Saturday, March 23, 2013

What about this wheat free thing you’re doing??

I’ve been asked lots of questions  and decided it would be easier to address them here for everyone than continue to type emails.  So…here you go.

Who is participating?

Ryan and Logan and me, for sure.  Jim, for the most part, since he eats what I fix.  Smile  Hailey eats some meals at home, but because she needs a sandwich lunch every day for clinicals, there’s bread in the cupboard for her lunch.  Her chips have wheat, and she’s free to eat cookies or whatever else she wants.  I’ve asked both she and Jim to be courteous of the boys and to be accommodating for the month.  They’ve been great, and our weekend in Spokane doing the hotel-and-dining-out thing wasn’t a big deal, in large part because they were willing to go along.  

Why 31 days?

Easy.  It is a full calendar month.  For the boys, who have dreaded this experiment, it was clear to see, with a predictable start and finish.  We’ve used these 31 days to work on the practical application of Phil 2:14 (Do all things without grumbling or complaining.).  They’ve been amazing!  As a bonus, they have earned $1 each week they go without complaints.  (They don’t get allowances, so I pay them for work above and beyond their expected chores.  This was a huge challenge, and some incentive to keep positive attitudes—their work for the month—was appropriate.)

What made you decide to go wheat free?

Ryan has, for years, dealt with significant eczema.  The ‘solution’ always has been to treat him with topical steroids.  When I took him in for his 8 year check up, the pediatrician (whom I ADORE!) looked him over and recommended that we start using a much stronger steroid cream since Ry’s eczema was continuing to look bad.  The only drawback was that his preferred prescription comes in an ointment (petroleum based product), not a cream.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not wild about slathering my child with a petroleum based anything on his largest organ (the skin) with the most direct route to bloodstream absorption!  Plus, the underlying problem with the ointment is that it treats the SYMPTOM, not the problem.  In addition, Ryan is dinky tiny.  His growth rate has been incredibly slow for years, and he sits at the very bottom of the growth charts.  He eats like a football player, and although it’s never been pursued, we have discussed the possibility of food allergies or metabolic disorders with his ped. in the past.  Changes to his diet seemed like the most reasonable option at this point, especially knowing that eczema is often present when allergies are possible.  Not knowing Ry’s medical history and background, we were working with big question marks.

So why wheat?  Why  not eggs?  Or dairy?

Simple.  Ryan can’t stand eggs and doesn’t eat them, so they weren’t a likely culprit.  The boys are Asian and as such more likely to be lactose intolerant, so we already monitor dairy consumption.  (Neither of them seems to have trouble, fortunately.)  As we looked at Ryan’s diet, it seemed more and more likely to be wheat.  One sign of potential food issues is cravings.  Ryan LIVED on wheat based products.  His idea of a great day food wise would be bagels for breakfast, macaroni (and cheese, if he had to have it) for lunch, and spaghetti, french bread, and caesar salad with croutons for dinner.  He CRAVED the wheat products.  That made me very suspicious, so I started doing more in-depth research.  I didn’t like what I learned.

What did you learn?

I read extensively and asked questions of several knowledgeable, trustworthy people in my world.  All of them pointed me the same direction:  researching the pitfalls of modern wheat.  The more I read, the more I realized that I, too, likely deal with wheat sensitivities.  Migraines.  Skin rash (mine is most likely a type of eczema).  Arthritis-like pain in my thumbs.  Thyroid issues.  Food cravings and weight gain, with ‘normal’ levels of consumption.  A family history of diabetes—type 1 and type 2.  Difficulty sleeping.  Low-grade seasonal depression.  ALL of those can be attributed to wheat consumption.   Armed with the knowledge, we made a decision:  try 30 days of wheat free eating.  Everything with wheat, not just the obvious choices of bread/bagels/pasta.  Everything.

What did we have to lose?

Well, besides 30 days?  Not much.  Except tons of food, I guess.  Cleaning out the pantry and the fridge was an eye opening experience.  I got the boys involved—they each earned $1 for reading labels and sorting items.   In addition to pulling out the cereal and crackers and pasta, we had to pull out almost all salad dressings.  Ketchup.  BBQ sauce.  Any soy based sauce.  Many sodas.  Chips.  Pretzels.  Prepared soups.  Anything with ‘natural flavoring’ or ‘caramel coloring’ on the label, since the assumption has to be that it is from wheat unless specifically marked otherwise.  We were all surprised at the number of things wheat is part of, and we currently have a 25 gallon rubbermaid container filled with the off-limits food.

So…what have you learned?

Lots!  Ryan and I are clearly gluten sensitive.  We learned that in spades early this week when I made pizza for dinner.  I used spelt flour, which is wheat free but not gluten free.  I got up the next day feeling miserable, with a headache that Aleve didn’t touch.  Ryan got up scratching himself fiercely, and one place on his neck was back to bloody.  He’d been itch free for over 2 weeks, and his skin was definitely clearing!  For me, it was a second ‘test’ that I had failed.  We will do some challenge testing on Ryan pretty soon, but I suspect he will have trouble as I have.

Moving forward…?

