Tomorrow is our last day of “school”. Today, we go up to the building and they hand the kiddos all of their stuff in the car. If I’m being honest, I’m really not looking forward to it. I think it’s going to break my kids’ hearts to get their stuff that way. I know all of us feel the same way…but if you would have told me on March 3rd when we walked out the door that night after open house that none of us would walk back in, I would have bet my life you were wrong. I have tried so hard to stay upbeat and cheerful during this, but geez…I have my moments.
W-H-E-W…on to today’s post!
Our little fam has been eating gluten-free now for the last six months, so I thought that today, I’d share a little update. If you missed the first part of this, back in the fall, we realized (through a series of crazy and unfortunate events) that Kensington has Celiac disease. If you want to read about our journey to discovering she had Celiac, head to THIS POST.
Based on everything we read, the people we spoke to, the doctors, dietitians, etc, we made the decision to change our house to a gluten-free household. The number one reason why we are making our house g-free is, even though it’s not an allergy, she’s highly affected by cross-contamination (just like if let’s say she had a severe peanut allergy), so for her safety and health alone, it’s better if we just don’t have gluten in our house.
Here are just two quick examples of how we’ve learned over the last six months how easy it is to cross-contaminate (which is why we’re trying our hardest NOT to!):
1: If I stick my knife in jam, Nutella or peanut butter to spread it on my bagel/English muffin/toast/bread and then stick it back in the jar to get more…I’ve contaminated the entire jar.
2: The inside of my toaster has crumbs…if they’re not gluten-free crumbs, then it doesn’t matter if I stick a g-free waffle in there, it’s now contaminated.
So, it’s just easier and safer at home, if we don’t use things with gluten. When we’re not at home, when we’re at other people’s houses or restaurants, Andrew and I still try and eat gluten-free to support Kensington and show her how many different ways you can do it, but we let the other kiddos eat whatever, so they are still being exposed to gluten, just not in the home.
I had this topic written down to share with you, so last week when I received not one but two great comments from readers with specific questions about how g-free life was going, I thought I’d just share their questions with you and our answers followed by a few little tidbits we’ve learned along the way…
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR K’S SYSTEM TO RESET WHEN THE GLUTEN WAS REMOVED?
The doctors tell us that gluten actually stays in the intestines and stomach for a long time and that the damage (which we were able to see on the photos during her biopsy) is permanent. But now that she is eating gluten-free, the only known way to treat Celiac disease, I think she instantly lit up from within! Kensington’s skin, especially around her elbows and her arms, has always been rough and dry, but it cleared up within days of completely eliminating gluten. I don’t know how to say it exactly, but her entire face has just brightened up over the last six months…
…and in my opinion, she looks remarkably healthier and more vibrant. Now, of course, none of this is factual but these are things we’ve noticed and so, I’m attributing it to living gluten-free since we haven’t made any other major changes, but she used to struggle with itchy skin (again, mostly around her elbows, forearms and hands) so much so that she would scratch them in her sleep so badly they would bleed. There were many nights we wrapped her arms in an Ace bandage just to keep her from over scratching…now? It’s all cleared up. Also, Kensington has a ton of hair…a ton…and it used to be so oily at the scalp. We would use detox shampoos and/or she would wash it with apple cider vinegar at least once a week because of the oil…now? All gone. Seriously, going g-free has changed her.
Now, I don’t want you all to rush out and go gluten-free too just because I said those things, but I do think it’s worth mentioning to your doctor or dermatologist. I’ve had so many people tell me recently too that my skin seems brighter…and I really think the lack of gluten could be a part of it, BUT I also did just have all of my reproductive organs removed and am on some amazing hormone replacement therapy…so it’s harder to pinpoint my changes, but I’ve eliminated most gluten in my life and am feeling great. All of that to say, we started noticing the change in Kensington almost immediately!
DOES SHE FEEL 100% BETTER?
