identified with so much of what she described. I began investigating further. I completed the Celiac Central Symptoms Checklist – and then, afraid I was just being a hypochondriac- asked my husband to start over and fill it out for me. He came to the same conclusion I did. I called up my gluten-free friends and grilled them for details. Then decided to jump in. “We’ll just give it a test run for a couple of weeks to see how it goes,” my husband and I told each other, hesitant to “label” myself at that point. After a short amount of time, I felt like I had a new life! Weeks turned into months, and I stayed gluten-free. I no longer needed a couple of naps a day, my menstrual cycle regulated, I was finally able to maintain a “normal” weight, my hair stopped falling out, my teeth stopped staining, the abdominal pain and nausea disappeared, the fluctuating anxiety/depression turned into a joy for life- and most precious of all- I finally had a healthy pregnancy after seven years of infertility & miscarriage.
Liz Schau: I am a holistic health counselor and health writer; you can find me at www.lizschau.com, where I blog about nutrition, food allergies, the mind-body connection, Candida, auto immune disease, and thyroid conditions. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in June 2007, and after the medication I was prescribed was still not working months later and with dosage adjustments, I was launched into the world of holistic nutrition and nutritional healing. I realized my problems actually originated with a Candida overgrowth, and I began eating to eliminate the infection, which worked wonders. However, over time, I began to realize that there was more to try to eliminate the dysbiosis, and that included eliminating food allergies. I am self-diagnosed gluten intolerant, due to how my body responded once I removed it and other food allergens from my diet — my thyroid disease is in total unmedicated remission. The symptoms I attribute to my gluten intolerance was a tendency towards infection and yeast outbreaks. Otherwise, there were headaches and depression. All other symptoms were silent and latent (that’s the scary part).
Kathryn Garson: I write Kat’s Food Blog I have no diagnosis. Doctor’s wouldn’t do the proper Celiac tests while I was eating wheat. After I was gluten-free for some time, I got a new doctor who agreed to do tests, but I was unwilling to start eating gluten again just to get a confirmation. Major symptoms: Severe diarrhea, severe stomach pain, severe rash (Dermatitis Herpetiformis), bloating, anemia, menstrual problems, acne, fatigue, underweight, panic attacks.
Are you a completely gluten free household?
(If yes – how did your family feel going gluten free, what made it easier for everyone to get on board?
If no – how do you balance making items that contain gluten and making them without? Do you worry about cross contamination?)
Katie: No, Everything is gluten free but one loaf of bread and maybe a few snacks for my husband. All gluten items are made on a plate in a separate area of the kitchen. We’re very worried about cross contamination.
Amy: We are not a completely GF household but we are mostly. DH occasionally switches to being GF. I have separate utensils for GF and non-GF foods when I am cooking to avoid cross contamination – as I am only intolerant I don’t worry too much having pans for exclusive GF foods only. The only GF vs non-GF thing is really pasta – so I boil 2 pans rather than one. The rest of the time DH eats GF with me. When a recipe calls for flour I use GF etc … so I guess we are 95% GF household.
Jen: We are not 100% gluten free, though we were for several months while doing strict GAPS. Currently I am sprouting and fermenting any grains that I use to make them easy to digest. Cutting out gluten was challenging, but explaining to my husband how it could help, setting up a long term plan, discovering legal treats to reward perseverance, and trying out new recipes made it easier. Oddly enough, it was easier to just cut all grains & starchy foods out all at once than to try to limit them. We had cravings for a week, but then didn’t miss them too much. I think once you make the jump to a new kind of diet, you just get used to it and forget how you used to eat.
Cara: When my daughter was GFCF we were vigilant about cross contamination, she had separate butter, separate jam, and we were always wiping off the counters. Now that she’s on GAPS we haven’t had to be quite so picky. We do almost always make our meals GAPS friendly, then if we have pizza or something that she can’t have, we have it when she’s sleeping (now typing this out I realize this sounds nuts)
Emily: No, my husband did if for a while in the middle of our GF days but he claimed it got too expensive. He is a sandwich man and missed his bread. The good news is that the extras aren’t in our house like crackers, cereal, and cookies.
Michele: Our family’s meals are based on the fact that “most food is already gluten-free. It has been simplest for us to prepare a meal that everyone can eat together. After seeing the amazing change in my health, as well as discovering that gluten-free food can be delicious, my husband was thrilled to be “on board” with gluten-free eating. When we do enjoy baked goods, we typically prepare them gluten-free (such as a birthday cake or waffles). However, whole wheat flour is typically less expensive than gluten-free flours, so my husband makes his own whole wheat sourdough bread, and is diligent to avoid any cross-contamination. He has a separate “gluten-cupboard” in our kitchen for storing his wheat flour and “gluten” cutting boards. He will scoop condiments (such as peanut butter) into a separate bowl to spread on the wheat bread, so that gluten doesn’t get mixed into the jar. He also loves his Irish “steel cut” oats for breakfast, and will cook a separate pot for himself, while the rest of us enjoy a different gluten-free grain.
