Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gee Eff- Part 2: Why My Family Went Gluten Free

Last week I gave you all the low-down on why I had to go gluten free.  This week, I'm going to explain why the whole family went gluten free and how we did it.
So now that I was terrorized by the fact that I could no longer eat bread, I decided to half heartedly go gluten free.  You know, mostly at home eating gluten free but when I went out into the world, it was a free for all including gluten!  By doing this, I relied on grocery store shelf products that were gluten free and didn't make anything from scratch - mostly because gluten free (GF) bread is readily available on the shelf or freezer.  My favorite is actually the Schar White Bread - it costs just about $6.00 a loaf and lasts me roughly a week.  Yep, I was spending $24 a month just on bread that I ate for breakfast.  This did not include the crackers, rolls, and other breads that I was buying too. Most of them were three times what regular gluten laden products cost. At the time, I didn't really care though because it was just me and the cost was not that significant.
Then that fall (I found out about me in the summer), #2 was chronically sick with infection after infection.  It was crazy especially since he just had his tonsils out and I did not expect this at all.  I had already taken him to an allergist and every single test had come back negative.  At this point I felt my only option was Nutritional Response Testing (NRT).  We had done this with him as a baby to see if he was not tolerating his formula and other baby foods but didn't really have any luck since he was so young.  The process is also a tad iffy to me, even to this day.  They have you hold on to a vile of the item they are testing against you and then see how your muscles reflex to it. With children they have to be held by an adult and have the test done through the adult. This just seems so wacky to me and unreliable.  I did it anyway because we were desperate for our little guy to be well.  Every single vile tested negative except for.... wait for it.... WHEAT!
At this point our entire household went gluten free since now half of the family had to live gluten free. I threw out tons of open packages of gluten laden food and started replacing it with only gluten free foods, but that quickly started to rack up to some pretty significant dough (no pun intended) now that I was buying for four and not just one.  I knew that if we were going to be gluten free long term that I was going to have to start making stuff myself and from scratch.  This is when I turned to amazon and started researching cookbooks.  I bought a ton and to start used Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour products. 
It was a rocky start. I have tried tons of on the market loaves of bread all at several dollars a pop and the only one that is remotely ok to me is Schar white bread even though it was not whole grain. I just used my last loaf and I swear I'm going to tackle a bread recipe this week that will be our standby - even if it kills me (UPDATE: I tried this week and was successful! YEA ME!).  Thank god, Auntie Annie's brand offers GF mac-n-cheeses that the whole family will eat - straight from a box.  Otherwise, I make all of our home goods like cookies. donuts, cupcakes, cakes, etc..  all homemade - you name it, I make it all from scratch, including rolls, pizza crusts, and so much more.  Yep, it takes a lot of planning and more time to do this but isn't our health really important? 

The worst part about it all was that we went 100% gluten free in our household the first part of December.  That meant that I needed to come up with a gluten free Christmas menu that would knock everyone's socks off.  I had my work cut out for me. The cookbook that I naturally turned to was Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, by Nicole Hunn.  It literally had everything in it that I needed to make our Christmas day dinner 100% GF all in one cookbook and the ingredients weren't completely wacky.  I made GF rolls, gravy, chocolate skillet cake, stuffing, and even green bean casserole.  It all turned out great.  After a successful meal and an entire day spent in the kitchen making it, I announced to the family and our guests that everything was gluten free.  They exclaimed, "Oh but surely the cake wasn't, it was so good."  Yes people, it was and eating gluten free doesn't mean you are destined to a life of eating food that tastes like crap. It just isn't so!
As a little side track - just this month, I made 5 dozen cupcakes for #1's birthday parties:  1 dozen white, 1 dozen yellow, and 3 dozen chocolate with Nutella cloud frosting - they were to die for and everyone loved them.  For my daughter's last cheer practice, I made pumpkin spice chocolate chip cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting.  Again, they were a huge hit and people could not believe they were gluten free.  They all were and they all tasted great because GF food tastes great when you take the time and energy to make it correctly.
Any way, back to the original tale..... At this time, the only person 100% gluten free all of the time was #2.  He didn't have a spec of it unless it was an accident somewhere and they didn't know about his lifestyle.  I was still eating gluten when I was out and about.  Then in early winter of the following year, I was retested.  My thyroid antibodies had come down significantly (by 100pts).  It dawned on me that if this happened just by cutting out gluten at home, think of what it would be if I did it 100%????  That is when I went 100% gluten free - inside and outside of the home.  It has not been the easiest to say the least but we either bring our GF foods with us to the restaurant or we get creative with the menu. 
One point I do want to make about us is that we do not watch cross contamination very well.  True celiacs, cannot eat food that was touched by a gluten food, fried in the same fryer as gluten food, or created with the same dishes, pots, pans or utensils that have touched gluten.  For these people, it is a true life threatening allergy.  #2 and I just have intolerances, so to be honest, I just have not been that great about the whole cross contamination issue and we seem to be doing ok.  In fact, both of our health's have improved drastically.
Going gluten free has been the best thing that our family has done.  Besides improving my health - I have more energy, I sleep better, my skin is better, etc... I have not checked my thyroid antibodies in a while, but I'm almost sure they are way lower than they have been in years. As far as #2 goes, people have commented on the fact that he no longer has super dark circles under his eyes and generally looks great.  Our dentists have raved about the health of our gums for both us and we have different dentists.  This is not a coincidence.  It is fact. 
Will we keep this up long term?  For me the answer is yes.  As I get older I know it will only get worse, so there is no going back. Technically, they say that #2's future NRT tests could come back negative for wheat and then he can start eating it again, but I think - will he start to get sick again?  will it be a few years and then he has to go GF again?  I don't know, so for now, we are sticking to GF eating for the both of us.  Obviously we have some genetic deal going on here and if he can do it now while he is a kid, it will be so much easier as he gets older because he'll already like naturally gluten free foods like fruits, veggies, dairy, and lean proteins.  There are so many GF pastas out there that he can turn to and even bread.  Though I do have visions of sending him to college with a mini freezer full of all his GF foods so he doesn't have to come home every weekend and get some of my stash.  I laugh at myself for thinking about this as he is on 4.5 years old.  I have plenty of other obstacles to hurdle first like b-day parties, sleepovers, and camp.  I know we'll make it through even though it will be hard at first and who knows, by then his college campus may already offer all gluten free options. Gluten free living has come a long way in a few short years, so I can't even imagine what it will be like in 13 years from now!
More to come on being GF.  I have many blog and cookbook reviews to help you navigate as well as some recipes up my sleeve to help you out with your GF cooking and baking.
Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

P.S.  Happy 40th Birthday to my bestie!!!  You know who you are!

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