Celiac affects people differently (most commonly through their intestines causing extreme pain and discomfort), but so far, those haven’t been her symptoms. Her symptoms aren’t as common as they’re all via her skin (the stomach issues we’re told will come), so her tummy is still fine, but her skin is so much better!
HOW ARE YOU MANAGING THIS AT SCHOOL?
It was the most amazing year for her to be diagnosed! Kensington first developed symptoms at the very beginning of the school year, so I am forever thankful it was her last year of elementary school instead of her first year of middle school. We already had such a wonderful relationship with the teachers, administrators, counselor and nurse, that wading through this with them was simple. In Texas (and probably other states too), having Celiac qualifies you for some additional help, resources, and accommodations for school that they were able to implement immediately. For the most part, nothing changed at school (as she’s managing hers very well!), but some things, like specific art materials she used that contain gluten were replaced with g-free options, every party/food related activity in school, they had a g-free option for her and in fifth grade, they always go to overnight camp where they would have (had we not been forced to skip it during this pandemic) provided her with g-free meals and snacks too. Her teachers and our school did a fantastic job letting her know they cared and could accommodate while also giving her space to handle it herself.
WHAT DO YOU PACK IN HER LUNCHBOX?
I would say this was a bit trickier in the beginning but we quickly got into a great routine! She started taking mostly leftovers every day for lunch in her thermos along with yogurt, fruit, g-free chips and things like that. We made gluten-free sandwiches and wraps too once we found brands we liked and made easy substitutions. She really likes tomato soup, so that was easy to put in her thermos on busy days too (Trader Joe’s is her fave!), so after we had all of the right ingredients at home, it was easy to pack her lunches.
WHAT ARE HER FAVORITE SNACKS?
Besides fresh things that are naturally g-free (fruit, veggies, nuts, etc), I have a highlight on my Instagram where we’ve featured her faves over the last six months (it’s called G-Free Finds, just click it to see all of our favorite things!). She also loves these so much…
…and you can find them at both Costco and on Amazon. I could probably do an entire post on gluten-free snacks and products we love too!
HOW HAVE THE REST OF YOU ADJUSTED?
Oh, there were some grumblings at the beginning…and still some from time to time, but for the most part, now that we have found some great substitutions, I don’t hear as many. My other kids weren’t super happy when the Fruit Loops had to go and the Mac & Cheese they loved so much in their school thermoses, but now, I kind of think they’re okay with everything. We’ve found (through trial and error) things that work for us. Some brands we love, we just don’t love their g-free subs, so it’s taken a bit to figure out what to buy. Right now, I’m not sure if it’s because summer is coming up or the holiday weekend or the pandemic, but some of the subs we were using (like g-free buns and rolls) are always sold out, so I’ve been saving those at our house for Kensington (they keep in the freezer) and the rest of us have been having a normal bun from time to time on a burger or hot dog. I’m hoping those products will be more readily available again soon, but in the meantime, I don’t want us all eating her stash if we’re going to run out.
HAVE WE LOST WEIGHT/HAD MORE ENERGY/SLEPT BETTER?
I don’t know exactly because we haven’t all be weighed, but I don’t think anyone’s losing weight. I really think we’re all doing well, but since K is the only one who has one hundred percent removed gluten, she’s doing fantastic!
Okay, some random things to share…
#1: First up, swapping out our dinners and turning my normal recipes gluten-free has actually been really easy. The hardest thing for me right now hasn’t been our suppers, but it’s been our baked goods…
…hahaha! This made me LOL because it’s so TRUE!!! I just don’t care enough to have homemade muffins to keep 23 different types of flour in my pantry. Every time I see someone post online or I read in a book that they have the perfect flour combination, it legit has at least 10 flours mixed together. I really keep hoping I’ll find the one flour that does it all, and right now, I would say Cup 4 Cup has come the closest, without combining a dozen different kinds. I just want to reach for that one flour to make my pancakes, my muffins, my cookies and bread my chicken…one flour. I just want one flour. I’m still looking, so if you have ideas, let me know!
