MY FAMILY’S JOURNEY TOWARDS GLUTEN-FREE DAIRY-FREE LIVING


WHY WE GAVE UP SOME OF OUR FAVORITE FOODS

Over the years, my more natural & holistic doctors mentioned the benefits of avoiding wheat/gluten, but I never deemed it worth the drastic life change. That is, until I got fed-up seeing my children in pain from frequent & intense tummy aches. When I was a little girl, I had frequent “stomach” aches as well. Adults often minimized & dismissed my pain; I didn’t want to make the same mistake with my little ones. I felt confident that we’d benefit from the sacrifice…SO, WE GAVE UP GLUTEN!

If you’re confused about what gluten is, please refer to: 
WHAT IS GLUTEN ANYWAY & WHO’S EVER HEARD OF CASEIN? 


OUR 1ST GF FAMILY EXPERIMENT

In June 2011, my kids & I began a month-long experiment of no gluten & no refined sugar. The short trial did not provide enough conclusive evidence for my husband to agree for our kids to remain on the diet, so they resumed their normal eating.  Plus, we were embarking on a 3-week trip with extended family & knew it would be difficult to maintain the restrictions for the kids while traveling.

I was so pleased with my results from the experimental diet that I decided to continue avoiding gluten. It was a radical change, but feeling better made it worth the awkward conversations & interesting looks at parties & family get-togethers. I wasn’t 100% gluten-free yet, but I was at least gluten-lite, as we like to call it.

WHAT CAUSED ME TO GO
FROM GLUTEN-LITE TO GLUTEN-FREE?

Back in 2009, I developed an annoying year-round allergy to dust mites. The continuous sneezing, constant dripping nose, itchy throat & eyes & debilitating fatigue made it difficult to function & difficult to not be irritable.

After 2-plus years of enduring daily allergies, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew 2 friends who found freedom from stubborn, environmental allergies by following The Maximized Living Plan, a grain-free diet similar to the Paleo diet. They were able to stop taking allergy shots & medication, which they gave credit to their change in diet & regular visits to their holistic chiropractor.

I was so tired of being tired from the allergies & the drowsy meds. I didn’t want to invest the time & money trying allergy shots & my mostly-gluten-free diet wasn’t doing the trick. So in January 2012, I pulled out all stops & plunged into the Maximized Living Advanced Plan…I GAVE UP ALL SUGAR & ALL GRAINS! (at least temporarily)

I also began seeing a chiropractor. The day after being adjusted & 1 week after starting the diet, I was able to do the laundry without wearing a face mask! I didn’t have any allergy symptoms! I was thrilled about this victory & new freedom! The next day, I dusted & vacuumed & experienced NO allergy symptoms again! It was success!

I soon added some gluten-free grains, fruit & some other sugars, like potatoes, back into my diet. Sadly, my persistent allergies returned. My lack of lasting relief from allergies may have been due to me not strictly maintaining the diet. The proponents of this plan recommended avoiding grains & all sugar for 3-4 months. Maybe if I would have endured in adhering to those guidelines I would have experienced permanent relief from allergies. Who knows.

My eating habits didn’t permanently eliminate my allergies, BUT I did gain lasting relief from multiple other symptoms! Symptoms disappeared that I didn’t realize were symptoms! I had been living with discomforts that I assumed were just part of life. I'm thankful to have discovered a new level of health that I didn’t know was possible.

If interested, you can read about what did get rid of my allergy symptoms:
FIND OUT THE CHEAP & SIMPLE SOLUTION THAT ALLEVIATED MY ALLERGIES!

 

MY INTRODUCTION TO PALEO

In the Spring of 2012, I read my 1st Paleo book. It supported what I'd already been practicing. So when friends asked about my eating habits, it was easiest to say I was on the Paleo diet. I don’t agree with all of the rationale of the Paleolithic diet, but I support most of the food & lifestyle recommendations.


WHAT I ATE

During this process of altering my diet, one of my biggest challenges has been breakfast. Throughout my entire life, I had just grabbed a quick bowl of cereal almost every single morning. Sometimes I would add variety by eating frozen waffles, but it was always about whatever was quick & easy. I suddenly was “forced” to actually cook in the mornings. As with most people avoiding grains, I began eating a lot of eggs: Fried Eggs, Boiled Eggs, Poached Eggs, Scrambled Eggs, Egg Casserole, Egg Muffins, Omelletes & Quiche! 

