Sunday, September 11, 2011

The GF Scoop!

I was asked this week if going GF has been difficult, and decided a longer answer to the question is in order. So, herewith another post on the gluten free life!

The easy answer is, of course: well, Son is now hale and healthy and has muscles. So, "priceless," and all that. But it's also a platitude. Because, yes. It can be very difficult at times.

When we first got the diagnosis it was a relief of sorts. We were the ones who had asked to have celiac panels run, etc, so it wasn't exactly an enormous surprise to us (although it did seem to be to the pediatric gastroentorologist at Children's Mercy). Still, we had a blizzard to ride out, had just arrived back from Middle Earth the day before school went back, I was teaching a grad class, and what on earth to feed Son in the hours that immediately followed? We got by on lots of mixes, and although I did purchase a whole heap of recipe books it was with the best of intentions and not much time to learn new tricks. The blizzard was actually a godsend as it kept me indoors away from other human beings and shopping on the internet while we weathered the news.

The semester got easier. We learned new things: assess the school cafeteria eating environment; ask the teacher for a list of birthday dates in Son's classroom so as to be able to provide something tasty for him when cupcakes were being consumed; send pizzas to the local pizzeria when the school took Son there to celebrate something with an external reward. For the most part, Son enjoyed feeling Special throughout this time. He enjoyed the feeling of being a medical mystery (something that has cost us a lot of money over the years, I must say).

The kitchen became GF in the first week. Bye bye: toaster, bread bin, cereals, crumbs in the cupboards, and our favorite bread board made out of ancient kauri from New Zealand. (A replacement is finally on its way, as I type.) Daughter was initially frustrated by not being able to eat chicken nuggets in the house, but is now quite happy in the realization that she gets gluten in sealed packets in her lunch, and can eat anything she wants to out in the world. For now, at least. She had a blood test to check for antibodies (not a fun five minutes) and is currently clear.

Then the summer arrived, and with it the end of my deferred best intentions. Time to step up, and become self-reliant! Bought a bread machine. Baked, and baked. Have found (with the help of One Piece of Cake at a Time--see blogroll, and several of my recipe books, and the internet) some new family favorites. Chocolate cookies that all kids love. Almond joy that adults say is the best they've ever eaten. Went against years of low fat wisdom and bought a frier which, when coupled with a french fry potato cutter, is now responsible for french fries once a week at dinner. Son is now far from feeling deprived. We use GF beer in the crock pot. Eating at home is easy. Sending Son on sleepovers or playdates with food is easy.

He has his moments of frustration. He has said it's a bit annoying to show up with a food kit to a friend's house. He can't eat licorice. And the chinese buffet is pretty much a thing of the past.

I have to say that for both of us (as I too am affected): restaurants are the hardest to bear. The gap between what is supposed to happen (request conversations with the cook; request that they cook meat wrapped in foil if they cannot change out the grill; request that they use clean utensils and avoid touching anything else with them; ask a million questions about what's in the marinade... I mean, who thinks that is a fun way to eat out?) and what actually does happen is wide. Holla Red Lobster for actually volunteering to switch out the grill and grab utensils from their dishwasher in reponse to our careful menu questions, by the way. You rock. Usually what happens is a slab of meat with as little on it as possible, and a "hope for the best" attitude.

So the long answer is more complicated. Lovely to feel healthy, and have Son look and feel healthy. Glad his vitamin and mineral absorption is looking good, and his teeth don't seem to have suffered from lack. Annoyed that his life will be markedly different, and still feeling guilty (it is genetic after all). Glad that labelling laws and product availability are getting better every single day, but annoyed that very few people understand that it's more than a food allergy: it's an auto-immune disease, and yes: one bite does hurt. Glad we're out of the six months of lactose intolerance and ban on eating GF oats until Son's stomach has healed enough to reintroduce those foods. Glad it's not something worse, or more medically managed, but nervous that Crohn's is also still in the picture, pending another biopsy in the new year. Worried about teen depression, which is apparently more likely for diagnosed celiac teens.

Hope this is interesting and/or informative. I know there are many other ways of handling celiac and the GF lifestyle, and this post may not be as upbeat as someone else would write it. But there you have it!


  1. I know that the situation has its difficulties and worries, but you are doing such a wonderful job of dealing with everything. He's lucky to have such proactive parents.

    Lots and lots of hugs!!!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write this post! The Boy had his blood test about a week ago, and I plan to to make a follow-call tomorrow. I know more and more people who are being diagnosed, and I've begun to learn, as you say, that even a little is bad--"cross contamination" and all that. I don't want him to have to deal with celiac, but if there was a way that he could be stronger, I would be happy. It sounds as if you guys have handled the change with grace!

    (And I wonder about myself since I've always had tummy trouble, lactose intolerance, and bad teeth.)