Thursday, February 21, 2013

Goodbye to Gluten...

Yesterday I was going about my day when a sudden realization struck me.

Mae Bae hasn't been having tantrums.  She hasn't been going through her daily 4 o'clock hour of terrors, where she engages in the systematic destruction of the house. She's been exceptionally cuddly.  And I have been seriously more relaxed on those long days when it's just me and the kids while Paul is in class during the day and through dinner and then stays at school to study late into the night.

When did this happen?  I wondered, as I puttered around in the kitchen.  And then the answer popped into my head and stopped me in my tracks.  It's been about two weeks... which is around the time I ran out of bread and rolls and hadn't bought more simply because they weren't on my meal planning list.

I wasn't intentionally avoiding them with the girls, it just so happens that I haven't been cooking with wheat since Patrick and I can't have it, and as a result, the people I'm cooking for are eating a lot less of it too, since I try to make something that everyone will enjoy.

And Mae is like a different toddler when it comes to tantrums.  She's still destroyed quite a bit of furniture, but the difference is that I haven't seen her intentionally destroy things.  It's usually the result of her... unfortunate... climbing prowess and the fact that she's bigger than you're average two year old. She isn't breaking things when she's having a tantrum.  She's breaking them because she's climbing something and that something isn't built to hold forty pound of two year old (like our space heater).

She just seems happier.

Now I should mention that usually the child is practically addicted to all things bread.  Given a choice between bread and candy she'd likely take the bread.

This morning, however, helped cement the discussion Paul and I were about to have to make.  He got up early with the girls and gave them cereal... wheat cereal.

An hour of screaming followed.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I'm not doing a study.  I don't need irrefrutable proof that there's a difference.  I can see that there's a difference.

She has started talking... which could account for the difference.  But this change began two weeks before she started bubbling over with words, which makes me wonder more if this diet change has actually contributed to her sudden ability to communicate with us.

We discussed the research I'd discovered last night and talked about the changes I've seen.  And Paul agreed that he wanted to try giving up gluten and wheat too, after hearing me gush for a month now about how I feel better and have more energy than I've had in years.  So we're going gluten free al together now.

I never expected this.

You see, it wasn't like I felt particularly "bad" before.  At least I didn't think that I did.  If you'd asked me I would have said I'd had a rough year, with all the illness during my pregnancy with Patrick, but that I was fine.  Maybe starting to feel a bit older and more run down, but fine.

I believe she just stole an ice cube....
And I was skeptical of all the various diets that I saw floating around.  Sure, they were okay for other people, and seemed to work for other people, but we were okay eating the way that we ate.  I cooked healthy homemade meals.  I love to bake.  I didn't think we needed to change.

I'd think of my ten years as a vegetarian and how so many people had told me I would be ill if I ate meat after ten years without it and how the transition had been smooth when I did decide one day to have a streak, and I felt exactly the same, no better or worse than I had in the previous decade.

Nothing short of Patrick's allergy would have changed things, because I didn't think anything needed to be changed.

Then I began this new diet... and after the first week of sugar and carb withdrawals, I felt like a different person.  I feel like I've dropped a decade off of my energy levels.  My weight has stabilized now, below my pre-pregnancy weight with Patrick, and I'm able to eat until I'm full without having to count calories to make sure I'm getting enough.  When I eat wheat or something sugary, I feel sick.  And the two migraines I've had in the past month were both when I was testing new foods... first when I ate sugar (a small amount too!) for the first time in two weeks and the second when I ate wheat.  Other than that I've been migraine free.  I'm hoping with these diet changes I might stay that way.

Pumpkin and Maple Syrup Rice Ice Cream
It has been quite a change.  I'm compiling my own recipes as I learn to cook all over again.  Cranberry Chicken Cabbage rolls is a new family favorite.  I am relieved that we can have dairy and non-peanut legumes (Mae Bae loves chickpeas), so we're not strictly Paleo, although the Paleo recipes I've found have been very helpful.  I'm a little in love with spaghetti squash at the moment.  And my arms were sore today after making sauerkraut for the first time.

The whole family is also enjoying Paul's Valentine's day present to me, a homemade ice cream maker that guarantees we know exactly what's in our ice cream.  I've come up with a pumpkin and a blackberry recipe so far (both using rice milk) and I can't wait to see what else we can come up with.

It's been a crazy month since Patrick first started breaking out in hives.  He's now been hive free for five days, the longest we've gone without a reaction of some kind.  And while I pray he grows out of these allergies, I'm thankful for the information we've gained these past few weeks and the boost of energy these changes have given us.

And I'm thankful that the toddler is no longer focused on systematically destroying the house.

So I'm excitedly saying goodbye to gluten and hello to a whole new kind of cooking!


  1. Good for you! It's hard work but worth it. I recognize myself in so much of what you say here. Not realizing that I needed a change but then discovering a new and great way of living. My oldest dd is a teen now and had a really hard couple of months. She kept telling me that she just felt "bad" and like laying on her bed all the time. At first, I thought teenage hormones. Then, she decided to give up wheat for Lent. HUGE commitment since it means I have to help her plan her meals apart from her siblings and different from my sometimes crazy pregnancy needs. However, she has been a completely different person since she started. Energetic, upbeat, exercising every day, no more dark circles. She once told me that spaghetti has always given her bad stomach aches... now we're both wondering whether this should be a permanent change. So tough for a teen! But worth it? We'll see.
    Prayers for your journey. So glad to hear that you and your little ones are feeling well.

