I have had a few of you ask how we became gluten free so this post is for you.
We made the decision to become a gluten free family in January. A few years ago, I had a hunch Thing 2 had gluten issues based on his behavior after meals. He would bend over holding his stomach in pain after a sandwich. He had some other signs as well that made me wonder. We decided to have him tested for Celiacs during an operation to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. He had already been on a GF diet for a few weeks by that time. I did not realize going GF before the test would mess with the results until a year later. When the test came back negative for Celiacs, I was really confused. I decided from that point forward to limit his bread intake. At that point in our menu planning you can see that I changed up our lunches from sandwiches. I limited bread to maybe 2 times a week. I saw an improvement in him, but not enough to make me not try to do more so I added more fruit and vegetables.
Right after I came off all of my pain medications from my last c-section, I started noticing the intense pain my body was in. I thought something was really wrong with me. My shoulders have hurt for a large portion of my adult life but I had always assumed it was stress. When I would get massages, the only place they ever focused on was my shoulders and they tried to teach me exercises to help relieve the tension, but it never worked. The summer before my c-section I had been using a shampoo to help stimulate re-growth in my hair. Everyone assumed my hair was falling out because of my last pregnancy and that my hormones had not caught back up with my body. After using the shampoo one day, my scalp felt like it was on fire. I immediately quit using that shampoo, but still had no idea what really triggered it. I sent out a question on FB one day asking if anyone ever felt like they had the flu from stress. I received a few emails, but one caught my eye. Someone suggested an intolerance to gluten. I looked it up and thought, really? Me? No way! This whole time I was sure Thing 2 had a sensitivity, but not me. I looked into it and sure enough each of us deals with a gluten intolerance differently and it doesn’t always show up in the form of stomach issues.
Did I get tested? No. Why? Well, I decided to try to go GF for a few weeks with Thing 2 and truly see if I felt different. I didn’t see any reason to get poked and prodded if in the end I did or did not feel better. I figured the proof would be in the bread so to say. A few weeks went by and without me even realizing how quickly my body changed, it did. The pain I carried around in my shoulders disappeared, my mind felt clearer and not foggy, I had engergy and did not experience the 3pm downward spiral everyday (it still happens because I am human, but the lack of energy is not immobilizing). Interestingly enough, veins showed back up on my eyeballs. I am not a doctor, and I didn’t see one for a diagnosis, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, I am sensitive to gluten. Beyond that, what it means for me, is that every shampoo, piece of makeup, lotion, toothpaste, food I handle, gum I chew has to be GF or I feel it. I feel it like I have never felt it before. I only tested myself a few times to make sure, and I am positive after accidentally having gluten or handling gluten foods, or using shampoo with wheat, that I am sensitive. I don’t need a label or a doctor to tell me that. We tested Thing 2 after he went GF for a few weeks and after giving him a small handful of gold fish he threw up. We put him back on a GF diet for a few weeks and tried one more time with a few cubes of french bread and he threw that up. That solved that. So, that’s interesting and all but you are wondering how I made the switch.
I remember the moment I started looking at everything in our pantry and freezers and realized almost all of our food contained wheat. I was overwhelmed and freaked out. Wheat, processed in on machines that contain wheat.. it was on everything. The first thing I did was make a mental note of how I felt at that exact moment. I felt horrible. I had just finished testing myself for the last time and my body hurt. Even my fingers. I knew it was going to be a hard transformation for me unless I mentally got on board with this new life and so I did. I took note of every pain in every joint on my body that day and I remembered it.
Next, I grabbed boxes and started filling them up with all the food that contained wheat. Don’t worry, I did not throw it away. I gave it to some good friends. It was so discouraging to see a bare pantry and know I had no flour. Next. I went to Vitacost and ordered flours and snacks. My first order was $68, but it contained all that we would need to start fresh with a healthy life. I knew enough about GF foods to know better than to buy what I needed to restock my pantry from a grocery store. That’s not to say I don’t buy Udi’s pizzas or bread from the grocery store, because I do. When it comes to buying flours and snacks, those come from Vitacost. I use GF noodles when making pastas or lasagna (I do spend the extra money to pick those up from the grocery store or Whole Foods), I make my bread when I have time, and now I have to plan a little more to have really cool breakfasts like pop tarts or cinnamon rolls that are GF. Do I miss bread filled with gluten? Am I alive? YES! What I miss most is a buttered biscuit with ham from Bojangles. I am so country. I own it.
If you are doing this for a lifestyle change (because let’s face it, it is healthier to be GF), or because you feel like you may have sensitivity to it, try be budget conscience about menu planning. Go with meals that do not need extra purchases for flour or noodles.
Here are some suggestions:
For breakfast, go with a smoothie or yogurt. For lunch, I always eat salad and fruit. Being GF doesn’t mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars a week in groceries, but you do need to get use to the idea of eating healthier. Salads, nuts, fruits (fresh and dried), and brown rice are your friends. Once a mom always a mom. If you have an Aldi in your area, try shopping there to keep your grocery bill low. Our BJ’s (A Costco or Sam’s) carries a large variety of GF snacks and breakfast bars. I do grab a few things from there as well.
I hope I have been able to encourage those who asked for this post and shed light on easy ways to become GF without borrowing from the bank. Please feel free GF veterans to leave comments sharing recipes or ideas to help those of us who are new in this journey.
This is another resource for those of you who would like more information: Gluten Free on a Budget- ThriftySue