Monday, June 8, 2009

What do you mean that's not Gluten Free?

I consider myself a fairly well educated person. I'm not a genius, I'm not going to win hundreds of thousands of dollars on Jeopardy, but I do have a college degree in Psychology. Thanks to my mother's long term illnesses I spent years in and out of hospitals and doctors offices picking up medical terminology and a far greater understanding of the workings of the human body than even my education provided. Then my first post college position was in a psychiatric hospital working closely with the doctor, nursing team and social workers. I am more than capable of reading an abstract from a medical journal and extracting the information I need from it. So you would think that doing something as simple as removing Gluten and Casein from my son's diet would be simple. Guess again!

In some respects, yes, it is easy to remove gluten and casein from a person's diet. That is if you are prepared to make all of the food yourself. Let's be honest. Truly honest. How many people make all the food in their homes' nowadays? We live in an automated society. We eat pre-made foods. Otherwise known as processed foods. Processed meaning as cheaply made as possible with as many preservatives as possible to maximize shelf life and therefore profit. That's life! Our lives. So let's move on from there.

There are many prepackaged foods for people with celiac disease on the market. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body is harmed by gluten. Some of these foods are casein free as well, and therefor ready made for the gluten-free/casein-free diet (GF/CF). My favorite company, personally, has always been Kinnikinnick. They are a Canadian company that is 100% gluten free. They also have a special product line called Alta. All products in the Alta line are GF/CF and the company has been working hard to remove soy from those product in response to customer feedback. You can view their product lines and prices at . Another good company is ENER-G. Many of their products are gluten and casein free, but you really need to check labels very well. They can be found at .

You are most likely going to start at your local heath food store. I did. If you are really lucky you might have a Whole Foods Store in your area. You should check at to see, even if it is 30-45 minutes away it might very well be worth the trip. Whole foods has a vast selection of foods and employees and guide books to help people shop for special diets. Know as much as you can before you go into a store and beware of packaging that says "Wheat Free". We learned the hard way, long ago that Wheat free and Gluten free are two very different things, please do yourself a favor and learn from my mistake. I was fortunate that my local heath food store had a decent selection of gluten free foods that were dairy free as well. Every piece of food my son ate on his new diet came from a package. I went on the diet with him to show him that Mommy was eating it too! Mommy was seriously unhappy. Within 3 days Mommy started baking and learned a quick lesson. Homemade is better.

I had been cooking for years so everything was okay. On top of that our son was the poster child for the diet! His recovery began immediately and no one could deny the progress he was making. Sometimes, however, GF/CF isn't enough.

About week five on the diet, my son's red cheeks (seen above in photo with Dad) returned. They had gone away once we started the GF/CF diet. Now he was also getting dark circles under his eyes and his progress was waning. I ran out one morning to run errands, leaving strict instructions about what he could eat. We had run an allergy test on him but were still awaiting the results. When I got home his entire face was red and swollen. I reamed my sister and husband who had been there with him and they swore up and down that all he had had was 1 donut. I read over the ingredients over and over again. I immediately called our dietitian Vicki Kobliner . I was suddenly convinced that the soy protein or the eggs were the problem. She told me to calm down and administer some benadryl. Three days later I received a call from her. My hunch was right. She told me to remove all soy and egg products right away, he was a +3 to both on the allergy blood test.

I'm not sure I ever apologized, so Jim and Aunt Sweetie, I am really sorry I yelled at you guys that morning!
If cooking without gluten and casein is difficult then cooking without gluten, casein, soy or eggs is a nightmare. It's a miracle that my son didn't starve over the next two weeks. Not one thing I attempted to bake came out edible. I threw out tray after tray of cookies, muffins and breads. This was over seven years ago. Yes, there was ready made GF food and some of it was CF but I was only able to find 2 products my son would eat that were also soy and egg free. Now his food was reliant on my creativity and capability. There's a burden every mother yearns to bear! (too much sarcasm?) Here I was crying again, with my son right by my side this time. I was weeping because even more (really expensive) cookies were going in the trash can and he was weeping because Mommy couldn't do anything right!

Week 2 on GF/CF/SF/EF went by and suddenly something just clicked. The baked goods started coming out alright. I stopped ripping my hair out, figuratively, and my son stopped crying! I figured out some of the tricks of the trade for using gelatin and fruits to replace eggs and how to adjust baking times and temperatures. It just takes time and experience to figure out most things in life.
Next Friday, learn why you need to know what's in that supplement and why sign language is so important!

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