  2. I forgot one thing... PLEASE share all of your gorgeous recipes with your readers as go! :)

  3. That all sounds fantastic! Makes me almost tempted to give up carbs myself! What's the recipe for the cranberry chicken parcels? Is it online somewhere or one of your own creation?

  4. We noticed that exact same thing (fewer temper tantrums and increased speech when we took my oldest of gluten back when she was only 3.5. Then when I went off, I noticed increased energy and felt so much better.

  5. Melody: if your daughter is in fact gluten-intolerant and had damage done to her small intestines from consuming gluten all her life, it likely will not be permament. In fact, it will probably take less than a couple of years to improve :)

    Cam: I follow your blog, although I don't comment a whole lot. I am so happy to hear that you, Patrick, and now Mae have discovered this! I was diagosed with Celiac Disease in August (by blood work and endoscopy) and eating gluten-free is surprisingly managable! The only time it's tricky is when we are invited to a friends house, church get-togethers, and eating out (but we rarely did that anyways). Good luck! I'm looking forward to seeing some gluten-free meal ideas from you because I could always use more recipes :)

  6. Cam, I also read often but rarely comment. What a blessing that through navigating Patrick's allergies, you were able to find something that helped the whole family. I'm currently reading the book "Is This Your Child?" which discusses types of childhood allergies that are often dismissed by allergists. As I read through this post, it made so much sense: high energy, tantrums, walked early, talking a bit later, these are a lot of the things the book mentions. As a parent, I would assume all those things are just a phase or just a certain child's disposition, but it's amazing how much can be linked to food.

  7. Considering the number of other allergies/sensitivities y’all have, a gluten intolerance for Mae is probably not surprising. I have several family members and friends who are gluten intolerant, and they are all folks who already have significant other allergies. And tantrums, both hyperactivity AND lack of energy, later talking, and frequent illnesses are very common gluten-intolerance symptoms. My little brother had all of the above (we didn’t figure out the connection to gluten until he was a teen – which is also why I know that I have no issues with gluten, since I ate a gluten-free diet for 2 years along with the rest of the family, then went back to eating it in college with no observable change). In general, if you are frequently exposed to an allergen trigger, it will depress your immune system (I guess your immune system is so busy attacking your body in response to the allergen trigger, that it doesn’t have as much ability to attack the bacteria and viruses it is supposed to be going after). At least in my experience with friends and family, the simple question “do you have any allergies” is pretty much the best predictor of how often a person gets sick, and how long it takes to recover from an illness. My husband, me, and our 3 littles all have no allergies, and we are “1 cold per year, and something antibiotic-worthy every 10 years” sort of people (of my 3 kids, ages 18 months to 4 ½, only one has ever had a pediatrician sick visit, and both me and my husband work outside of the house, and our kids go to daycare, so we don’t lack frequent exposure to germs). All the kids and adults I know with allergies however, tend to get at least one serious illness a year, and take weeks, instead of days to recover from things like a cold or the stomach flu. I think gluten is a far more common allergen than most people realize, which has led to the belief in some circles that ALL people should eliminate it for health reasons (which would be the same thing as saying that ALL people should avoid sniffing a field full of ragweed, which is a good idea for probably more than 50% of the population, but would have zero benefit for someone like me). But if you are allergic to gluten, it is entirely possible, and therefore desireable to avoid it (far easier than never breathing in pollen!). The fewer allergen triggers you are repeatedly exposed to, the better your body can handle the ones that are not avoidable!


  8. My daughter is now 13, but years ago she had high energy, talked late, etc like another commenter posted above. We had her tested for allergies and that helped with the dust mites and egg whites, but she still continued to have problems and was falling further and further behind. Then I was told she was borderline ADHD and that she needed to be put on medication immediately. I instead went online and found out about the Finegold diet for ADHD. Within two weeks, our daughter was a completely different child in that she was calmer, talked more, had better attention. It also helped clear up her chronic ear infections. I'm so glad you are finding similar results for your family. All the changes are so worth it.

  9. I think I mentioned that after dh gave up gluten (by accident; he was given a low carb diet to lose weight for hernia surgery) Most of his allergies disappeared. I think there were other carbs (ie grains) that were a problem too. It took a couple of years after that but he started giving it a try. His allergies are way better (incense is still a problem :() But he stopped biting his nails for the first time ever and his gums are no longer inflamed!!
    PS I would love the Cranberry Chicken Cabbage Roll recipe??

  10. Cam,

    My husband's aunt is a holistic health practitioner, and has been helping us for the last two years to adjust to being without gluten. Our family members are more (me and our daughter Sara) or less (him) gluten intolerant, NOT celiac, so please continue to be super careful with Patrick! But she gave us this stuff called AllerGzyme, which helps to digest the gluten protein if you only get a little bit -- nowhere near enough to replace a gluten-free diet, but enough so that we can take fairly regular communion! (It's probably silly, but that was the first thing I thought of when the doctor told me I should eliminate wheat from my diet.)


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