I have family and friends with Celiac Disease so I have been trying to read and learn more about what foods have gluten, what it means to be gluten-free over the past few years. I wanted to see for myself how challenging it is to make changes in a family around food habits. With all changes, the first step is myself. This is not a nutritional or medical guide for anyone. It is simply my “journal” of things I tried and my observations. Please meet with your health care provider to discuss what your specific needs are for you and your children.
I decided to start with a small goal for myself. I chose February probably because I had been considering making some changes in the New Year and it is the shortest month for a challenge. (I now realize that this type of lifestyle change needs to be at least 60 days or more from my reading but this was what I could do at the time). I include some of the entries I had for the month by date below.
Just before I began, I went out for lunch with some friends this week and had a burrito at Moe’s… thankfully one of them was my friend and author of a cookbook on gluten-free eating so I know I have some local support. I went shopping this week and found some things I thought I would like to try. I am hoping this will help with my joint pain and stomach issues.
Friday is day 1. Glad to start! GF granola for breakfast and a yummy walnut burger on a salad for lunch. I didn’t think ahead and plan for dinner… rummaging through the pantry.
2. Made a 15-bean soup with GF chicken broth and veggie broth… made a huge pot so I can have some for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. I am tired… is it life on the weekends or could it be gluten withdrawal already?
3. It is Super Bowl Sunday here… hubby likes his favorite foods today so he went shopping with Z first thing in the morning. I asked him to buy GF chips for the salsa and now I am adding some gluten-free apps to my phone. I hate the ones that you have to register or connect with Facebook. Why can’t I just go on and scan or something!?
4. Heading to A’s school for lunch volunteering today… I usually pick up a premade sandwich at my grocery… grabbing some goodies at home instead… feeling like I am making healthy choices and setting a good example.
5. Trying some GF pasta tonight. I didn’t think I’d go for a substitute quite this early… it tastes ok but I should have read the directions first…cooks WAY faster than wheat pasta.
7. Many things on the agenda today. Having some yummy GF butternut squash soup for lunch that I made last night. Perfect for a chilly day!
10. A made me gluten-free cookies as a surprise today! So glad to find a restaurant I can have a gluten-free slice of pizza and salad with GF dressing. Family dinner out.
11. Little Z wants to go get a donut…wish there was a local GF donut shop now. Gluten free pizza doesn’t reheat well.
13. Heading to S’s school for lunch volunteer duty… trying a microwave meal before I go. It is actually better than others I’ve tried! I don’t eat microwave meals much but super busy today.
14. Valentine’s Day – Family dinner – my husband bought candy and made sure it was GF first. He read ingredients and made a steak BUT added beer to the recipe and so… no steak for me. I made some GF cupcakes and forgot to add the butter to them at the right time… buttery cupcake fail. Oh well… we tried.
15. My husband and I went out to dinner together and I called ahead to ask if they could accommodate gluten-free. I got my own menu. Made it nice to see the options I had but not have to weed through the things I couldn’t.
21. Daddy is out of town and I thought I’d treat the kids to Chinese for dinner… ate some sesame chicken without even thinking about the coating even though I ordered my own steamed chicken without sauce.
23. Out to brunch with some friends. Lovely GF breakfast options!
What I learned in this month:
- I feel better eating less processed foods.
- It is easier than I thought to find gluten-free foods these days.
- Restaurants are willing to accommodate if you are clear and polite about your needs.
- Eating whole foods in their closest to natural state, means a lot less gluten my the diet.
- Sometimes allergy testing is not going to give me the answer I can find by using an elimination diet.
- My family learned a few things about nutrition this month by watching me.
- My pain did lessen so I have to make it a lifestyle change…all or nothing seems to be the key… and not quitting if I make a few mistakes along the way.
- A lot of people don’t understand or believe in gluten intolerance, even though it is in medical literature.
- As someone who wants to support breastfeeding moms with their journey, I now also have an idea of how you can eliminate gluten, still feel full and keep breastfeeding!
- Life takes some planning ahead or wise shopping but eating gluten-free is doable.
There are so many resources out there on gluten, eating gluten-free and some naysayers as well. Not everyone feels they have to go gluten-free but often foods with gluten are processed foods or ones that have been genetically modified in someway. There is often cross contamination so it is important to read labels. I found that if I wanted a packaged meal from one company, it didn’t mean the entire brand had all gluten-free items. Or if I thought I was eating something without grain or gluten like chips or nuts I still had to read labels… many had gluten powder or gluten in the flavoring. I got a lot better and reading labels and as I consider making this longer term lifestyle, I think it would be simple enough to write a list of items that are OK and then read labels from time to time. If this were an allergy or intolerance, I would most likely encourage you to check labels each time you shop. A good way to be sure is simply stick with most things in their natural state… beef/chicken/fish with nothing added, apples, pears, broccoli, kale, beans, broth (read labels or make your own bone broth), cheese if you can eat dairy, etc.
Just after this month trial, my cousin visited us and told us she had recently been diagnosed with Celiac. Some of our other family and friends also have this diagnosis, so I had been aware of many of the allergy related changes we’d need to do for visits…such as how to order GF food in a restaurant or which pancake mix or other flour substitutes we could use. It takes some practice but when it is part of your daily life, it becomes easier to manage and to plan for.
