Easter Hols

I’m so sorry that I haven’t blogged for ages!  We have been away – on our first ‘proper’ holiday since Jamie was diagnosed with celiacs disease last June.  It is hard to believe that this time last year we had a very sad and ill little boy with permenant tummy aches, exhaustion and weight loss.  He had a great holiday, no tummy aches at all, all the energy in the world, and although he is still of a very thin build, he is no longer skeletal!

Anyway, we went to the south coast of Devon (in the South West corner of the UK) and if you have never visited, you must!  It is amazing.  We stayed in our own self catering apartment so that we were in complete control of Jamie’s diet this first time, and that was lovely.  He did like the ice-creams down there (we all did!) so we chose a quiet time to go the first time, and the man in the ice-cream shop was fantastic, letting us know which flavours had gluten in and which didn’t.  After that, we went every day, and Jamie wasn’t at all bothered about eating from a tub instead of a cone, although I think in future I might find some gluten free cones to take with us.

Anyway, back to earth with abump.  That was a long winded way of explaining why I haven’t blogged much lately.  Many apologies and thanks for keeping coming back!

On Bantham Sands, Devon, UK

On Bantham Sands, Devon, UK

Gluten Free Easter

Our first gluten free Easter!  So that means no hot cross buns (which Jamie is not ever so happy about but will get over) and probably as much chocolate as ever!  I have had to be careful to check the labels on the Easter eggs: some contain gluten, some don’t… but there are enough that don’t for it not to be an issue at all.  He likes ‘Crunchies’ best and they are gluten free.

I have also had to be careful when we go out on ‘treasure trails’ and ‘Easter egg hunts’, all of which seem to end in chocolate at this time of year.  I carry a supply of small ‘safe’ eggs with me, and swap what he has found for the ones I know are gluten free (then I eat the others!)

Easter hasn’t been a big deal as far as Jamie’s gluten free diet is concerned.  I don’t think he really thought about it all all – except that I have been told to invent a recipe for gluten free hot cross buns for next year!

My God Bless you richly this Easter.  Enjoy!

Sign a Petition for Better Rates of Coeliac Disease Diagnosis (UK)

We were very fortunate.  Our GP spotted the symptoms of coeliac disease on the first visit and referred Jamie for blood tests immediately.  But I know that for thousands of people suffering from coeliacs, diagnosis can take years, and unmanaged coeliacs disease can lead to many more health problems, such as infertility, osteoporosis, anemia, and certain forms of cancer.

Coeliac Uk have launched a petition to the governemnt, asking them to better prepare doctors to diagnose coeliac disease quickly, and thus reduce the risk of long term health problems for sufferers.

To sign the online, simply go to http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/coeliacdisease/ This is a two step process and you’ll first need to add your name and email address.  You will then be sent a confirmation email with a link.  Simply click on the link to register your signature.  Please note: depending on your email security settings, this might go into your Spam folder.

Another Gluten Free Birthday Party

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Another birthday, another gluten free birthday cake!  This time it was my daughter’s.  She is not celiac and does not follow a gluten free diet, but her birthday was gluten free anyway because:

a) She’s a kind hearted little person and wanted her brother to join in.

b) All my baking stuff is gluten free and I didn’t want to contaminate it.

c) The kids have decided that gluten free baking tastes nicer anyway!!! ; )

So here are the results of our gluten free ‘puppy party’ – the birthday cake recipe is on another page, and the biscuits are adapted from the gluten free lemon star recipe also on another page (in another shape!)

The Gluten-free-last-minute-lunchbox-solution

Have you ever had that sinking feeling at about ten o’clock at night, as you turn the TV off and are about to head upstairs, and you suddenly remember that you didn’t bake and you’ve nothing in for his lunchbox tomomrrow? The old standby options (such as easy, wrapped chocolate biscuits) are no longer available, you have none of the expensive ‘free from’ alternatives in the cupboard, you feel like the world’s worst mum becasue you should have planned for this…

Okay, maybe it’s just me that is totally disorganised!  But it does happen, more regularly than I would like, and the options have always been:

a) Get the car out and head for the local supermarket

b) Switch on the over and bake the world’s easiest gluten free cake (which is easy, but I’d have to stay up to switch off the oven)

c) Give him extra fruit instead (healthy but not popular)

Anyway, I have recently come up with a fourth option, which you may have already thought of… but I hadn’t!

