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Our Gluten-free Story

These days it's common to wonder why or how someone decided to eat gluten-free.

Here's a little background to our family's gluten-free/wheat-free discoveries.

Myself: allergic/intolerant to wheat, sensitive to lactose, nuts and seeds
     I finally figured it out (definitively) while pregnant the second time. I had suffered from stomach problems for years, but nothing was ever determined as the cause. My first pregnancy I had a lot of swelling and complications that no one understood. It was dreadfully painful and my son was nearly 10 pounds, despite me trying to eat healthy and swimming daily. The 2nd pregnancy my mom (bless her soul!) had the idea that perhaps something I was eating was causing the problem. It wasn't hard to eliminate foods since I felt terrible and was basically eating ham and cheese sandwiches (on whole wheat or multi-grain bread) and fruit most meals - who knows why I could keep those down.  We started off trying gluten-free bread and within 3 days the swelling was gone. Seriously, gone. I went from the wedding ring barely fitting on my finger, puffy face, puffy everywhere, really, to back to normal within 3 days. The only time I became swollen again was when I had a piece of normal cake on my birthday. I should also mention my daughter was a healthy 7 pounds. Yay!  Pregnancy 3 went well, too, with a healthy 8 lb girl and definitely the least struggles of all three pregnancies.  Since having my 2nd child, I have discovered that I don't have nearly as many stomach or health issues as before, and have kept with the gluten-free diet. I did have the blood test for Celiac performed, but it came back negative - which I rather expected since I hadn't been eating any wheat prior to the test.  I've found I'm healthier overall, particularly during the wintertime when I was previously prone to suffering from sinus infection after sinus infection.   With the various health improvements, I can't say I plan to go back to eating wheat anytime soon!

My son: allergic/intolerant to wheat, sensitive to lactose
     We discovered this after about 8 months of chronic coughing.  It was a strange, deep chesty cough that never went away, but never got better.  He'd have a deep chesty cough (really, it sounded like bronchitis except it never actually got worse) where he'd cough 1-2x/hour all day AND night long.  Cough syrup didn't help. Nothing did.  The weirdest part of all was that he insisted this horrible cough didn't hurt.  It might not have hurt, but there definitely was something amiss!
     We decided to try food elimination.  We cut out dairy - no effect.  We cut out wheat - BAM! Cough gone within a day!  We were shocked. Seriously, shocked!  I mean, 8 months of coughing at least once an hour and then nothing?!  The only time the cough has returned was in the early days of going wheat-free.  Someone gave him a sandwich, and that night he was coughing throughout the night.  Another time was when we went to France and felt so badly that he couldn't eat the pastries we let him taste-test some of them.  It was too much for his system and the coughing was back that night for a couple of days before it went away again.  We've found his overall health to be vastly improved, with rarely a sick day home from school since going gluten-free.

My mom: allergic/intolerant to wheat, nuts, seeds
     My mom didn't discover her wheat allergy until she was 39 years old, when she visited a wonderful naturopathic doctor.  She went for one visit, explained her symptoms, and was handed a copy of the book "Breaking the Vicious Cycle", which is all about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  This diet eliminates most dairy and all grains.  Within 3 hours, she felt better than she had in 20 years.  No more stomach pain.  That stomach pain had been her constant companion since age 18.  However, re-introducing grains meant stomach problems returned.
     Her sensitivities to wheat are more extensive than either myself or my son, but she thinks that's probably because she didn't discover the wheat allergy earlier.  She's also highly allergic to nuts and seeds, which makes things even more challenging.
     After eliminating grains, the seasonal allergies that had plagued her for years just disappeared.  She had another baby, and didn't experience the borderline gestational diabetes she had encountered with all her other pregnancies. *(This was so similar to how I was while pregnant. All diabetes testing came back negative, but I had so many health-related symptoms that noone could explain and all disappeared in the second pregnancy after cutting wheat)
     In her words, "It's not easy to maintain a strict diet, but it's worth it!"

My nana: allergic to wheat and dairy.
     My nana had stomach problems all her life and just assumed everyone else had the same problem.  The other symptoms she had were swollen throat, difficulty swallowing, itchy skin infections, diarrhea, wheezing (asthma symptoms), bad breath and numerous sinus infections every year.  Things got much worse after the trauma of her husband's long illness and eventual death.  She could no longer ignore her health since she felt terribly sick all the time.
    She figured out that she had a dairy allergy after a visit to a cheese factory.  They had samples of all their cheeses, which must have amounted to something like 40-50 cheeses.  You could sample a cube of each kind, which my nana did.  That night she had a horrible asthma attack.  After that experience, she decided to try cutting dairy from her diet.  She discovered her asthmatic symptoms were gone!
     As not all symptoms were gone, my mom suggested she drop both wheat and dairy from her diet.  Within 10 days, all the symptoms disappeared with the exception of a mild digestive problem which she manages without medication.
My sister-in-law: Celiac/wheat allergy
    At the age of 19, she was having horrible stomach pains that would not subside. Her doctor, knowing about her family's history, suggested it was likely celiac. After giving up wheat, the stomachache disappeared, though she had been able to manage eating smaller amounts of wheat without much trouble. She had been living in Spain, and fully relapsed- eating wheat products daily (delicious croissants, that sort of thing), and had been struggling with her overall health. She has told me that her visit with us in Belgium (we were there over Christmas one year) was the turning point for her. During her visit with us, she ate tasty meals that had no wheat in them and found she felt better than she had in months.  She discovered symptoms would reappear if she ate anything with wheat. She's been living gluten- and symptom-free for several years now, with significantly improved overall health. 

You might say, it seems to run in the family.  There are members on both sides of our family who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, but now they have hundreds of yummy recipes to choose from to whip up foods they were missing!

*My son and I have a sensitivity to lactose, although we find with cheese it's not as big a problem, and we use lactose-free milk & creams for cooking/eating. 


  1. wow! Quite common isn't it? I have been off milk for 11 years now and for a while my digestion improved then this last year it has been so much worse. Someone told me about how wheat was problematic and looking at my diet I was eating it at every meal! I have been off it for a month and a half and things are normal, I lapsed and had a biscuit at work the other day thinking it was so small it would be ok, bloated, painful for the rest of the day. Glad to have found your blog. xx

    1. Thanks for sharing! It's amazing how the body can react to different foods. I've definitely found it's been worth it for our health. Happy cooking!