Thinking about going gluten free? It’s so much easier to do it as a family. Why? Because chances are that gluten allergy or intolerance is hereditary. Find out why my family is gluten free (I’ll explain our health issues that all linked back to gluten) and how we did it. And I’ll share how to start your family on a gluten-free diet.
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Do you have a gluten allergy or intolerance? Or maybe it’s your spouse or one of your kids. I know getting that first diagnosis is a shock. You’re wondering what you can eat at home or out at restaurants, how will your kids eat at birthday parties or friends’ houses. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.
I want to share our story of how we found out we had gluten allergies and why we decided as a family to be gluten-free. And I’ll share my tips for how to start a gluten-free diet for your family.
Why My Family is Gluten Free
Our gluten-free story began in early 2012. My husband had been experiencing chronic back pain for years due to severely bulging discs in his lower back that resulted in back surgery. He continued to experience back pain even after his surgery, and we sought the help of a rheumatologist – even though we were told his issues stemmed from osteoarthritis.
After some initial testing, we were hit with the news – not only did my husband have rheumatoid arthritis but he had spondylitis – an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis that causes severe pain in the spine and could lead to the spine fusing together. Diet was directly linked to his condition. In fact, his holistic doctor told him that gluten allergies and autoimmune diseases go hand in hand.
Gluten and Autoimmune Issues
So my husband got tested for food allergies (we got this gluten allergy lab test at home – recommended by our doctor) and not surprisingly found out he was celiac, as well as allergic to soy and eggs. He also had leaky gut syndrome (intestinal permeability syndrome), which is caused by damage to the lining of the gut making it difficult for the body to absorb food and nutrients properly. This is why those with leaky gut often have health issues such as celiac disease, irritable bowl syndrome, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders. Again, leaky gut syndrome is common in those with autoimmune issues.
Looking back, it all made sense. He got the flu or a cold at least every other month for the last few years, and I remember I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. This was finally the missing piece to the puzzle. But it took several doctors and numerous tests to get to this point.
I cannot stress enough how important it was that we were tenacious in finding an answer. We just couldn’t accept that “some people have back pain”. I knew something was wrong. And the test made all the different. Here’s the lab test that detected my husband’s gluten allergy. Once we had that, he got the additional blood test to find his spondylitis.
Gluten and Skin Problems
Then, I began questioning whether my oldest son had gluten allergies too. He had a long history of getting the stomach flu. In fact, he would regularly get it every 3-4 months. When I questioned his pediatrician about it – she said, “Well, some kids just get sick more often. Think of it as he’s building his immunity.” In addition, my oldest son had a benign skin condition called keratosis (chicken skin), that she chalked up to just having “sensitive skin” and recommended I use an alpha-hydroxy acid-based lotion to treat it.
That just wasn’t good enough for me. My instinct told me there was something else going on. So we got him tested for food allergies – which actually came back negative but he did have colitis, which is inflammation in the colon. Our new doctor recommended supplements to help heal gut and reduce his inflammation. He also recommended that we reduce the gluten in my son’s diet to help his gut heal and test whether his keratosis would clear up (gluten is a known cause for keratosis). Within just three months, my son’s keratosis nearly went away and the inflammation in my son’s colon went down to normal levels. And best of all, he’s only gotten the stomach flu once in the last two years.
In addition to my son’s keratosis, I was battling what I thought was hormonal acne. As I researched more, I found that my acne was likely a result of gluten and grains in my diet. When I stopped eating gluten, my skin cleared up. Read more on how I cleared up my acne naturally.
Why It Made Sense for the Whole Family to Go Gluten Free
What we found was that gluten was linked to what seemed like unrelated health issues, acne, keratosis, colitis, back pain, etc. The at-home GI panel lab test showed that these health issues were actually all related back to gluten. But for me, I just did an elimination diet (I eliminated gluten from my diet for a month) and found that my skin cleared up.
In addition, we just found it easier to have only gluten-free foods in the home to avoid the kids arguing over food or feeling left out. It allowed a level-playing ground for all of us, and frankly we all feel better on a gluten-free diet.
How to Start Your Family on a Gluten-Free Diet
1. Stock only gluten-free foods in your kitchen.
This makes it easy to make meals, grab snacks, and feed the whole family. When you know everything in your fridge, freezer, and pantry are all gluten free meal planning becomes a breeze. The kids are happier too because they know nothing is off limits.
Check out my all of my gluten-free recipes here, including snacks, appetizers, main meals, desserts, Instant Pot recipes and so much more!
2. Keep gluten-free snacks in your kids’ backpacks.
Once you get your home gluten-free, it’s pretty easy to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. But when the kids are at school, it can be tempting for them to get snacks at the vendor machine or class treats that aren’t gluten free. So let the kids take gluten-free snacks like chips, granola bars, nuts, etc. to snack on when they get hungry.
3. Ask the teachers to keep gluten-free treats in the classroom.
If your school allows the class to bring in treats for holiday and birthdays, ask the teachers to keep gluten-free treats in the classroom. I like these gluten-free packaged cookies (GMO free, dairy free, nut free). Of course, we like to make our own but for the sake of our sanity this is a great option that can last for the whole school year.
You can do this with other caregivers too – grandparents, babysitters, friends, etc.
4. Learn how to dine out on a gluten-free diet
Most restaurants these days will have a gluten-free menu. Just ask the server for gluten-free options. There may be a lot more available that isn’t on the menu. For instance, burgers never come up as being gluten free but you can easily ask for them without the bun or lettuce wrapped. Another example is a Chinese chicken salad. They never come up on the gluten-free menu, but when I ask to omit the fried noodles and dressing (many Asian dressings contain soy, which has wheat in it), then the salad is actually gluten free. Just ask the server or chef for gluten-free options.
5. Get to know what foods and condiments commonly contain gluten
Starchy foods like bread, pasta, crackers, pastries, etc. obviously have wheat. But there are a lot of things that may not be so obvious, like snack foods. We once got veggie chips thinking they were made with just vegetables but when we looked closer at the food label we found they contained wheat too. This doesn’t apply to all veggies chips, just the one brand we almost bought.
Condiments and sauces are other foods to watch for. Many contain soy sauce, which contains wheat. Read food labels and look for wheat and gluten ingredients.
If you’re looking an extensive guide to help your family go gluten free, check out my book, Gluten-Free, Real Food Recipes for Kids.
Help Your Family Go Gluten Free
I wrote Gluten-Free, Real Food Recipes for Kids with YOU in mind. Parents who want to provide kids with wholesome meals without artificial colors, preservatives and other additives. All the recipes are gluten-free – with many options for grain free or Paleo, dairy free, egg free and vegetarian.
What’s Included In This Book
It’s filled with 130+ pages of content and recipes, including:
- Real food nutrition 101
- Detailed information on how to properly soak and sprout nuts, beans, grains and seeds
- A guide on how to spot chemical additives and what to avoid
- Kitchen essentials and cooking tools
- Tips on how to get kids to become better eaters and help in the kitchen
- 70+ gluten-free recipes – such as snacks and appetizers, beverages, condiments and dressings, main meals, desserts and more
More Posts You Might Like
- 15 Easy Gluten Free Swaps for Your Favorite Foods
- 6 Signs You May Have a Gluten Sensitivity and Not Know It
- How to Make Gluten Free Recipes for Kids
Photo credit: Bigstockphotos.com / BondDLegion