May is Celiac Awareness month. My youngest daughter, Heather, was diagnosed with Celiac just before her second birthday in 2004.
Adjusting to a gluten-free diet is not as difficult as it may seem at first, but it's definitely much easier now than it was 12 years ago!
Back then, Celiac was not as common as it is today.
Heather was sick for several months before we finally found out what was wrong.
She was anemic, lethargic and had a distended abdomen. She was very small for her age and didn’t walk until she was almost 18-months old.
She was put on iron supplements which didn’t help. She was going for blood work every month and she hated it. I don’t think there is anything more gut wrenching than having to subject your child to something like that.
Our family doctor finally referred her to a pediatrician.
At the first appointment, she weighed 20 pounds. The pediatrician was not much help. At the second appointment, Heather was down to 18 pounds.
Two pounds may not seem like a lot, but it was 10% of her weight!
I will never forget how the doctor treated me.
She acted as if I was the problem and accused me of not feeding her!
Shortly after that appointment, I happened to read an article in Parents’ Magazine. It was called “The Enemy in the Pantry” and it was about a family who had discovered that the mother and one of her children had this condition called Celiac. There was a list of symptoms that were common in people with Celiac…Heather had every single one.
At the next appointment, the doctor again was accusatory of me. I looked at her at said, “Have you considered that she might have Celiac Disease?”
I literally saw the light come on in her brain.
She sent us for another blood test (in all of Heather’s previous tests, Celiac was never tested for). She called me that afternoon and said Heather had tested positive. She would be scheduled for a biopsy to confirm, but we were to start her on a gluten-free diet immediately.
She never apologized for how she had missed the diagnosis, or how she behaved towards me. We also never saw her again for her to follow up and see how Heather was doing.
This is but one example from my personal experience of the importance of taking an active role in your (or your children's) health.
Remember that doctors are only human and can make mistakes.
It’s up to you to ask questions, do some research and become better informed.
The GI specialist who performed the biopsy the following week said that it was the worst case of Celiac he had ever seen.
Heather is so much better now and while she finds it difficult at times, she knows that eating gluten can make her really sick.
When she was four, her daycare messed up and gave her a regular flour tortilla! She immediately started vomiting.
We pack food we know will be safe for her to eat when we go to potlucks and parties, and she knows to check food labels (when possible) before eating something she's never had before.
I used to buy packaged gluten-free treats and snacks for Heather all the time because it was the easiest thing to do.
Now I only buy them once in a while for special occasions. I also found many recipes to make cakes, muffins and pancakes myself.
It’s a choice I made because I knew it was better for Heather's health.
While more and more products are coming out all the time that are labelled gluten-free (even those that were naturally gluten-free to begin with) it’s easy to overlook what’s replaced the gluten.
That’s because most of the ingredients that have replaced gluten (rice and corn flour and starches) tend to be higher on the glycemic index. When you eat food with a high-GI, your body turns it into sugar.
Compound that with the increase in the amount of actual sugar used in these packaged foods and your body can easily be overwhelmed with excess sugar, which then gets stored as fat.
In addition, the corn and sugar are genetically modified unless the package has a label indicating otherwise.
For more about foods containing GMOs, check out this post.
A couple of years ago, we found out that Heather is also intolerant to dairy, soy and sugar like me so it’s best to avoid packaged food as much as possible.
I started making my own recipes free from gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugar. Check out my recipes here.
I also turned to foods that are naturally gluten-free.
Here are a few of my favourite gluten-free foods that our whole family enjoys:
- Winter squash
I do buy packaged gluten-free pasta. My favourite kind is GoGo pasta – made with quinoa. (To see what the package looks like, click here to peek in my pantry.)
The pastas made with rice flour are too high on GI index for my liking, plus I never found a brand that I really cared for.
Some people think they can lose weight by going on a gluten-free diet.
If they are relying mostly on packaged gluten-free food though, they most likely won't see much of a change.
Or worse, they may even gain weight!
You don’t have to have Celiac to notice an improvement in your health by eliminating or even reducing your exposure to gluten with your food choices.
Gluten can be difficult for some people to digest and cause inflammation, bloating, and other nasty digestive problems.
Contact me for a complimentary assessment to determine if gluten may be harming your health.
Your future self will thank you!