Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My gluten free journey

When I began our gluten free journey back in November, I never thought I would feel the way I do now.

I started out grasping for air, trying to find something, ANYTHING that would make my Felix's behavior change. Someone recommended trying a gluten free diet and I knew we were already having issues with dairy, so I thought I might as well give it a shot, right? So, my husband kind of thought I was crazy, but I needed to try, needed to know if this would help before resorting to any sort of prescription.

A little back story: I had ADHD as a child. I'm pretty sure the H part is gone for me now, and I still have ADD. My parents refused to put me on medication, did allergy testing, and removed milk, eggs, and as much sugar as possible from my diet. They told me later on that the doctor they spoke with said that most cases where kids absolutely need the help with medicine is when they have a learning disability along with ADHD because they can't fight to control their impulses. Keep in mind this was also back in the 80s and early 90s when there weren't many options, and my parents were both in education, so they had seen the good and bad effects of medication.

So, knowing that I am lactose intolerant, and that a doctor in the family highly recommended getting Felix off of gluten, so I jumped in feet first. I was overwhelmed, but I fought through it. We started him on some supplements and I was so frustrated that I had to work so hard at grocery shopping, read labels on everything, and find hidden gluten and dairy in things I never thought of. (Beef bullion cubes! They contained both gluten and dairy! What?? I found out the food club brand had neither.) I kidnapped my mom's bread machine and started making bread with mixes that I bought Bobs Red Mill 36995 Cinnamon Raisin Gluten Free Bread Mix and Bobs Red Mill 19550 Gluten Free Bread Mix I felt like some sort of champion when they turned out great, and it really kept me moving forward. I tried explaining to his teacher that this was a process, and it takes time for his system to clear out and see the good effects of the diet, but she was frustrated and didn't seem to think I was doing the right thing. I ignored her.

So, we survived 3 months of gluten/dairy free life, although most of my house was still eating normal food. I would make something, and have it one way for Felix, and another way for the rest of the house. I hated cooking that way. I would eat what Felix was eating, just so he didn't feel alone. My husband thinks its weird that I'm so concerned about that, but I was there. I was in a house where everyone ate dairy products, regular cereal, and things with sugar and eggs, and I was stuck eating plain old rice puffs with soy milk and sweet n low, or option 2 shredded wheat instead of the rice puffs. I was in 3rd grade and couldn't eat birthday treats and instead, was sent to the office to get a measly little piece of sugar free candy from the secretary. I still scowl just thinking about those stupid candies. I vowed to make it different for him. I emailed his teacher and asked if she could notify me when she knew birthday treats were coming in and I would make something for him and send it. She said sure, and I felt good. Well, that was until he came home one Friday and told me he ate a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing because the substitute teacher gave it to him. UGH! So, I searched for something I could send in and it could be left there. Its a lot harder than it sounds, because gluten free things don't keep as long as foods with gluten in them. The best I could come up with was breakfast bars, so I sent those in.

But here's the thing... We were still having behavior issues. I know, I know it can take time for gluten to find its way out of the body, but it seemed like something more to me. It was like this 6th sense in my head was telling me there was some sort of pattern and reason to it all. So, one day when Felix was home from school, we had a good healthy breakfast. He decided he wanted cereal for lunch, and since it was organic, gluten free, and dairy free I figured why not. So, he ate his cereal, and about a half hour later the downward spiral began. Attitude, meanness, mood swings, all out of nowhere. So, I thought maybe I missed something in the  cereal and picked up box to check the ingredients. First ingredient was corn meal. I have family members that have issues tolerating corn, so I decided to cut it out and see if it improved.

Let me tell you, corn is by far the hardest thing to remove from your diet. Gluten and dairy combined was nothing compared to this. Basically, everything that is somehow processed probably contains corn. Corn starch, corn syrup, citric acid, and the list goes on. Did you know there are about 100 different names for ingredients derived from corn, so you're probably eating it without knowing? Its crazy. So I started the process of removing it from his diet, but it was SO hard. I felt like every time I turned around, I found another 'oops' where I gave him something that I didn't know contained corn. So, I cried, got frustrated, and then I just started making EVERYTHING.

While its hard, and it would be nice once in a while to be able to cook with all the shortcuts I used to and not have to make broth before I use it, or not have to make salad dressing, my family is eating healthier because of it. Also, when my son goes to visit grandparents, if I eat gluten after not having it for so long, I wake up feeling hungover. My whole body aches, I have a headache, my brain is in a fog, and I'm just so tired. I would have never done all this for myself, but because of Felix's problems, I found out how to make myself healthier.