Chocolate Crispie Cakes!!

They are naturally gluten free (as long as you have pre-checked the cereal and the cooking chocolate) and soooo simple.  All you need is a bar of cooking chocolate, gluten free breakfast cereal and some paper cake cases.  The chocolate goes in the microwave for a minute, stir in the cereal and pop it in the cake cases.  Five minutes max!  Then leave it to set overnight.

The kids love ‘em (and sometimes request them) and it has got me out of a tight spot on many ocassions!  Also great if you suddenly have to supply gluten free goodies and have nothing in the house.

If you have any last minute standbys, please post!  Would love to hear about them!

Should the Whole Family go Gluten Free?

One of the biggest questions we had when Jamie was first diagnosed with celiacs disease was ‘Should the whole family go gluten free?’ And it is a question that must be asked in any family where one member is diagnosed with celiacs.

Certainly there are advantages to this option: equally there are disadvantages.  It is a question that needs discussing and working through,preferably as a whole family, as everyone is affected, the earlier the better.

The first option is for only the affected family member to go gluten free, and the rest of the family to eat as they always have. This may be the most popular option if brothers and sisters object to eating gluten free food – especially if they object to giving up certain gluten containing favourites such as cakes and biscuits!  As my daughter used to say on occasion, ‘I’m not celiac- why am I suffering because he is?’

So this option would in some ways maintain family harmony, although it does continually point out the celiac child as being different.  It also means that whoever is cooking for the family will often have to make multiple meals which is both time consuming and difficult. 

Another argument is that if the rest of the family are eating gluten all the time it is incredibly difficult to avoid cross contamination for the celiac child.  The whole family needs to be very aware of contamination issues but mistakes happen – especially when children or teenagers are in a hurry!

On the other end of the scale, the whole family could go gluten free.  This has the great advantage of eradicating gluten from the kitchen completely, so cross contamination is not an issue at all.  The family can eat together, the cook only has to prepare one meal, and the celiac child is not the ‘odd one out’. This can work well in a family where someone does most of the cooking and also bakes gluten free cakes and biscuits on a regular basis.  The big disadvantage of this option, however, is the cost.  If pre-prepared
meals are a large part of the diet, or if you buy a lot of gluten free cakes and biscuits, this can be an incredibly expensive option!  Gluten free products are generally quite pricey and for the whole family to eat it unnecessarily will cost! You may also get complaints from other family members who neither want nor need to eat a gluten free diet.

We, like many other families I have talked to, have settled for the middle option.  We all eat… mainly gluten free!  Everything I bake is gluten free: the whole family has homemade gluten free cakes and biscuits in their lunchboxes and there have been no complaints about this at all.  Family meals are also gluten free: this is very easy as I do not rely on pre-made sauces etc, and there are so many meals that are naturally gluten free that it really doesn’t take much planning.

However, because of the expense (and my complete failure with the bread maker) my son has his own gluten free bread while the rest of us have sliced (to avoid contamination) bread. We also have a separate tub of margarine with a big red cross on it for using on wheat bread, and two toasters.  Also because of the  expense, Jamie will have things like gluten free fish fingers while the others have normal, and the normal ones are cooked on a special baking tray.  In fact it is the gluten things that are singled out as being different in our kitchen, because most foods and kitchen areas are completely gluten free.  It has worked for us. My son never feels any different, and the ‘gluten things’ are kept separately and carefully.

It is an issue that needs thinking through.  But life gets so much easier when the whole family knows where they stand with it.  And compromises can be reached to ensure that every member is happy.

The Tummy Ache Mystery is Solved!

Having blogged a few times about the mystery of Jamie’s ongoing tummy aches, despite my keeping of a thorough (I thought) food diary, and trying every remedy under the sun, I thought I should update you.