#2: Random, but we started keeping some things in the back of the car in case we’re in a pinch and K needs something g-free. For instance, if we go eat at a Mexican restaurant, we’ve learned that many places don’t serve tortilla chips that haven’t been cross-contaminated in some way, so we keep those in the car along with crackers and things she might need.
#3: Kensington has attended a handful of birthday parties and get togethers since becoming g-free, so I always just pack her something separate to eat and that seems to work out just fine. I’ll pack her a little cupcake if she’s attending a birthday party (Trader Joe’s has the BEST g-free cupcakes!) or whatever she needs so that she can eat at the party with her friends.
#4: We’ve been on two trips since becoming gluten-free, and they really went well. In both Telluride and Hawaii, we were thrilled beyond words at how sensitive everyone is to allergies and such at restaurants, hotels and cruise ships! I know that land vacations overseas will be more difficult especially if there is a language barrier, but at least our first experiences traveling have been positive. On the longer airplane rides to and from Hawaii, we packed her a gluten-free meal and snacks to enjoy on board, but other than that, I’m always blown away how available people make their chefs when you tell the waitstaff that you have an allergy and often restaurants have gluten-free menus (you just have to ask!). I’m sure I’ll say this again when we talk about our breakfast at Disney Aulani, but wow! They really went above and beyond even showing us their gluten-free waffle iron and skillets.
#5: For me, grocery shopping has been the hardest part. I used to go to one or two stores to get everything I needed and grocery pick up was simple. Once we went g-free, even just writing out my grocery list took much longer as I had to cross reference everything to make sure it was gluten-free and then find substitutes when necessary. I’ve learned that many staple things like canned soups, crackers, breadcrumbs, etc can be bought online and delivered (so many things from Amazon!), so I stock up when I can. I also have been visiting Trader Joe’s more often as they have so many options and the staff there is very well-versed on what is and isn’t g-free. (You can see my Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Faves post HERE.) I used to be able to write out my grocery list in a few minutes, but for a while there, it was taking an hour each time. Now, I know where to shop for what and I keep extras on hand…so that has really helped simplify my shopping.
Okay, whew! I think that about covers it! At the beginning, I was very overwhelmed. I talked to friends, I read books, I was reading things online…there was just SO MUCH INFORMATION! Over time, I’ve been able to pick and choose what info my brain needs to retain and focus on, so that I don’t get lost in the sheer amount of it. I’m constantly learning and changing how we do things and so much has been trial and error. We’ve been focusing these last six months on tweaking some of our favorite recipes so that we’re still eating what we love…just now, gluten-free. You can always see my g-free recipes HERE and of course, we’d love to have you in my Gluten-Free Living Facebook Group too!! You can join that HERE.
I absolutely think living gluten-free is going to be a lifelong process for us and I imagine I’ll always be learning and discovering new things. YOU GIRLS have been so helpful! I can’t even thank you enough for the resources you’ve already provided my family. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t send me a recipe, a Pin, a blogger to follow, a book to read…I’m telling you…YOU ARE THE ONES HELPING US ALONG! I used to think gluten-free was all about eliminating the pasta and bread, but no…THAT WAS THE EASY PART! Removing gluten from your diet is so much more than bread and pasta…it’s in your candy, your BBQ sauce, your ice cream, some ketchups, salad dressings, cereal, IT’S EVEN IN SOME THINGS LABELED GLUTEN-FREE. Yeah. It’s crazy. I would say that since we’ve started this journey, Kensington has only been exposed in some way (either my consuming or contamination) two times for sure…so, I know eliminating it has helped her tremendously (because I see what happens now when we don’t!). It’s a process, and I’m honored to have you guys along on the journey.
This Tuesday, we’re sending you much love from our gluten-free household to yours!! xo