When our son was diagnosed with autism almost 10 years ago (we’ll reach that milestone next month), we tried something that a lot of parents were doing: we put him on a gluten free and casein free diet.
In January 2004, this was anything but easy. This involved a lot of trial and error (like everything else about parenthood, autism or not) and with 2-year old twins, spending hours in the kitchen whipping up GFCF concoctions with ingredients I’d never heard of, ordering food online at astronomical prices to be shipped to our home in space-age looking container, and toting said food to family gatherings was not exactly how I’d envisioned this motherhood gig.
Still, we had it easier than most of our friends who were heading down to the children’s hospital for feeding therapies – or worse. Most importantly, our little guy responded well to the diet, showing significant improvement – along with, let me be clear, lots of therapy and love and patience. (He obviously still has his diagnosis.) Still, one day, we decided to introduce some “regular” foods to see how he did … and eventually, that was the end of that. After 3 years, we were truly gluten and casein free in every sense of the word.
Now, ten years later, I find myself traveling back on this road. It’s kind of like driving in a town you lived a decade ago when it was all farmland, where you knew the backroads once upon a time, but now? They’ve paved everything over and put in a four lane highway, and there are all these new stores that weren’t there 10 years ago when you were last here.
I’m back on the gluten-free path for me, not my boy. I’ve suspected for awhile that I’m gluten sensitive. I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 17 years now, so meat isn’t the issue. I’ve always suffered from migraines. Stomach distress (to put it nicely) is very common for me after a gluten-heavy meal, like Italian dishes laden with pasta and bread. My cholesterol wasn’t so great – not bad, but it had been approaching a point where it would start to become a concern. For several months, I had unexplainable joint and muscle pain so severe that I couldn’t raise my left arm – and then it disappeared, and then it went into the other arm. (Of course, I didn’t go to the doctor.) There were often entire afternoons when I felt like I was in a “brain fog,” even during the months I wasn’t working. I chalked that up to the depression and stress of unemployment. There were the chest pains that felt like a heart attack, which sent me to the ER, where they pronounced me as one of the millions with acid reflux and gallstones.
Since the fall, I’ve been doing a lot of reading into all this stuff (I’m currently reading Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent KIllers by David Perlmutter, MD) and I’m intrigued enough about the gluten connection. Same with dairy.
So, my new approach to eating is currently something like this:
Lacto-ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs) who eats occasional fish, who is trying her damnedest to be gluten-free and who is an intrigued vegan.
To complicate matters, I’m working on reducing my dairy intake. I’ve switched to almond milk in my cereal, and oatmeal – and I love it! I also eliminated sugar altogether in my coffee.
I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve fallen off the bandwagon several times. I’ll have a great week of eating gluten-free, feel terrific, and think that means I’m “better” …and go ahead and go back to eating gluten. This happened on Thursday – I was having a great week, completely GF (as far as I know) … and I had a tomato, pesto, and mozzarella PANINI for lunch. With chips.
Total brain fog the rest of the afternoon whereas the other days were so productive. And stomach upsetment.
When the hell will I learn?!
So, it’s back on the wagon. I’m trying. One of the things that’s great this time around – as opposed to when we first embarked on the gluten free diet with B. – is how almost everyone knows someone who has “gone gluten free.” It’s not uncommon to find entire aisles and sections of GF products in supermarkets. What I would have done ten years ago to have had all the products that we have now!
Speaking of which, here are a few of my favorite eats. I have absolutely no affiliation with any of these companies or brands. I wasn’t contacted by any of them to do a review and I purchased all of these products with my own hard-earned cash. Thus, these thoughts are just my own opinion of gluten-free products that I’ve been trying and enjoying over the past few months.
Chex now makes seven varieties of their cereals gluten-free. I nearly fell over when I saw these in my supermarket. As a kid, I used to eat Chex all the time. I’ve tried the Rice Chex, Corn Chex, and Cinnamon Chex. My favorite is the Cinnamon. There is also a gluten-free Rice Chex version by Millvale that I’ve found at ALDI. That’s pretty good too.
Now that winter is upon us, I’m starting to switch to oatmeal for breakfast on occasion. But oats can be tricky because some oats are not gluten-free. Fortunately, Bakery on Main makes a variety that is and their Traditional Flavor Instant Oatmeal comes in six instant packets for additional convenience, which I appreciate. I added a banana to this and it was delicious!
For snacking, I really like these Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers in Roasted Garlic. I’ve heard you can find them at Costco, but I haven’t checked my store to see if they have them there. I especially like these crackers with Tofutti’s cream cheese.
Our grocery store was doing a sampling of Goodbye Gluten White Bread, which was really good. I’ve been buying it for several weeks. It’s a bit crumbly, but it’s the best texture to regular bread I’ve found. I also like it for when I have bread and butter cravings or for dipping bread into soup. (It’s also made in the Philadelphia suburbs – h/t to my hometown.)
When I was little, I hated Pop Tarts and anything resembling them. Wouldn’t touch them. But when I saw these Toaster Pastries by Glutino, I immediately bought a box. Not sure what came over me, but they looked like something I had to have. I had tried Glutino’s breakfast bars and liked them, so I thought these would also be good. And they are. Their crackers are pretty tasty, too. Glutino is quickly becoming one of my go-to GF brands.
Another one of my go-to GF brands is Amy’s. My family loves macaroni and cheese, which obviously isn’t something I can have anymore. (Mac and cheese was actually one of my trigger foods that something might be amiss.) But this? I could eat this for every single meal.
So far, the hardest thing about the gluten free diet has been giving up bread as well as the meat substitutes. We eat a considerable amount of fake meat in our house (we love Gardein products) and that’s become a hard habit for me to break. (Nobody else in this family is interested in going GF.) But when I do and I am more conscientious about what I’m eating, I’m finding that I really do feel better. Less headaches, less stomach upset, more energy and more productivity … can’t really argue with that.
Some things really are better the second time around.
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