Friday, September 25, 2009

Staying Gluten Free

Gluten-free is not as difficult as one would think--definitely not as difficult as ten years ago, when I was first diagnosed with wheat allergy and threw in the towel pretty quickly. Dealing with the symptoms from eating wheat was easier than dealing with lack of alternate products; and what there was tasted "dog foody." You do get used to it quickly, definitely within thirty days, though I advise stocking up on some items if you don't have a specialty grocery close. Even WalMart now carries gluten free pasta at a lower price than specialty stores, several gluten free cereals, and the new Betty Crocker mixes. Another local grocery carries Bob's Red Mill flour and mixes. Items such as pancakes and muffins can be made in advance and frozen to save time. I do miss the occasional bagel--the alternates I tried were awful, but most everything else is great. Some products are far better. Some great finds: Mary's "Gone" Crackers, Glutino breakfast bars and plain and vegetable crackers (great with hummus or cheese), Erewhon rice cereal, Betty Crocker cake mix for birthday or company. Bob's Red Mill website carries a lot of recipes, and you can also use standard recipes, substituting the GF flour and add xanthum gum (sold in a package) for binding. The pizza crust we made was superb. I don't eat rolls/breads except sandwich bread for sandwiches or toast--I miss eating these occasionally but had mostly been skipping these anyway to save calories. We have made muffins--pumpkin and blueberry. We once made cornbread, but I need to find another recipe. Oh, yeah--Tasty Bites Indian Food for something fast. The tikka masala is pretty good, and GF.

I have remained gluten-free for three months, with two small exceptions. I accidentally ingested some in artificial crab meat and was sick in thirty minutes; my daughter ate the same food but was not sick. I researched the ingredients on the web (the ingredients for artificial crab meat are not listed!), and yep, wheat. Then a week and a half ago, frustrated by time constraints, sharing the van, and trying to visit my grandfather before picking up my son for a long appointment and convincing myself this was just a big bother, I ate some regular pasta and a roll. Result: major psoriasis outbreak, nail pitting, a little more hair loss. I am allergic to wheat but ate it anyway for many years (just 2 on a 4 point scale, mild). Regardless of whether gluten causes my health problems, wheat clearly contributes. To go wheat free, one must use gluten free products. So I'm staying on this diet. I wish I had known this years ago as a teen with self esteem issues (and severe itching) from psoriasis.

I don't regret my "experiment," as now I know for sure. Some of my GI issues have been a lot better too--whether that relief is from eliminating wheat or gluten, I don't know, but either way, I'm glad to have some relief in that regard.

With careful food shopping, we've been saving so much on other foods that I don't mind the extra we're spending here. My arthritis pain has often been better--to the point that I haven't scheduled an appointment with the wheelchair seating specialist because my scooter is doing its job again! I won't hesitate if I get another bad flare at this point (as in May and June), but for now...I will keep my fingers crossed. I can't sit in it all day, but I am not in agony just from going to one of the kids' activities and back home. My thoracic spine is killing me, but that is my own fault for moving improperly--well, it wasn't intentional to hurt myself, but hopefully this will go away soon.

Good news: I was told after my son's recent OT evaluation that he's now average or above average in most motor skills, so does not need OT now. That is good since I was worried about him missing school or his grades dropping from being too tired from doing one more thing a few times a week. He does need some downtime! He does not need to see the autism specialist for another year.

Bird's got an after-school orchestra party and her first volleyball scrimmage tonight. 3 of the girls she already knows, and I think this team will work much better! It wasn't just the disability issues with the other team--some of the players would chide others for missing a volley (causing my daughter to lose concentration and not do as well) and one repeatedly argued with the ref!--a 10-year-old, almost causing us to have to forfeit a game. I think we've got a sweet bunch.

I've actually been spending less time at my grandparents' this week--they're having so many people drop by that they're worn out from the company. I think my grandmother feels she needs to entertain people, while she really needs to go nap. She normally needs to, and she's been under a lot of stress. We've sent over several meals and kept visits short. My grandfather actually eats pretty good meals at dinner and we've been trying to make some of the things he really likes--salmon, hamburgers, spaghetti. Not culinary masterpieces, but food he enjoys and has asked about.


yanub said...

Frida, isn't is great to be able to reduce symptoms, even get rid of some, just by changing what you eat? When I learned I was allergic to wheat, and cut it out of my diet, I was both happy at having some control over my health and sad that I didn't know earlier.

Corn bread is the bread item I make the most often. The key is using stiff egg whites. I also like it with some buckwheat flour in it (buckwheat is related to rhubarb. It is not a grain at all) if I want a softer, more nutritious product. I also make 100% buckwheat pancakes. Of course, since I do low-carb now, I rarely even eat corn bread or buckwheat pancakes, but they are nice for a treat.

Eating wheat-free made it easy to go low-carb, too, since I had long since lost the desire for cakes and cookies and such things. Not that there aren't some really good products worth splurging on sometimes. Pamela's, for instance, makes the best gingersnaps--better than any I have ever tasted of any kind, so very spicy and not too sweet.

You are right about saving money. One, there is the money saved by feeling better. Then there are all the rows in the grocery store you just stop going down, saving time and money! And since you eat more carefully and more from scratch, what you eat is more nutritious.

And aren't you amazed, looking at the ingredients on things you used to eat without thinking about it, how often wheat is put in as a filler? And all the other fillers you didn't know were there!

One thing I've found when eating on the run is that most sandwich and burger joints will make your food without the bun and serve it as a salad. If you are highly allergic, that still isn't good enough. But if it's OK for you to have your food briefly touch where a piece of bread was, then it is a salvation. My daughter and I had a very good experience at a Burger King once, where the staff went out of their way to make sure they were giving us food that was safe to eat.

Also--never get french fries. Way too many places not only use grease they use for onion rings and pies, but also dust their potatoes in wheat flour.

FridaWrites said...

argh, blogger ate my long comment, but yes, it's been great to minimize some of these symptoms.

I will have to try egg whites in cornbread--haven't tried buckwheat as a flour yet.

We have tried the Pamela's ginger cookies--those are good!

One Sick Mother said...

My friend has a great blog. it is GFCF, but still... a lot of good ideas in there.


FridaWrites said...

Thanks, OSM--I am definitely interested in reading more about GF (recipes and tips).