For lunch, I traded-in boring sandwiches for yummy, spinach salads topped with meat, veggies, nuts & fruit.

For dinner, I planned meals that were not centered on grains, cooked spaghetti squash instead of noodles & ate lettuce burgers when my family had hamburgers.

I was enjoying my new-found freedom, but our children continued to complain, nearly daily, of painful tummy aches. I was convinced they would benefit from a strict gluten-free diet, but I had to get my husband completely on board.
 

OUR 2ND GF FAMILY EXPERIMENT

In July 2012, we were living with my in-laws due to my husband’s unemployment. My hubby agreed for he & our kids to try the Paleo diet for 3 1/2 weeks, while his parents were out of town. We carefully maneuvered eating-out as a gluten-free family. We chose to send alternative snacks & desserts with them to Vacation Bible School & we travailed in saying “no” to them when they wanted a snack or dessert they couldn’t have at parties. It tugs at your heart to see disappointment on those little faces, especially when you have spectators questioning why you’re doing this to your children! I learned to block out the criticism & remind myself of the research I'd read & the information I'd learned. I had to remember that I was doing what was best for my kids’ overall health.

During this trial period, we had fun incorporating unique, new recipes such as Plantain Pancakes, Mashed No-Tatoes & what we affectionately call Look-a-like-a Lasagna.

I experimented with baking muffins & breads made from grain-free flours, such as almond, coconut & tapioca. And surprisingly, I actually enjoyed being in the kitchen! Those who know me well may be shocked by that statement. Cooking has never come easily for me & has been associated in my mind with stress. I baked more in those initial months of eating grain-free than I had in my entire life put together! But for some reason, I enjoyed myself; partly because it was something new & exciting & partly because it felt good to overcome a personal barrier. Plus, it was a great feeling knowing I was providing healthy, homemade options for my family.

That euphoric feeling in the kitchen didn’t last, but thankfully at some point along the way, Craig joined me in experimenting with the Paleo-style cooking. My Better Half has always been a creative & talented chef, so I was grateful for his expertise & willingness to work hard with me in this unchartered territory. I’m tearing-up just thinking about how he has sacrificially served us over & over again in an effort to make my life easier & improve the health of our family. Craig consistently carries more than his fair share of the load. He produces peace in our home while providing pleasure to our palates.

As agreed upon, our Family Paleo Trial officially ended when my in-laws returned home, but I continued to avoid grains, legumes, dairy & processed foods & limited my children’s intake of those foods as well.
 

THE CATALYST FOR OUR KIDS BECOMING
COMPLETELY GLUTEN-FREE & DAIRY-FREE

In November 2012, our family invested in extensive stool & swab testing for me & my daughter. Unfortunately, the Entero Lab results confirmed my speculation…she & I were both intolerant to gluten & dairy. I was also reactive to tuna & rice. Out of the 15 antigenic foods that were tested, my daughter was reactive to ALL of them!
 

OUR STRATEGY

After much deliberation, Craig & I agreed upon a plan for how to feed & heal our kids. In January 2013, we put them on an official Gluten-Free & Casein-Free Diet, including at school & parties. We also eliminated Oats but allowed the other antigenic foods to be eaten sporadically.

Our exception to being dairy-free is that we allow butter, recognizing that it only contains a miniscule amount of casein, if any. We all seem to tolerate it just fine. In the beginning, we also allowed milk chocolate as another exception to being dairy-free. We weren’t getting the complete results we wanted, so we only allow dark chocolate now. We love chocolate, so we hope to re-experiment with milk chocolate in the near future.

Considering all their restrictions, I compromised & allowed our kiddos to have dessert regularly after dinner. (I don’t like them consuming candy, but I knew they would likely lose that privilege at times due to disobedience.) As the Sugar Warmonger, I agreed that I would focus on making food fun & buying or creating special treats the kids could look forward to. Craig, the Treat Lover, agreed to limit their refined sugar, except for dessert.

