Sunday, March 21, 2010

10 Things I've Learned About Being Gluten-Free

This is a post copied over from my personal/writing blog.  I figured it belonged here more than over there. So, here are the ten things I learned after a couple of months living gluten-free.

1.  Living without gluten isn't all that hard, once you mentally adjust to it.  Living without gluten AND casein (the milk protein that can be found even in things containing the label "dairy-free" . . . wrong, right?) is completely life changing.  Really, half of our grocery list was filled with cheese and sour cream and butter.  And since I refuse to be a short order cook, we are all gluten and casein free in this house.  Nothing comes in with either ingredient.  It really is much easier and so much less confusing this way.

2.  I really will do anything for my kids.  Yep, this Cajun no longer eats fried shrimp, poboys, or muffalettas.  Unless I make them myself, but then that just makes me really sad 'cause it's just not the same.  So I do without.  And I'm perfectly ok with that.

3.  It is much easier to cook every single meal at home than deal with restaurants or questionable convenience foods.  Don't believe me?  Watch a kid in pain for a week after eating something with an offending ingredient and tell me otherwise.  Oh, there are plenty of restaurants (not fast food . . . don't even THINK of fast food) with GF menus, but I always want the other stuff.  Which just makes me angry.  So, again, I just do without.  When we're out, I just have to remember to keep lunch boxes and a blanket in the trunk, and make errand days picnic days.  How much more fun is that anyway?!

4.  Gluten has some kind of cracky effect on the body.  I went through some serious withdrawal for about two weeks, where I craved bread like nobody's business.  Don't get me started on cheese.  Now that it's been about a month without gluten or milk products (yep, cheese too), I don't really miss them.  That said . . .

5.  Amy's rice crust non-dairy pizza is really good.  Ok, not the same as real take-out pizza, but a perfectly acceptable frozen substitute.  Because a cook has to take the night off once in a while!

6.  All those weird flours aren't so scary.  Not with a little experimentation.  Equal parts sorghum, tapioca, and rice flour works great.  I keep a big container of it all mixed together now.  Expensive?  Yes.  I won't kid you.  But with all the money we're saving by not eating out?  We're still saving money.

7.  Baking sucks.  Ok, not really, but it takes a lot of practice, and you'll fail.  A lot.  But it's ok.  You get it right eventually, and you find really yummy stuff that's so much healthier than the crap you were eating before.  Imagine serving healthy pancakes loaded with protein!  But . . . forget bread for a while.  Seriously, it's the Holy Grail of gf baking.  I haven't moved past banana bread yet, because, really, that isn't even bread.  But banana muffins just plain rock.

8.  Almond milk is my new best friend!  Think I'm joking?  Check out my cabinets.  Full of the stuff.  I always had lactose issues, so I gave up milk years ago.  Rice milk's a joke (unless you have a nut allergy, of course) because it's really very thin and screws up baking ratios, and I'm staying away from soy as much as possible because we haven't ruled it out as an allergen as well.  But almond milk, oh I LOVE it!  And because it comes in a container that I can keep in the cabinet, we never run out and we never throw it out because it went bad before the stupid expiration date.  And just don't get me started on cow's milk in general.  Seriously, almond milk is the bomb-diggity!!!

9.  Asian markets are just like in the movies.  Not the ducks hanging in the streets kind, the little grocery store kind.  I went to one the other day for rice flour, because that's the only place I can find sweet rice flour (a girl's gotta have her gumbo, and that's the best flour for roux) and they have the super fine regular rice flour that doesn't taste gritty like your toddler threw sand in the mix when you weren't looking.  Plus, it's like a dollar a pound cheaper, and that's not even the savings buying in bulk, just the regular little 1 lb. packs.  Anyway, let's just say that was a fun experience.  And oh the food!  I wanted to try everything, but I couldn't read the ingredients on most of the labels, and, well, I was in there to buy gf stuff, so I didn't want to throw off the shopping trip by buying questionable food.  So excited about scoring that flour there.

10.  It's not just for the kid.  Oh, she's a hundred times better, don't get me wrong.  Even her "growing pains" have completely disappeared, as has that weird slightly swollen gland behind her ear that the doctor swore was "ok."  Gone.  But it's more than that.  I feel SO much better, and I didn't even think I had a problem.  Migraines are minimal, and when they do creep back they are usually less severe.  And I just . . . feel better.  I feel less foggy and less moody.  I'm hoping that once Ella's home for the summer and off the school lunches that she'll be less moody as well.  One can hope, right?

And a bonus . . .

11.  Diagnoses are overrated.  Oh, get one if you can, but we kind of stumbled upon all of this by accident.  By the time we stumbled upon the source of her problems through an elimination diet, we realized we dieted ourselves out of a testing option.  Because we'd have to start feeding her gluten again (and thus subject her to pain and misery once again) for 1-2 months to get an accurate testing.  I think there's a stool sample we can send in that should still show traces a year after starting the diet, but from what I've read, all of these tests are a little unreliable.  The next step is to get an intestinal biopsy to determine if you have celiac disease.  And even then, if they get a samplet that isn't damaged, you get a false negative.  No way.  Not for my 2 yr old.  Not when the resulting treatment would be the same.  A gluten-free diet.  Which she's already on.  (Throwing in the additional casein-free diet, because we already knew she had milk issues.)   You can also do genetic testing now, which you can do whether or not you are on an elimination diet, but even then it tests for celiac and not necessarily gluten sensitivities. And at this point, I wonder what's the point?  So labs and doctors and insurance companies can get paid?  So my insurance company can have another reason to raise our rates?  The diet works.  We feel better.  We're sticking to it.  For now.  At some point we may revisit it to see if it's some allergy she has possibly outgrown, but for now we're just doing what works for us.  That same way we always do.


  1. I have two children with coeliac disease {diagnosed with biopsy, not fun...} and one with anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. So I know how you feel :( Dairy too, ouch that would be hard. We have been gluten and nut free for 2 years now and have survived. Yay, I finally have healthy kids! No more runny stool, bloated tummies, rashes, mood swings etc. :)

  2. Isn't it so great to finally have a new sense of "normal?" She's outgrown some of her dairy problems, so thankfully we're reintroducing some of it. But I loved so many of those vegan recipes, we kept most of them in our rotation.


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