“Try taking her off gluten.”
I’ll be honest, my first impulse after hearing that phrase leave my pediatrician’s mouth was to roll my eyes. Gluten? Really? Who did she think she was talking to, some wacky granola mom who only shops the organic section of Kroger?
But seriously, while I’m fully aware of the benefits of eating an organic, whole, diet I just could not grasp the possibility that my 13 month old could have a gluten allergy. Hadn’t I taken care of her? Hadn’t I been making her organic baby food from the start? Denying her juice, candy, ice cream? Sure, she was allowed the occasional odd french fry, but there’s no way my daughter, on her mostly paleo diet, had developed a gluten allergy!
She did. Let me start from the beginning….
At 2 weeks old, Norah started to peel. If you’ve never had kids I’ll explain — when babies are born their skin has acclimated to being in fluid so, after birth, most peel from head to toe as their skin gets used to the drier conditions of the world. Except Norah didn’t stop peeling, not completely. Since that first molting she has had tough, dry, peeling skin on the front of both ankles, sometimes accompanied by a red rash. For most of her first year I chalked it up to her hypersensitive baby skin (she was always getting bumps and rashes) and didn’t think much of it but, as her first birthday came and went, I noticed that the rash wasn’t getting better. In fact, it would get worse, almost clear up when I applied coconut oil, then get worse again.
So I took her to her pediatrician who told me that 1) it was eczema 2) she sees this a lot in babies and 3) it can usually be cured by taking them off gluten. I think this was doubly hard for me to swallow since Norah is also allergic to both eggs and shell fish. I was mortified. Not just for what it meant to my poor daughter, but for the hell I was going to receive when I dropped her off at her country, aw-it-never-killed-us, grandparents and told them that, in addition to her previous allergies, Norah could no longer have anything with wheat in it.
Adjusting to a gluten-free lifestyle for Norah has been more than difficult, but it has shown me the true limits (more like lack of them) of my love for her. Because, in addition to collecting recipe after recipe for gluten-free cookies and snacks for her, I’ve committed to going gluten-free as well. I didn’t at first, but the first day that she toddled up to me while I was eating lunch…seeing her little face crumple and tears well up in confusion as I told her no…was too much for me to take. From now on I resolve to only eat things my daughter can eat in her company (except morning eggs, which Norah could care less about as long as she has her gluten-free cereal).
The hardest part of our initial transition to being a gluten-free household has been finances. Christmas is always tight for us so there’s been no extra cash for a grocery overhaul…so we’ve had to make do with what we have. Below is an example of Norah’s previous daily diet and her current diet.
Norah’s Daily Food:
Breakfast – Rice/Oat flour cereal or Whole Wheat Pita Rounds
Snack – Avocado
Lunch – Organic Macaroni and Cheese and Pear
Snack – Apple
Dinner – Whole Wheat Pasta with Kerrygold Butter, Basil and Chicken
Norah’s Gluten Free Diet (without additional shopping):
Breakfast – Steal Cut Porridge with Cinnamon and 1 pk Sugar in the Raw
Snack – Avocado
Lunch – Sweet Potato and Chicken
Snack – Rice and Black Beans
Dinner – Roasted Carrots with Spiced Rice and Venison
Obviously, these are not comprehensive lists of what she eats. Other than breakfast and her daily avocado I try to keep Norah’s diet varied so she gets a maximum amount of micro and phytonutrients. I feel that I should note, since Norah doesn’t have Celiac disease, while I try to keep as gluten-free as possible, I don’t necessarily comb over everything. For example, government recommendations for a gluten-free diet stress checking all oats to because some can be contaminated with gluten. That’s something I may search for when we are doing better financially but, right now, Norah’s oats don’t specifically claim to be gluten-free. My main concern is alleviating the worst of her eczema symptoms, mostly the rash and itching.
We like to look on the positive side of things at the Gore household, so here it is: Lots of gluten-free recipe testing coming your way! If you have any great sites for simple, gluten and/or egg free cooking, please post them in the comments!