If you're like us & give into the pitiful pleas for candy, this will make your life easier:
GLUTEN-FREE DAIRY-FREE CANDY LIST

Privately, Craig & I discussed how we’d handle it if the kids chose to eat a “forbidden food,” without our consent. We decided there was no need to discuss this issue with the kids unless a situation arose. Our plan was that if they messed up at school or a party, whether intentionally or not, we’d graciously remind them of the test results & the importance of them avoiding gluten & casein. Thankfully, our kids are conscientious in this regard, so we can trust their choices when we’re not around.

Before parties or extended-family gatherings, we brainstorm with the kids about fun treats they can take with them, in attempt to help them feel as "normal" as possible. We also recognize the importance of being consistent with the guidelines we established, knowing that making one, little exception makes it harder to get compliance in subsequent situations.

We agreed to periodically reevaluate the diet, especially if the kids start losing weight. But we did not show tentativeness or communicate to them that the diet was experimental or potentially temporary. When the kids asked how long they would have to avoid gluten & casein, we purposefully answered, "All we know is right now your bodies aren’t responding well to these things."
 

ROTATION DIET

The foods that we were supposed to avoid eating on a daily basis included: Eggs, Tuna, Rice, Beans & other Legumes, Soy, Cashews, Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts, Potatoes, Pork, Chicken, Beef, Corn & other grains (Arrowroot, Tapioca, Sorghum etc.).

We panicked when we discovered our daughter was reactive to eggs because that’s what we had relied on the most for Paleo-style breakfasts. We were also overwhelmed with the fact that she was reacting to beef, chicken, fish & pork. We just got creative & tried our best to not feed her those foods every day. 

Eventually we implemented a structured Rotation Diet, where we avoided giving our kids antigenic foods more than 2 times a week & logged our food intake & reactions. Documenting this type of information is the best way to adequately evaluate your diet & symptoms. We think we’ll remember the details, but our memories are rarely reliable.   
 

WHY WOULD WE GIVE UP DAIRY???

"Please, no! Anything but milk & cheese!"

That’s exactly the way I felt. I'd already relinquished my rights to eating bread, pasta & cereals. So why would I want to give up my cherished cheese & esteemed ice cream?! The thought of it made me want to cry; actually I probably did cry.

I had read that those with a gluten intolerance are more likely to be intolerant to dairy as well. See: Immune response patterns in coeliac disease. Serum antibodies to dietary antigens measured by an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

In one study, 50% of patients with celiac disease also had immune reactions to casein. See: Mucosal reactivity to cow's milk protein in coeliac disease.

What really swayed me was the hard evidence from our own lab results. My daughter’s & my lab tests showed that our bodies had elevated antibodies to casein, which is a protein in dairy.

Back in November 2011, I temporarily gave up dairy, but I wasn’t committed until I saw on paper that my body wasn’t responding well to it. Considering I still had some health problems & frequent illnesses, I decided it was best to eliminate it from my diet & prevent any added stress to my system.

Bottom Line: We were advised to remove dairy from our diets & I’m glad we did.
 

WHAT WE EAT NOW

For a season about a year after going gluten-free, our daughter’s food reactions intensified. She was frequently up in the middle of the night, with nausea & sometimes vomiting. Thankfully that has subsided. It seems that being strict with our diets for almost two years has given our digestive systems a chance to heal.

We’re no longer on the Paleo diet since we now eat potatoes, legumes & some gluten-free grains such as corn, sorghum & rice. We also don’t adhere to the Paleo-way of eating only grass-fed meats, although that’s simply due to the financial investment that requires.

Craig continues to be gluten-lite & the kids & I don’t eat gluten, oats, or dairy (except for butter). We also limit soy, corn, rice, beans & processed foods.

Having to provide my kids’ school snacks & lunches EVERY DAY was an adjustment! I knew that most school cafeteria food lacked nutritional value, so I'd already been making their lunches about 3 days a week. With our diet change, this time commitment was taken up a notch! But we adapted & I remind myself that our health is worth the sacrifices.

We’re glad to know this new way of living & are grateful to be free from a host of unpleasant symptoms that disappeared with the gluten & dairy. 



Feel free to ask questions or share helpful comments regarding your health journey. Remember to consult your health care professional regarding specific health issues. 


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