Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What new hell is this?

T minus 72 hours till our big cross country journey, and I get a phone call from the allergy doctor.  I had brought my son in for some allergy testing recently.  His twin sister has a diagnosed peanut allergy. He had never been given peanuts, until recently, at Easter, where I let him have the peanut butter cup he got at the egg hunt.  Of course he broke out into hives.  I talked to our pediatrician who recommended going with him to the allergist.  We finally got him seen a couple of weeks ago. They gave us a script for a blood draw. A few days later I got him to the lab. I happened to be there for another appointment for myself 2 days later, but the results had not come back at that point.

So they call me today.  I had nearly forgotten about the tests. I'm in the midst of trying to pack, do laundry and make sure the house is not to much of a wreck for when house sitters come to check on things.  My mind wasn't in the place for this.  Given, we have dealt with food allergies before.  My daughter had an egg allergy that she grew out of, and continues to react to peanuts. I myself am gluten free, so I am used to carefully reading labels and grilling waitstaff as to the contents of various entrees.
The nurse starts off by confirming that there is a peanut allergy.  We more or less knew this already. She says all tree nuts are an issue as well.  This hadn't been an issue for my daughter; hers is a peanut allergy only.  So no nuts of any kind, and worse no pesto.  But we can deal with that.  

She then goes onto tell me he is allergic to shellfish.  Now this kid can down several bowls of ceviche in a sitting and has not reacted at all, but okay, we can eliminate shellfish.

The other big allergy is dairy.  I did have a feeling about this.  He has never liked milk, and did seem to have at minimum some lactose intolerance.  But an actual allergy means no cheese and no butter (butter and hard cheese do not contain lactose for those not in the know).

She says okay those are the bad ones, the 4's and above on a scale of 1-6.  She then goes down the rest of the list: garlic, tomato, potato, wheat, barley, oats, rye, sesame, soy, and he had a mild reaction to pork and chicken.  Okay so what is this kid actually supposed to eat? He can't have milk or the most obvious replacements almond milk or soy milk? I'm Italian and my husband is Mexican.  Every last one of my recipes contain garlic and/or tomatoes.  And try eating Asian food without soy sauce. Heaven help me.  Even given that I am used to gluten free cooking, I may also have to eliminate oats and potatoes.  That is just cruel.  We are left with rice and corn as carbs go.  Pretty paltry.

And again, this happens all just before we are set to drive cross country, where I will have little to no control over the food. At the very least the nurse said to focus on the allergies that registered 4 and above, so that is the peanut, tree nut, shellfish and dairy. Deep breaths.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gluten Free Manifesto - Bacon, Wine, Chocolate & Cheese

Articles like this one burn me up.

For me, being gluten free is not just a fad diet.  It is not all in my head. So you can roll your eyes at me all you want, but I'm not going to just eat that slice of cake because you think my health issues are annoying.

I think this has been an issue for me all my life.  When I was a kid I was super skinny.  In high school, I had a number of stomach problems.  At that point they told me I was lactose intolerant.  I cut out dairy, and it helped.  I always had fatigue. My periods were never ever regular. In college, I started to have mysterious swelling in my hands and joint pain.

It only got worse after I had my kids.  I had this mysterious burning sensation in my abdomen. My hair was falling out in clumps. I went through every diagnostic test imaginable.  After ruling out lots of other diseases, my doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia.  I was put on Cymbalta, which is basically an antidepressant that is used for pain management and Hydrochlorothiazide for the swelling.  They helped my symptoms, but came with their own side effects.

Then my gall bladder became an issue, maybe because of all the drugs, or maybe from my underlying issues.  Once it came out, I still had symptoms.  I had diarrhea every. single. day.  The surgeon washed his hands of me and my phantom gall bladder, so I went to a gastroenterologist instead. This wise man said he suspected my issue may be with gluten.  I was skeptical. I mean, I'm Italian.  How could you ask me to give up pasta?  He convinced me to give it a shot for 2 weeks.  If I felt better great, if not, we'd investigate some more.

