Friday, August 20, 2010

Why We're GFCF

Just to clear up some things, I figured it was past time I shared why we're gluten-free, casein-free.  The gfcf diet is also referred to as "the autism diet," since there have been some reports that it does wonders for autistic children who suffer from "leaky guts."  While neither of our children are autistic, we have also had great success with the diet.

It all began with Harper not pooping.  She would get allergy rings and hold it, and no matter how much she drank or how many times she went (she still went almost daily), she still had hardish, painful poops.  It was a complete nightmare, and the success or failure of every day hinged on whether or not it was a poop day.  Then she started falling off the growth chart.  We're talking a nose dive off the weight one.  We were going to the pediatrician more often for weight checks, and the doctor at one point said our next step was blood tests to rule out some very scary things.  I cried.  A lot.  The doctor put her on Miralax, but we couldn't wean her off of it, and I didn't like the idea of giving her that for years until well after potty training.  So we got her off the miralax and tried an elimination diet.

We already knew she had problems with milk (Ella and I both do as well), so she was already lactose-free, but we discovered she also had an issue with wheat and gluten products.  We took her off all gluten and the problem was almost completely solved.  Then we eliminated all cow's milk products (lactose and casein) and things cleared up even more.  It helped more than digestion, too.  Her rashes (mild eczema on the backs of her arms and fronts of her thighs) cleared up.  Her mood, sleep, and speech improved.  She gained weight.  Plus, she hasn't had one single episode of growing pains in her legs since eliminating gluten from her diet.

Then, she started gaining weight.

I think I cried even more once I saw her getting better.  We're not out of the woods completely.  She's still a little bitty thing, and gaining weight slowly.  But when she crossed back over the 5th percentile (she was around 40-50th for her first year) we definitely celebrated.  We're still finding some new sensitivities (eggs & chocolate) that were hard to identify when she was having so much trouble with the gluten and cow's milk.  Whether any of these are allergies or sensitivities or intolerances, I don't know.  We watch her diet closely and try to stick to foods we know she can tolerate.

Is it difficult?  Yes.  Telling a two year old she can't have cake at a cousin's birthday party is brutal.  Sometimes we give in, then feel guilty a few days later when she's suffering for it.  But in general, at home it isn't so bad anymore.  We are all on the diet at home, so there's no "our food" and "Harper's food," because that is way too difficult to keep track of and unfair to the kid who can't have the crackers and cookies.   Overall, I think we're all benefitting from it.  I know I feel better since I'm off gluten, and when I stick to it (I tend to cheat when I eat out without her) I see a decrease in the number of migraines I have.  I also see an improvement with Ella's sensitivities, but it's hard to say if it's due to the gluten-free diet, less school stress, or just something she's outgrowing or learning to cope with better.

Currently we're trying out some new products that we hope will help for "cheat" days or accidental cross-contamination or just to make mom's life easier to have a meal with cheese once in a while.  We're still in the testing stages, but if we see any positive results I'll share that with you.  However, I'm not looking for a miracle cure.  A gfcf diet works for us.  We feel better.  My kid's pooping and gaining weight.  Can't ask for much more than that.


  1. Get the Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook. Make the cupcakes. Bring them to the birthday parties. It's kind of annoying knowing I will be baking for every. single. birthday party ever, but at least I know he can eat them and not feel left out. The crumbs, on the other hand... I have no idea what to do about everybody else's cake crumbs. (Geez, kids are so messy.)

  2. Did you ever have her tested for celiac disease? Several members of my family have it and this sounds very familiar... I'm glad you've found something that works for you!

  3. I keep forgetting to check if the library has that one. I don't like the cookbook I just borrowed. Great idea. I guess I need to make cupcakes next weekend.

    Thanks, Kim. We've considered it, but the only reliable confirmation requires a biopsy, and we decided not to go through all the testing if the treatment (a gf diet) is the same. Maybe one day when she's a little older we'll do a full allergy panel.

  4. Gosh Michelle, that sounds just heartwrenching. Thanks for sharing that with us, I have wondered why you are GF. It just rips your heart out when something is wrong with your babies, doesn't it? I am glad you found a solution, and glad she is doing better.

    We are all about the poop around here, too. I've started grinding my own wheat and making my own bread and it has worked WONDERS. Before we had kids I had no idea how much time we would spend talking about the poop!

    And in case no one told you lately(because sometimes they don't), you are a ROCK STAR for taking the bull by the horns and making these changes. Go Mama!

  5. I'm lactose intolerant. It was hell as a kid b/c I couldn't have pizza or ice cream (finally a doc told me about Lactaid and now I can pop an enzyme supplement and eat yummy things, though I still drink soy milk b/c I am disinclined to drink milk).

    Fantastic for you with sticking to the diet family-wise. What a commitment, I'm glad your girls are benefiting.

    Had a kiddo in class a couple of years ago who was allergic (as in anaphylactic shock allergic) to peanuts, tree nuts, citric acid, dairy, strawberries, chocolate, and canola oil. The child could eat virtually nothing but frito's at holiday parties. Citric acid was the stinker, label-wise. Fortunately his mom was very cool about it and actually put me in contact with some customer svc numbers so I could find out if "manufactured on equipment that may have processed tree nuts" means that it's the same machine or an operation in a separate quadrant of a mammoth warehouse.

  6. Hi Michelle.

    I was wondering if you give your girls probiotics, or if they eat non-dairy yogurt?

    Riley also had chronic poop issues once upon a time, mainly constipation. Because I'd been on my own quest for vibrant health for quite some time, I knew that diet and poor digestion were likely culprits. Supplementing with probiotics has really helped us both! Riley gets some in her multivitamin, along with green foods and digestive enzymes, plus we give her a BerryDophilus chewable and yogurt on top of that. Her poops are now regular, easy breezy and (most importantly) pain-free!!! :)

    I'm allergic to yeast, we eat very little sugar, and much of our diet tends to be GF. May I ask where you buy your GFCF groceries?

    Thanks, Michelle. Take good care, and a happy, healthy holiday to you 'n yers!

    Here are a few of the blogs I visit for inspiration and recipes:

    Affairs of Living


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