Our Journey to a Gluten-Free Kitchen

bailey

This is a photo of my daughter taken one early Spring morning.  She had a desire for “Sour Cream n’ Onion” Kale Chips – her favourite gluten-free, vegan snack – for breakfast!

Our daughter is the reason for us having a gluten-free kitchen.

Our journey towards a gluten-free kitchen has been a rocky one. It has involved an outrageous number of appointments with doctors and specialists, as well as a number of evasive tests. Unfortunately, this is the case for many suffering from Celiac Disease or a Gluten Intolerance.

Celiac Disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that, if left untreated, causes damage to the mucosa of the small intestine. As a result, the body has a difficult time absorbing the essential nutrients it requires – iron, calcium, vitamins A, D, E, K, and folate. Without these nutrients, an individual may suffer from headaches and fatigue. Anemia and malnutrition are almost inevitable if this disease goes undetected. Celiac Disease is not something you can “outgrow”. It is a life-long disorder with the treatment being a life-long gluten-free diet.

Gluten is the insoluble protein found in grains such as, wheat, rye, triticale and barley. There are also hidden sources of gluten in processed and packaged foods, cosmetics, and certain drug products. The Canadian Celiac Association states that “particular care should be taken in the selection of soups, luncheon meats and sausages”. A person with Celiac Disease must read the list of ingredients on all labels, each and every time. *Manufacturers have been known to change ingredients at any given time.

According to the Canadian Celiac Association, one in every 133 Canadians have this disease. This number represents the number of Canadians that have been diagnosed. It is believed that the prevalence of this disease is actually much higher.

The problem with Celiac Disease is that not all individuals have symptoms, yet even without symptoms damage will occur to the membrane of the small intestines. Some symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, lethargy, irritability and dermatitis herpetiformis. These symptoms can also vary in extremity from individual to individual.

If Celiac Disease is suspected, a blood test and intestinal biopsy is usually performed. The individual being tested must be sure to follow a diet containing gluten prior to this test. That’s right – they must eat foods laden with gluten for several weeks in order for this test to be successful. This often involves a great deal of pain and frustration for the patient. If the biopsy shows damage to the small intestine, then a Celiac Disease diagnosis is confirmed.

My 9-year-old daughter does not have a confirmed diagnosis of Celiac Disease because she has never had the intestinal biopsy. By the time a decision was made for her to see a Gastroenterologist, I had her following a gluten-free diet and she was feeling a million times better. It did not make sense for my husband and I to put her back on gluten and make her ill for weeks just for a result that we knew would only come back as positive. This was five years ago.

As a toddler and preschooler, our daughter was in pain. My husband and I would often find her crouched in a corner holding her belly. She was irritable, lethargic and had difficulty sleeping. Our daughter would also vomit at the drop of a hat. She more than often experienced chronic diarrhea and her blood work repeatedly showed that she was anemic. Her cognitive development was suffering as well. It was difficult for her to focus on a specific task for even a short period of time.

At the age of 4, she was given a blood test, as preliminary screening, to detect Celiac Disease. My husband and I forked out the $200 and waited patiently for the results. They came back negative. We were told that she absolutely did not have the disease. We were told that she may have difficulty digesting milk and we were told that some kids are “just like that”. However, off of dairy, she was the same.

Over the next few months, she missed many days of nursery school and many out-of-the-house functions. So, I took a deeper look into the cause being food related. I asked for a referral to an Allergist.  A skin prick test was done and it showed that she had no allergies. At this point, I was in tears and begged for help. This doctor then referred us to a Gastroenterologist at our local children’s hospital, but still insisted that food was not the issue. The appointment was finally made. We had nearly 9 months to wait.

Not knowing that she must continue to eat gluten foods for a biopsy,  I put our daughter on what is known as an Elimination Diet.  I was just so desperate to find answers as to what was making her sick.  I wish I was aware of the Elimination Diet years ago.  It was challenging – for some time, our daughter was off soy, dairy (lactose intolerant is a very common misdiagnosis of gluten intolerance), nuts, eggs, gluten and some fruit all at once!  It was during this time that I realized gluten was the enemy.

I then started her on a gluten-free diet. Her symptoms began to diminish.

When she was clearly beginning to feel better, my husband and I decided then that our home would be a gluten-free zone. I understand that this is not recommended by health professionals.  However, I have not found a good reason why the rest of my family should not eat gluten-free foods in the home. (Honestly, we are not 100% gluten-free like my 9 year old. We try to make gluten-free choices outside the home, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen).

According to Danna Korn, one of the leading authorities on the gluten-free diet, and author of many books including, “Living Gluten-Free for Dummies”, having the whole family eating gluten-free is expensive, can put a strain on relationships if everyone is “forced” to adhere to the diet, and it’s not reality – the world is filled with gluten.

Processed and prepared gluten-free meals can definitely be expensive. It’s also important to keep in mind that some of these meals may be void of valuable nutrients.  Although there are good products on the market, I recommend to others on a gluten-free diet to eat meals rich in a variety of whole foods.  This will certainly cut down the expense.

Our kitchen has been gluten-free for over five years now.

A few times over the years, our daughter has accidentally consumed a food containing gluten. The result put her in a great deal of pain. This experience has led her to be extra diligent about her food choices outside the home.