Now my challenge is in encouraging my children to try more new foods and different forms of the foods we have been eating. I found overall that I’d much rather keep to more whole foods than to find substitutes for things… no wheat free bagel or GF pizza is ever going to taste like the “real” thing, so rather than wishing for it, I simply went for new things or versions of things I already like to eat
I also found that many of the GF things are full of corn (which is mostly genetically modified in the USA) or quinoa and both also seemed to bother me more than it had before I decided to go gluten-free and pay attention to my bodies reactions. Much of this is very starchy with potato or tapioca added and not very healthy anyway. I recently came across an article which I include before on just how your body can also react to things that are cross contaminated so be aware this can happen, especially if you are sensitive and aware in your body. This is called “cross contamination” and things like corn, quinoa or even coffee can impact this.
My biggest surprise was actually how well my skin responded to the healing in my gastrointestinal tract. I have been going to the dermatologist for a rash that cleared within the first week of going GF. I was extremely itchy all over my body about the 4th night in and then felt great after that so it seemed I needed to get over some hump of expelling some of the “bad” and making room for the “good”. I hadn’t thought about how my skin would be literally detoxing for me through my pores. (When I went back to GF, this happened again!) Celiac is an autoimmune disorder… when I was told that the rash came from an autoimmune reaction I started to make this connection even more!
I took a couple of months off of the gluten-free month to read and learn more. I am now on a totally gluten-free diet and plan to be for at least one year. I also decided to take at least three months off of corn, soy and other starch foods (potato, quinoa, chick pea, etc.). I am basically trying a modified GAPS diet and working with a few different health care practitioners on this plan for my body health. This type of change takes some practice and usually some supportive friends or family as well. As it has become more of a routine, it is working well and my family is also starting to get more on board when they see how much more energy I have and when we discuss how food makes us feel.
I am taking good probiotics, adding some other vitamins and herbs to my routine and really reading labels more. I’ve cleaned out my pantry so that I can set myself up for success. I’ve also really been aware of my calories because I always notice that when I start to eliminate something from my diet, I need to make sure I still eat enough of the good veggies and keep my body and immune system strong.
I have found that as we keep thinking more about what food goes into our body, all of my family is really reading labels and paying more attention to their bodies. If you are on a gluten-free journey, know that over the past decade a lot more awareness has come about how gluten effects health and there are a lot of options out there.
I know that many of us think in terms of not “depriving” our kids or ourselves but in the long run I feel like I’ve been depriving myself and my kids of the optimum health and nutrition by eating so much gluten when for our family there are obvious benefits in taking it out. For me, it is a clear shift in my attitude that matters… I am really learning to pay attention to my reactions after foods as well as try to figure out why or when I have cravings for certain foods. If you are going gluten-free for your baby, know that you are setting your baby up for great health by taking care of yourself as well.
There is debate about when gluten should or shouldn’t be added to child’s diet. I am not an expert in this area at all. The bottom line for me is that MY health impacts my child’s health and breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months while working on child-led feeding WHILE keeping breastfeeding part of your day if you do introduce gluten to your child is very important.
What we eat while we are pregnant and breastfeeding impacts our body and is important. I am not saying that anyone has to “eat a perfect diet” to breastfeed but it is always beneficial to be aware of what we eat and how it makes us feel. No formula, store or homemade, is a replacement for mother’s own milk for her own baby. Not every cry or colicky baby is a result of gluten or something dietary. This blog entry is not a prescription for you to change your diet, but is intended to be supportive for those who WANT to be gluten-free. If you are a friend or family of someone on this journey, I hope that some of the links below are helpful for you as well.
Information on Celiac:
Celiac Sprue Internet Resources:
Celiac Disease Foundation http://www.celiac.org
Celiac Sprue Association http://www.csaceliacs.org/
Raising Our Celiac Kids (ROCK) www.celiackids.com
Gluten Intolerance Group http://www.gluten.net/
University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research http://www.celiaccenter.org/
Canadian Celiac Association
Interesting Articles or blogs:
Gluten: The Whole Story
Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease
Gluten-Free, Whether You Need It or Not
Wheat Belly – Celiac is not a disease
The Boy With a Thorn in His Joints
Introducing gluten-containing foods to breastfeeding infants may prevent celiac disease
Trying a Wheat-Free Life
Who Has The Guts for Gluten?
“Bifidobacteria occur naturally in breast milk, which, along with protective antibodies and immune-signaling proteins, conveys hundreds of prebiotic sugars. These sugars selectively feed certain microbes in the infant gut, particularly bifidobacteria. Breast-fed infants tend to harbor more bifidobacteria than formula-fed ones.”
Celiac Disease linked to infections, breastfeeding
Gluten-Free Goddess: The Gluten-Free Diet Cheat-Sheet: How to Go G-Free
Normal, Like Breathing: So, What CAN I Eat?
Most People Shouldn’t Eat Gluten-Free
Gluten Cross-Reactivity Update: How your body can still think you’re eating gluten even after giving it up
Gluten Free Pantry Makeover in 5 Easy Steps
Maternal microbiota passes directly to newborn, Yakult research suggests