It was the tomato ketchup!

And yes, I have to take full responsibility and yes, I have been on the world’s biggest guilt trip ever since.

It was at teatime the other day: we were having gluten free cottage pie and the kids wanted tomato ketchup as usual.  Myhusband made a comment about it being ‘full of sugar’ and I checked the label to see just how much sugar it contained… and was horrified to read “contains what and gluten” in the allergy box! And there it was, poured liberally over Jamie’s dinner.

It is only one supermarket’s own brand ketchup that contains gluten and I think that’s where I went wrong.  When Jamie was first diagnosed with celiacs I checked every label (including ketchup) and bought it from a different supermarket (no gluten).  When that ran out I simply bought another bottle, without realising it was from Supermarket B, and having it in my head that ketchup is safe.

It so brought it home to me that I just have to check everything!

Anyway, we reverted to the safe Supermarket A ketchup and after a week or so the tummyaches stopped completely.  Jamie has forgiven me and I have just about forgiven myself.

Moral of the story: check everything!  It could be ‘safe’ from one shop and full of gluten from another.

An Average Gluten Free Day for Jamie From His Mum’s Point of View

Having written about Jamie’s gluten free day last Wednesday, I did get to thinking about the impacthis celiac disease, and gluten free diet has on me!.  So here is a day in the life of my celiac child from the point of view of the one who feeds him.

Early morning: I’m packing up the lunch boxes (I hate that job!) I can’t really do the rolls the night before as the gluten free ones taste nicer if they are heated n the microwave for 30secs first, then they still taste fresh at lunchtime.  Making sure we always have enough gluten free bread in the house is a challenge sometimes.  I don’t like to ration him on bread/toast etc, but it is sooooooo expensive, even though in the UK we get some help with gluten free food on prescription.  Jamie has a roll, slice of gluten free cake (homemade), bag of ‘snackajacks’ and some grapes.

I take the kids to school and his teacher informs me they will be baking next week.  Nightmare!  I have three choices.  Do I:

a) Let him bake the same as everyone else but not eat it.  Seems cruel!  And there will be flour flying everywhere anyway because that’s how baking goes with nine-year olds.

b) Not let him bake.  Seems crueller!  I don’t think he would mind especially so it could be an option on that basis but I don’t want him to be left out of activities and he does need to learn to cook!

c) Get hold of the recipe, work out gluten free alternatives to the flour and anything else gluteny and send him in with his own (ready weighed) and with xanthan gum already added.  Ask the teacher to keep him slightly apart so the flying flour might not land in his bowl and send him in with his own utensils to work with because the school ones will be contaminated.  He will feel a bit different, and it will mean more work for the teacher and some teachers might not quite understand the dangers of cross contamination… but Jamie’s teacher is wonderful so I’m going to take the risk.

And I’m going to watch him carefully for tummy aches the day or so after.

Still thinking about the cooking-at-school issue, I head for Walmart for the weekly shop.  When Jamie was first diagnosed with celiac disease it took me hours to shop, checking every single label and comparing all products with the lists I have from Coeliac.co.uk  It doesn’t take so long now I am more familar with what I can buy.

I did spend a long time at the deli counter though, while the very helpful staff checked their manuals to see if a certain ham was gluten free.  They established that it was… but before they put it on the slicer I realise that the last thing on that slicer was breaded ham.  I apologize and walk away.

I spend the afternoon baking again.  I tend to bake about three times a week now, because Jamie likes to have a cookie when he gets in from school, cake in his lunchbox, treats around the house etc.  I’m not just baking for him: the whole family eats the gluten free baking because it ensures my cooking utensils etc do not get contaminated.  So with a family of four and frequent visitors I do need to bake regularly.  There are plenty of easy gluten free recipes out there; today I am making gluten free brownies and  choc chip cookies 

I collect the kids from school.  Someone is selling cupcakes for charity on the playground.  My daughter has one (‘I’m not celiac. Why do I always have to miss out?’) Jamie can’t… and I feel like the world’s worst Mum because I came unprepared and do not have anything for him in my handbag.