Our daughter will get to see a Gastroenterologist this upcoming January. This past summer, she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, also an autoimmune disease. Her Rheumatologist is recommending this visit. This shocking diagnosis has now led us to a diet void of inflammation triggers. (A future post for uberdish!).

Despite this, our daughter appears to be a happy, healthy child. She is active in many different activities in and out of school.

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this post, please understand that it is not “normal”. No one should ever be in pain after eating or suffer from diarrhea for hours at end. Please discuss your symptoms with a health care professional and please be open to the exploration of food allergies as the culprit.

If you have been recently diagnosed, I understand that a gluten-free diet may be overwhelming. It does get easier. The Celiac Association is a wonderful resource. As well, I hope uberdish provides you with mouth-watering recipes and the encouragement to continue a diet that brings you great health.

14 thoughts on “Our Journey to a Gluten-Free Kitchen

  1. Amanda

    I’m glad she’s feeling better without gluten. And, I think as long as you’re not consuming all gluten-free processed/prepared foods, it’s not that much more expensive, nor is it particularly unhealthy for people who DON’T have to be gluten-free. My diet is well-balanced and healthy because there are so many foods that are naturally gluten-free.

    Reply
    1. uberdish Post author

      Thank you, Amanda! And, I totally agree with your comments. I’m looking forward to hearing what my daughter’s Gastroenterologist says about all of us eating gluten-free at home. I’ve been told so many times by others that doctors advise against it. I never understood this, as we are now eating much healthier grains – quinoa, amaranth, millet, BROWN RICE!! That has certainly been the good part about going gluten-free. As for eating out, it is extremely rare to find something we can’t eat. It’s certainly not a “hassle” for us.

      Reply
  2. Amanda

    I’d be interested to know what he says! My diet has barely changed at all, really. Before going gluten-free, I used to do “clean-eating” (there are links on my blog if you’ve never heard of it). So essentially, I was eating low-sodium, low-sugar, unprocessed foods … which just meant lean meat, eggs, dairy, veggies and fruit…. and brown rice 🙂 That’s still basically my diet only now I have to look for “hidden” gluten in things like broth and such. I think it’s perfectly healthy. It’s when you start buying all the gluten-free cookies, pizzas, etc that could be unhealthy — and only if you do that all the time! Good luck 🙂

    Reply
    1. uberdish Post author

      I’ll let you know Amanda. Our appointment is in January. I think part of the problem for many people is that they are not given a lot of direction. Their only source for meals is the “health food” aisle at their local grocery store – full of the pizzas, cookies, etc. So glad I found you! Thank you for your comments and following uberdish. I look forward to more of your posts, too!

      Reply
  3. df

    Angela, it was really eye opening and affirming to read this. As you know we’ve temporarily taken our nine-year old son off gluten as part of investigating some (largely behavioural) issues and exploring with a naturopath (he has no obvious gastrointestinal issues), and recognize that this could become a permanent change. A switch that at first seemed overwhelming is starting to feel more manageable, in large part due to reading posts like this.

    Reply
    1. uberdish Post author

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment! It is so wise of you to look at food as perhaps being the issue. I wish you all the best in the next few months. Give me a shout if you need to chat.

      Reply
  4. liveblissful

    great post! your daughter is adorable and your a great mum for being so proactive. how come gluten intolerance in so high in canada? in australia we have high rate of celiacs and gluten intolerance because of over use of the same strains of grains and the presence of them in most store bought foods. is it the same there?

    Reply
    1. uberdish Post author

      Thank you liveblissful for your nice comments! Good question as to why Celiac Disease is so high in Canada!. The Coeliac Australia website states that 1 in 100 Australians have the disease. That is a lot less! Perhaps, more Australians are not diagnosed? It could be our diet over here, too. The Western diet consists largely of processed food with a terrible amount of gluten. Although, my family certainly does not eat this way. It could be because our wheat is a different type. Hardy enough to survive our harsh environment (frost and cold temperatures). Do you know anyone with this disease? It seems like every second person you talk to here has it or knows someone who has it!

      Reply
      1. liveblissful

        I only know one person, but I’ve met a few others in passing. My dad has a fresh gluten-free pasta business (in another state), so when he was here a few years back I worked at the gluten free festival and there were heaps of people, but in particular lots of parents with children that were celiacs.
        I think in Australia we have a really high rate of people with intolerance to gluten, which is harder to test.
        My boyfriend and I went to a nutritionist and both paid $200 extra for an intolerance blood test. We both had a gluten intolerance, due to unhealthy stomach lining. When we stopped eating gluten we both lost weight and had more energy. By cutting gluten and casin I lost 10kg and my boyfriend’s psoriasis cleared up and he stopped sleeping every time he sat down.
        Luckily for us, we were able to reintroduce gluten when we were better. But it still can come back, so we try to eat only whole grain gluten foods and have more variety, rather then having it for every meal.
        This intolerance is something that most people don’t know they have, but its destructive to internally. But to see nutritionists and get tests are so expensive that most people would just accept they are overweight. However there is a big trend to buy gluten free products here, usually only for a means of losing weight though.

      2. uberdish Post author

        How nice that your Dad owns his own gluten-free fresh pasta business! Yum! I think many people think the gluten-free diet is just a weight loss trend. What a shame. I personally didn’t lose anything, but I feel so much better without it. I didn’t realize I was carrying around a concrete ball under my shirts until I gave up gluten. As for energy, I do believe I have more. My daughter for sure – she’s now a competitive dance and soccer player.

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