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Is Gluten-Free Diet For You?

January 21, 2016

 "Cookies, cakes, ribs, sauces and yogurt, mom, your food making goes through phases". My nine years old commented one day.


Exactly. What phase am I in now? Gluten-free. Why not start my cooking blog page with the story of my gluten-free conviction and a series of gluten-free recipes.


Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity diagnosis are the two undisputable reasons that gluten (a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat, spelt, rye and barley) is bad for some people. I don't have either. On the contrary, I have had wheat in my diet at least two meals daily until my mid twenties when rice started to share equal place on my dinning table. I have been fine eating a lot of wheat. As a matter of fact I loved and have been fine indulging in dishes made of gluten such as seitan (a meat-like food derived from wheat gluten used in many vegetarian dishes) or fu (a dried gluten product made from wheat and used in some Asian dishes). But my life changed since I met a man in 2014.


Sorry I just lied. I met no man in 2014. I had a second child. He was full term birth with low birth weight which was strange to me. He also seemed to be born with diarrhea. As soon as drops of my milk went in him, his diarrhea became obvious and diaper rash broke out which happened only once on my first child when she had diarrhea at 6-month old. I took him to a pediatric gastroenterologist (GI) at one-month old. His stool was heme positive (invisible bleeding). The GI doctor thought he might have cow's milk protein allergy, suggested me exclude dairy from my diet which I did immediately. The GI doctor also gave me some partially hydrolized cow's milk formula to try on my son. I fed him the formula alone for 3 days, he tolerated it with no diarrhea. Then I put him back on breastfeeding. 


In replace of cow's milk, I drank rice milk, almond milk or oat milk. His diarrhrea symptoms didn't impove, it became worse after an episode of allergy to walnut I ate. Since eliminating dairy didn't help, since he had allergy reaction to walnut I ate, maybe he had more than two allergies/intolerances? I self-prescribed a self-treatment: total elimination diet (eliminating all common food allergens including wheat, egg, fish, peanut and tree nuts, dairy, soy, shell fish). So what could and did I eat? All I could eat were rice, potato, sweet potato, squash, turkey, pear, green vegetables, salt, pepper, and olive oil. If it didn't seem too bad, let me tell you. It is a deathening diet when coupled with breastfeeding, tripled with taking care of a baby who pooped watery, foamy, mucousy thing 15 times a day without a second of a third hand to help me. I needed to eat three times of my usual portion size to feel full, the second I felt hungry I started to tremble and sweat if I didn't gorge something down. Also I started to have heart burn which made me want to eat every 30 minutes or so. Till this day after one and a half years later I'm still working on getting rid of the negative health effect of that diet.


After a few weeks on the total elimination diet, I was dying because of an unsustainale diet and the stress of taking care of a diarrhea baby, my son's diarrhea didn't impove, and he had been having poor weight gain. I decided to put my son on the partially hydrolized cow's milk formula which he tolerated a month ago for a few days to give me a break. After one feeding in the evening before bed and one feeding in the morning, he seemed to be in some kind of stress. As soon as I laid him on my master bathroom counter and opened his diaper, his stool exploded all over me and far away to the bathroom door. I immediately called his GI doctor. He arranged a biopsy in Children's Hospital. The results showed he had allergic enteropathy and developed food protein induced proctitis. No wonder he didn't tolerate the partially hydrolized formula anymore. Once I told the GI doctor that I have been on a total elimination diet for the past few weeks. He said my son's allergy/intolerance could be uncommon. It was impossible to figure out his offending foods. I was told to exclusively feed him a complete hydrolized amino acid based formula: EleCare. The only way to breastfeed was for me to drink EleCare as my only food. He was half right because my son's offending food was eventually identified (although quite dramatically) and it is uncommon. 


After two months EleCare alone diet, my son was doing great. He finally could have a couple white diapers a day which are the best gift for me. However he developed acid reflex after two weeks on the formula. He couldn't nap for more than 30 minutes, he wanted to eat all the time, he could cry for hours. I called his GI doctor for advice to manage it. He recommended adding 1 tablespoon rice cereal per 1 oz formula which sounded a lot to me. I called him again and again until he sternly told me: simple and clear, 1 tablespoon rice cereal per 1 oz formula. Still I went with my own instinct. I added only 1 teaspoon in one whole feeding bottle which was the best wrong thing I ever did in my life. Because 20 hours later, he pooped 2 am in the morning and I saw spots of blood in his stool. Two hours later he pooped again, this time the whole diaper was orange red. He had 10 diapers like that in a row within 20 hours. Had I followed his doctor's direction, I could have killed him.


Now the devil was revealed. Rice is his worst food. No wonder my deathening total elimination diet didn't work. In replace of wheat, I drank rice milk, ate rice chex or porridge at breakfast, I ate steamed rice at lunch and dinner. Oh well, rice is considered hypoallergenic in western diet, oh well, oh well...


It took another 2 months exclusively on EleCare for my son to recover from the last rice allergy/intolerance incidence. Now he was 6-month old. I decided to try breastfeeding again. Of course after 4 months exclusive bottle feeding, he absolutely didn't want anything to do with my breasts no matter what I tried. But he loved breastmilk in a bottle. This time I started with total plus two (rice and walnut) elimination diet. Every two weeks, I added one food from the common food allergens. It took me several months to get to my normal diet of everything except two (rice and walnut, it turned out they are the only confirmed allergy/intolerances he has). I could live without rice and walnut. In replace of rice, I might eat wheat at three meals a day. Strangely after a while, I started to have headaches and fatigue. At 4 or 5 pm, I felt I needed a pure energy injection to be able to prepare dinner for my family. It was more so on days I ate large freshly homemade pasta. I visited  doctors and had my thyroid stimulating hormone, prolactin, blood and comprehensive metabolic tests. Everything was fine except my blood glucose was higher than the normal range. Then I heard a report that eliminating gluten from diet can be benificial to people who have headaches and fatigue which no cause has been found for. I'm a DIY-er. And I'm always interested in food science, nutrition and health. So I tried gluten free diet for a week. Surprisingly my headaches are gone and I no longer feel I need a pure energy injection any time.


In conclusion (finally), maybe because I eliminated wheat for a while, or because my body is getting older that it reacts to food I eat differently, or because of both, I became gluten sensitive. At least eating gluten free diet does the trick for me for getting rid of headaches and fatigue for now.


Do you have headaches, fatigue or other problems for which no cause has been found? Is it possible that you may be gluten sensitive that you didn't know? Is gluten free diet for you?


If yes, let me warn you: eliminating any major food such as wheat is a major diet change; you shouldn't do it casually like I did. It should be a careful plan among you, a GI doctor, and a licensed dietitian.


With that said, now you have been warned. Now my story is all told. Now please subscribe to my blog post for gluten free recipes and much more.                  

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The PhD Homemaker is where I justify my homemaker title with a Pretty High Degree (PhD). Kidding. 

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