Living Gluten Free

When our middle son, Caleb, was 9 years old, we went through a six month period where he was in an extreme amount of pain. This finally resulted in a diagnosis of "invagination" and a serious surgery for him - having 18 inches of his intestines removed due to the dying off of those intestines.

The recovery was long, but eventually he healed and we moved on with life.

However, in 2009, when he was 15, that same pain a high intensity. We sought help here in Czech, where he was hospitalized and put through a whole lot of tests with few results. Eventually he and I went to the States in search of more help and answers.

Again, he was given every imaginable test, searching for the answer to his pain. But on what turned out to be our last day at a prestigious children's hospital, we were told that his pain was psychological, that he needed an anti-depressant to manage pain that he would have the rest of his life.

This researching mom could not, and did not, accept that diagnosis.

In the shadow of the hospital, in a funky part of town, we went to see a naturopathic doctor. He diagnosed Caleb with something he called "dysbiosis", and started him on a regimen to bring his intestines back to a healthy state.

Caleb's pain level was reduced significantly over the next months, but not completely, which lead us to a book called "Breaking the Vicious Cycle". This diet restricted all starches, grains, sugars, and processed foods, which made cooking very complicated for a while. But within days, Caleb's pain was down to a manageable level, and within a month, was nearly gone.

In order to be a support to him, I maintained the diet with him for four months and felt so much better myself. But it wasn't until I went off it and tried some glutinous things again that I realized I was gluten intolerant. I never knew that the grinding feeling in my stomach after eating a meal was NOT the way I was supposed to feel!

We came to the conclusion that Caleb was gluten intolerant, as well as our daughter, who is also lactose intolerant.  We were able to add back in the starches for him, but have stayed off refined sugar, all grains and processed foods ever since. This has resulted in much healthier bodies, and eating habits for our family.

Many people have asked, "What do you eat??" I know, it seemed so complicated to me in the beginning! But it seems so easy now...meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, olives, a little cheese (except for Claire), rice. It's actually amazing what you can make with all those ingredients! At my local grocery store here in the Czech Republic, I pretty much shop on just one aisle (it's got all those items on one long aisle!) which makes grocery shopping fairly fast and easy.

It's interesting to me that diet and food were never a consideration in any of the tests done while Caleb was in either of the hospitals we sought help in. In fact, I think about what he was fed there - a steady diet guessed it, white bread! Now we know that his body doesn't tolerate grains and it makes all the difference in the world to keep those out of his, and our, diet.

I am so thankful we discovered this, and honestly today there is very little temptation to eat things with gluten (only a maple bar when I'm visiting in the States!). When you know you're going to have a painful stomachache afterward (or worse), you just don't want it! We've discovered a whole new world of cooking and baking that is highly satisfying, thus there's no desire to return to the old ways.

And plays into my love for research, figuring out new things to cook that will make my family happy and healthy.

There are so many great blogs out there that are helpful - and we read tons of them! But here's a few to help you get started.

Gluten Free Goddess
Gluten Free Girl
Simply Gluten Free
Elana's Pantry (a lifesaver in the beginning)
No Gluten, No Problem
Silvana's Kitchen (one of our favorites)
Gluten Free Canteen
Gluten Free Chef

Articles on how to go gluten free:

10 easy steps to start a gluten free diet
The Gluten Free diet cheat sheet
What to eat on a gluten free diet, Week One
The Beginner's Guide to a gluten free diet
8 tips for starting Gluten Free Diet
How to go Gluten Free
7 day Gluten Free meal plan
The Gluten Free Quick Start guide (from the Living Without magazine)

Gluten Free products we like and use in Europe:

Schar (you can get this at most DM drugstores in Europe, though this is the US website - they make excellent bread and have an all-purpose flour that works well)
Sam Mills (pasta you can buy in Czech at Billa, Albert, Tesco - website is for Amazon just to show you what it looks like. They make several different shapes of GF pasta)
Other GF products we like and have used:

Candice Food bars (we have to import these, but they are simply amazing! BEST GF bar)
Pamela's Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix (really, this is the best!)
Glutino products  (for snacks...pretzels, breads, baking mixes)
Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix (we make all our baked goods from scratch now, but in a pinch, this will most definitely satisfy if you can get it!)
Udi's (pre-made breads, muffins, bagels)

Comprehensive list of gluten free foods
List of foods containing gluten (including "hidden"sources)

Have any questions? Feel free to comment and ask!

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