Liz: Yes, I am completely gluten-free — no gluten in the house whatsoever. Because it’s just me in my household, I don’t have to worry about this. However, when people visit, I do worry about cooking them food that is satisfying and “unwittingly” healthy and gluten-free. I want them to taste the food first, not understand what it is lacking. Because there are so many naturally gluten-free whole foods, this is never a problem.
Kat: My roommate is not gluten-free. I do buy hamburger buns or noodles on occasion when having company over. I used to worry about cross-contamination and would react to the smallest amount of gluten (crumbs in the butter dish!). But now, I no longer react to minute amounts. I do the best I can at keeping the kitchen surfaces and pots clean and free of residual gluten and I do not handle any food made with gluten.
If you had a child that needed to go gluten free, how old was he/she and how did you make the transition easier for them? And what should parents expect from their kids during the transition?
Katie: My daughter when gluten free when she was 3 My son went GF when he was 20 months. I didn’t think it was difficult.
Cara: The best advice that I read was from Special Needs Kids Eat Right by Judy Converse, she suggested serving the food (gluten free waffles for example), admitting nothing, and seeing if the child liked it. If not, try something else. My child was young, so this approach worked well with her- it wouldn’t have been effective at all to try to explain anything to her.
Emily: I think it would vary depending on the age, but making small changes to their diet would be best. Perhaps using a whole grain rice pasta instead of wheat in their macaroni and cheese or use quinoa flakes in place of oatmeal. But more importantly, work away from the grains. GF is never going to taste or feel like glutenous products and in some way the GF substitutes are a reminder of what you can’t have. It would be fun to take them to a store and try a fruit they’ve never had (kumquat?) or try different protein snacks like cheeses and bean dips. Get a GF cookbook and let them pick a recipe on what to make.
Michele: We discovered that our daughter needed to be gluten-free just before her third birthday. It was a simple transition for us, since I was already eating gluten-free. Our one-year-old son is still gluten-free at this point. After going gluten-free, it took awhile for our daughter to trust bread, since she was used to her “tummy hurting” after eating wheat breads. But now she enjoys gluten-free breads. She still misses “crunchy bread,” which I don’t make very often. She did go through a transition time of craving sweets as she adjusted. We also focused on nourishing/healing her digestive system with good bone broths, coconut milk, and cultured products (like kefir).
What was the hardest thing to overcome when transitioning to a gluten free diet?
Katie: Finding true GF foods. Just because they are naturally GF doesn’t mean that they are truly GF because wheat is in most facilities.
Amy: having to plan ahead. you can’t grab something on the go and eating out is a challenge because gluten is in everything!!!
Jen: Not eating regular bread! Otherwise, I just made a commitment to try new things and get used to a different way of thinking about food. We would complain about missing regular pizza or other things sometimes, but the results make it so worth it.
Emily: I went GF the week before Thanksgiving. My mom (who is now GF!) had no idea how to accomodate me and I ate green beans and turkey. It was a bummer. Then there was Christmas and all those homemade cookies… I think the mindset was the hardest. I felt like I SHOULD be able to eat these things. Look at everyone else, they can! Maybe one little piece wouldn’t hurt. . .
Michele: I think the social aspect has been the most difficult to overcome. People who know I am gluten-free might avoid inviting me to share a meal with them. Sharing meals with others at potlucks, restaurants, and other “community” gatherings can be challenging. I have learned to take some of my own gluten-free items, so that I can enjoy spending time with others, without worrying about the food that is served.
Liz: The hardest thing to change when converting to a gluten-free diet was other people’s attitudes. Food plays such a large role in our society, relationships, and the way we understand and interact with each other, and until you do something outside of your culture or family, you don’t realize just how true this is. I have found that people are suspicious, skeptical, negative, as well as innately curious about my gluten-free diet. So the hardest thing to overcome is how to relate to people once making the switch to gluten-free. It’s not all rainbows just because you’ve found a diet that works for you and makes you feel healthy… adjusting to communicating your gluten-free needs to friends and family, finding restaurants to go to, finding ways to politely refuse allergic foods that people buy or offer you does take some getting used to.
Kat: Feeling really hungry all the time. I think this came after most of my symptoms went away and I could actually start digesting food again. Then I was just ravenous all the time. It was clear to me my body was malnourished, but it was hard to eat enough when venturing into such a foreign diet.
Join me again tomorrow as we look a little bit further into how these women have gone gluten free and the advice they have for others……………
I would also love to hear your thoughts on these questions! Are you gluten free? Let us know in the comments and add on to the discussion!
You can also check out all of the posts from the week we focused on wheat and gluten:
The Silent Cause to Poor Health – a fabulous, everyone should listen to podcast
The Transition to Gluten Free – a guest post by Kat from SCDKat.com
Gluten Free Easily – a guest post from Shirley of GFE
Gluten Free Beauty – a guest post by Kristen of Gluten Free Beauty
Gluten, Grains, and Children with Developmental Issues – guest post by Cara or Health, Home, Happiness