Home to find warm choc chip cookies on the cooling tray.  How many of those will be left for lunchboxes this week?

Dinner is the easiest meal.  We all eat gluten free so I don’t really think about it anymore.  Tonight it’s gammon, leek and cheese casserole followed by a meringue nest with cream and grapes (I am trying to up their fruit and veg intake!)

Thinking about it, Jamie’s gluten free diet does have quite an impact on the day.  But not so much that I have ever even realised it before!  And he is happy and healthy so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jamie’s Ongoing Tummy-aches

I mentioned the other day that Jamie keeps getting tummy-aches, despite the fact that I’m sure he is not having any gluten.  I kept a food diary for two weeks and send it to the Paediatric Dietician at the hospital. 

She rang back the other day and said that she couldn’t see any reason for the tummy aches either!  The only link she could find was that he had had a nasty tummy-ache twice after eating gluten free fish-fingers.  I felt just great because I had just put fish fingers in the oven for tea… but she suggested trying them anyway.  (I did.  There was no reaction)

She also suggested pro-biotic yogurt drinks.  The tummy-aches might not be anything to do with his celiac disease, but just indicative of a sensitive gut!

It was good to talk it through with Someone Who Knows anyway, and since putting him on pro-biotic yogurts every morning, he hasn’t had any tummy-aches at all.  Okay, it’s only been three days but I’m hopeful.

An Average Gluten Free Day (for Jamie)

“Does a gluten free diet make life difficult for Jamie?”

Someone asked me that the other day, and although I said “Not really” at the time, it did make me stop and think.  We have got so used to living gluten free that we don’t talk about it much anymore.  But there are little challenges Jamie (and I) face daily.  So here is an account of and average gluten free day in Jamie’s life and some of those challenges he faces.

Up at half past seven and food is the first thought on Jamie’s mind.  Straight down for breakfast: Rice crispies and a probiotic yogurt drink.  Jamie tends to have the same very day; partly by choice, and partly because a lot of breakfast cereals do contain wheat.

School can sometimes be tricky.  Today it was a classmate’s birthday and he brought in a birthday cake to share with everyone.  Off limits to Jamie, which made him a little sad because ‘the icing looked yummy’, but he had something from the stash of gluten free goodies in his teacher’s desk.

Apple at break.  Jamie’s school has a fruit-only-for-snack policy which makes it very easy.

Lunch consists of a gluten-free roll with ham and salad, a yogurt and a slice of home-made gluten free cake.  (There was also a raw carrot which came home uneaten and was gratefully received by the guinea pig!) Jamie has learned not to swap food at lunch: the other kids can eat his gluten free cookies etc, but he can’t eat any of theirs.  It was a slight issue for a while until I instituted a ‘no swapping’ policy.  Now he can blame his ‘mean mum’ and doesn’t look unfriendly himself.  He is offered crisps by his friends sometimes and knows to check the packet for the ‘celiac friendly’ symbol.  Some of his friends even check for him before they offer, which is great!

Dinner at home is the easiest meal of the day.  I cook gluten free for the whole family without really thinking about it any more.  Today, however, Jamie was invited to a friend’s house for tea.  When the invitation first came, three days ago I had a long chat with the Mum.  I know her well so it was easy this time and she is doing baked potatoes with cheese and baked beans.  No prob!  He feels no ‘different’ Sometimes Jamie takes his own gluten free equivalent of whatever they are having – pizza or fish fingers often- but I do have to mention to the Mum that it needs to be cooked on a separate baking tray and served first, before the utensils get contaminated.  They have ice cream for pudding, and Jamie knows to check the label before he has any, and insists on doing so for himself despite the fact that friend’s mum already has!!

Home at seven and the lean mean eating machine still ‘needs’ a slice of gluten free cake before bed.  

All in all very manageable, despite a couple of challenges.  All the challenges now have strategies though.  We’re getting there!  “Does a gluten free diet make life difficult for Jamie?”  Not really.  And he feels so much better it’s worth it!