So reluctantly, I cut out gluten.  It didn't take 2 weeks for me to be convinced.  It only took 48 hours. Suddenly, the burning in my abdomen that I had been living with was magically gone.  The swelling in my hands abated. The aches in my knees, that I had attributed to my advancing age and too much weight, suddenly disappeared. All this pain that I had been just living with as my baseline normal didn't have to be.

I did the blood test to see if I had Celiacs.  It came back negative. I haven't done the endoscope or the liver biopsy that they suggest for a more definitive diagnosis.  I figure I feel better, the results are not going to change my mind or my diet, so why bother? Ain't nobody got time for that! The problem is that if you don't have Celiacs, some people will tell you it is all in your head. I guarantee you it is not. A little gluten and I am running to the bathroom.  A lot, and I throw up. (Yes I'm talking to you trendy sandwich shop girl, who rolled her eyes then gave me the wrong bread after I asked for GF). It is not in my head.  

It's was not so easy at first. Gluten hides in a lot of places. Ketchup, cold cuts, soup, salad dressings are all problematic.  Little by little I learned to make replacements.   Now, I barely miss it.  I can cook just about anything without gluten. The GF pastas are good.  I make fabulous risotto.  I got myself a fryer, and make my own french fries and corn dogs.  You could eat at my house for several weeks and never notice the lack of gluten. Plus, I still can have bacon, wine, chocolate and cheese.  What more does a girl need?

It is hard to eat out.  Most places I am left to choose between steak and a baked potato, or plain chicken and a baked potato.  Thankfully there are more and more places expanding their menus.  It seems that gluten free salad dressing is becoming the norm in most places, so I can at least get a salad to go with my chicken.

Parties are hard. I tend to bring my own food just to be safe. What are we eating?  Pizza, wings and birthday cake, oh and a sub platter. Great.  I can have the celery they sent with the wings, but probably not the blue cheese dressing.  Tip - tortilla chips and salsa are an easy fix. Better yet, skip the pizza and go for a taco bar instead. Queso is a bonus(see above remark regarding cheese).  Fresh fruits and veggies are great as well.  I don't expect anyone else to eat gluten free, but if you invite me somewhere, know that this is an issue for me.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Songs for the First Day of Day Camp

We have a town day camp. They pay town's teenagers minimum wage to watch the town's children. The kids get to swim and play on the playground, and run around in the heat till they come home at 2:30 and collapse. It is a beautiful, wonderful thing, and worth every penny of the $250 family maximum for 4 whole weeks of peace. This is the first year that all 3 of my kids will be going, leaving me with an empty house for several hours each day. I'm singing little tunes to myself.

♫I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it, I'm about to lose my kids, and I think I like it. ♫

(Sung to the tune of Leaving on a Jet Plane)

♫The bags are packed,
And ready to go,
The lunches ready
inside the fridge door.
I can't wait to wake you up to say goodbye.
The dawn is breaking, it's early morn, the minivan is waiting
Dad's blowing his horn.
I'm so happy to finally be alone, I could die.
So kiss me and smile for me, tell me you'll be good for them,
no more holding my leg and not letting go.
Cause you are leaving to go to day camp
I have 6 hours till you all come back again.
Oh yes, you have to go.♫

Or how about this one that speaks their language (sung to the tune from Frozen, no not that one, the other one).

♫For the first time in forever,
There will be quiet, there will be fun,
for the first time in forever,
I will be asked for by no one.

Don't know if I'm elated or gassy
But I'm somewhere in that zone
Cause for the first time in forever
I will be alone.

And I know it is totally crazy
To dream I'd get to relax
But for the first time in forever
At least I've got a chance

I know it all ends in August,
But at least I have today,
'Cause for the first time in forever
For the first time in forever
No children are in my way!♫