Our Journey to Gluten-Free

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gluten free“Your cooking must taste awful.” “You must eat, like, nothing.” “What IS gluten anyway?” “Well, what ARE you allowed to eat?”

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities affect at least 18 million people in the United States. I have not had either of my boys tested for Celiac disease because, at this point, it would involve an endoscopy – and they’d have to be “on” gluten for two weeks. There is currently no test for sensitivities, which left us in a grey zone. After 50 days of experimenting with avoiding gluten, I’m confident that we have sensitivities and I’ve seen some significant changes in my family as a result. (Clarification: husband does GF for breakfast and dinner with us. Haven’t won him over with the pizza quite yet and the European in him needs his crusty French baguette with soup).

I initially contemplated the idea of going gluten-free partially because of a blog post I read about the impact going GF (and casein-free) had on this particular blogger’s son and his temperament. We also heard similar things from a friend who is a behavioral nutritionist while having conversations about sensory processing. I had also been noticing some of the physical symptoms of gluten sensitivity in my older son and myself. Plus, my mom carries the gene for Celiac although it isn’t active. So….we set out to eliminate gluten from our diets and see what happened.

(Fast forward seven weeks.)

Will we stick to it? Absolutely. Here’s why: (“He” refers to my now GF-free 4 year old)

  • He is less picky about his eating. Although he still loves his (GF) macaroni and cheese, he’s way more open to trying new foods – even just a lick.
  • He is eating more. The kid who had to be hand-fed breakfast is now asking for seconds at meals. His lunch box comes home emptier and he has more energy for navigating through his (long) school day.
  • His emotions are more regulated. Sure he gets upset and frustrated occasionally, but it’s much easier to manage. There are no crazy tantrums and he is more easily calmed down when he doesn’t get his way.
  • He is sleeping better. He hasn’t gotten up in the middle of the night more than once or twice (when he was sick!) and he falls asleep much more easily in the evenings.
  • He is a better listener and a better friend. He initiates play more often and it’s less aggressive and more collaborative, even with his brother. He is still somewhat shy around adults or larger groups, but he warms up faster.
  • He has less eczema on his face and arms.
  • I, personally, have experienced more sustained energy throughout the day. As someone who is training for a fall marathon, I was worried about my food intake with GF foods. I no longer feel that “2:00 lull.” I’ve also been sleeping better too.

Are all of these a direct result of going GF? It’s uncertain. Some of the changes could be simply the result of maturation (months make a huge difference!) or other factors, but given the huge change in his demeanor and health, I can’t think of any reason to mess with something that seems to be working! No thank you!

A few things to keep in mind before contemplating going GF:

Eating out/traveling is HARD. Birthday parties are hard (See Maria’s post). Be vocal (but polite) when ordering your food and do research before you go out.

There are lots of delicious GF alternatives out there, but some tend to be more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. (See Shannon’s post for her favorites).

Just because it’s GF, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Sugar is the #1 ingredient in a LOT of GF foods to mask others – make sure to check the label carefully.

People want to be helpful, but it’s hard. The general public is more familiar with the terms “Celiac disease” and “gluten sensitivities” than in the past, but people are still uncertain about what it really means and how to accommodate it.

It’s possible that “it” will get worse before it gets better, so be prepared.

The longer you avoid gluten, the more severe a reaction may be if you do consume it.

Has anyone had a similar experience avoiding a particular food or food group? I’d love to hear about it!

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Julie is a full-time 5th grade teacher, full-time mommy, part-time runner and resident of Ridgefield! Originally from Colorado, she grew up in SW Fairfield County and got married in 2008. They spent a few years south of the Mason-Dixon, got a dog, and returned to CT to raise their family. A former collegiate tennis player, she loves staying active and finding ways to get outside with her two boys (Oliver - February 2011 and Miles - October 2013). When she's not grading papers, playing racecars, or training for a race, Julie is trying to cook healthy meals for her (picky) family, keep their golden retriever out of trouble, take photos, stay organized and save some money to buy a fixer-upper.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m glad you found my post and were inspired to experiment with the GF lifestyle. You are so right…it’s not easy, and GF definitely doesn’t mean healthy! Processed is processed, and GF often means added sugar, like you said, or binders that mess with digestion.

    I could have written your list of changes…it really has been profound! And while I agree that it’s impossible to know for certain (without the tests which I opted not to do bc we’d already removed gluten as well), I can say that it’s really obvious to us whenever our son gets gluten, even in small amounts at restaurants. The tantrums get crazy, and he seems to have no self-regulation.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and helping spread the word! While it doesn’t work for everyone, it does for many. I wish doctors would suggest this to parents for kids with a variety of neurolgoical conditons. Since they don’t, it takes searching online or word of mouth for people to get information like this. It’s so sad, because it’s pretty clear that food really does impact our biochemistry in powerful ways. Thanks again!

    • Thanks for your comment, Beth! I’m so glad you found your way to FCMB. I read your post over spring break (and about a million times since!) after a lot of conversations about OT, speech and SPD symptoms. I immediately forwarded your post to my mom and made my husband read it.

      Thanks for inspiring me to make such a positive change in my family’s lifestyle.

      I hope Asher is doing well. Thank YOU!

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