For me, it’s pretty straightforward.  I’ll avoid wheat and gluten as much as possible.  I don’t need to ever have another migraine, and if no wheat means no migraines, I’m all for it.  Plus, I like sleeping well and feeling great!  It’s really a no-brainer for me.  I’ve also cut back tremendously on other grains (rice, corn, oats, etc) and am totally okay with that.  For the most part I don’t miss it at all, and on the occasional moment I’d like something like that to eat, I remind myself that I’ll feel better without, and that usually takes care of it.  I don’t feel even slightly deprived (chocolate dipped coconut macaroons, anyone??) so I can see eating this way for a  long time.  Ryan’s going to be a harder sell.  He likes the gluten free pasta we’ve found, but he misses his breakfast bagel something fierce.  Today’s project is to make some gluten free bagels for his dining pleasure.  Smile  We’ve found child-acceptable substitutes for many of his favorites already, including pancakes, waffles, and oven pancakes (Dutch babies).  Long term, I know he’ll miss cinnamon rolls and monkey bread, but perhaps by the time fall comes and I bake those again I will have found a recipe or 2 that will work well.  I think, though, that overall he’s going to be willing to stay mostly to totally wheat free because we’re seeing several significant changes for him.  Clearing eczema. No headaches or leg cramps. No stuffy nose.  And the biggie:  growth!  He’s gained nearly 2 pounds and grown just over 1/2” since March 1.  This is a child whose growth has been so slow for the last 7 years we’ve discussed medical tests.  We’re taking the growth as a huge affirmation of this decision.

I hope this helps!  Let me know if I missed anything.  I’m happy to answer whatever questions I can! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

wheat free—halfway through the challenge

18 days since we started our wheat free March.  It’s been fascinating to see the changes.  Ryan no longer scratches to the point of bleeding at night.  He’s falling asleep in 15-20 minutes instead of his normal 60-75 (generally the same bedtime but sometimes earlier!).  He’s down to a very minimal amount of melatonin before bed (recommended by his pediatrician, but now only taking 1/10th the recommended amount) that we’re cutting back more, since it’s mostly a ‘crutch’ instead of a necessity at this point.  He sleeps well and wakes rested.  He’s not dealing with headaches.  Or leg cramps.  Or stomach aches.  Or a continually plugged nose.  He’s been very vigilant about what he eats, and hasn’t grumbled at all.  So far, he’s earned $2 or the $5 promised for completing the month without grumbling.  (Phil 2:14 is the verse we’ve been putting into practice this month).  From his standpoint, going wheat free has been a huge success.

Logan hasn’t been as obvious, but he didn’t have the significant question marks, either.  We are seeing some improvement in his ability to focus and recall.  He still struggles tremendously with academic issues (who wouldn’t, given his laundry list of issues?) but the changes have been helpful.  Always a great sleeper, we’re seeing him fall asleep faster and wake up much less groggy.  For Logan, going wheat free has been a tolerable experience.  Smile  He’s also earned $2 of his promised $5 for not grumbling this month about food. 

Jim hasn’t seen much change, but he’s also eating more wheat than the rest of us, by his choice.  (Maybe I should have promised him $5 too?!?) Not a big deal as far as I’m concerned.  The thing is…he’s likely stuck with the wheat free thing for a long time.  I’ve seen great changes for me:  I sleep SO much better.  I FEEL better.  My headaches are almost completely gone (unless I inadvertently eat some wheat!).  My achy thumbs don’t bother me.  My hip (an ongoing problem since I was about 10) hasn’t bugged me.  I have more energy and less ‘down’ days.  The rainy grey weather hasn’t bugged me at all, and that’s saying something around here! 

So…it looks like wheat-free is going to be much more permanent.  Next steps?  Cut out sugar and most other grains.  But since I love my family, we’ll take it slow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

making progress

It’s not fluent and it’s far from perfect, but we’re thrilled!  (We were told he would be 10 before he could read.)  This pretty much speaks for itself…

Sorry it’s a bit wobbly—it’s hard to hold the camera and do the teaching too!  (Note—there are some sounds Logan simply cannot make due to his hearing loss and apraxia.  “x” is one of them, and he struggles mightily with words like ‘six,’ hence the significant help with that sentence.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the things we do for love

like walking in the rain and the snow…

Wait.  That’s not where I intended to go!  Flashback to music from my growing up years.  All that does is prove I’m old.  <sigh>


So…the things we do for love.  How about things like a 30 day elimination diet?  For everyone in the house?  Simply because it needs to be tried for one or 2 people?  Yep.  One of those things we do for love.  Smile  Fortunately, it won’t hurt those who don’t need to be on it, so we move forward.  Friday will be 8 days without wheat or wheat products at home, and surprisingly it’s going well.  The boys have been quite agreeable, even double checking to make sure they’re ‘not cheating.’  The best part is that we’re seeing some clearing of eczema already.  Definitely seeing less headaches.  And the child in question is undeniably sleeping better.  And feeling better!   I’m doing ‘experimental baking’ on Wednesdays (when we’re home all day) so that we can figure this wheat-less thing out.  I’m working hard to NOT trade one starchy food for another, so we’re not using the typical wheat free or gluten free all purpose flours that are available.  Makes things slightly more challenging, but it also makes things much healthier!  This week I baked wheat free, high fiber, low(er) carb chocolate zucchini bread, and it was a huge hit.  I took a recipe I have at home and modified it slightly.  Nearly perfect!  I am glad chemistry has always been a favorite subject, since understanding chemistry in the kitchen makes the experimentation a touch easier.

But for this face (hard at work on his math)


and this one (being a goof at speech therapy)


going wheat free is something we’ll gladly try (and stay with!) if it makes a difference.  How on earth could we say no??