It’s that time of year again – Coeliac Awareness Week. It’s an important event on the gluten-free calendar, because it’s when Coeliac Australia raises awareness about coeliac disease
This year’s slogan is “Consider Coeliac Disease”. It’s aimed at doctors, urging them to consider testing for coeliac disease. But it could also be aimed at the general population; if you’re suffering from any number of ailments, maybe it’s time you asked your GP to investigate whether coeliac disease may be the cause.
This was certainly the case when I asked our GP to test my daughter. Her symptoms, as well as our family history, made her an ideal candidate for testing. And sure enough (thank God) she was diagnosed.
Below is a reproduction of a blog post I wrote for Coeliac Awareness Week back in 2014. It describes how my daughter was diagnosed and the amazing impact it had, leading to the creation of this blog. If you’re struggling with a child who’s unwell, maybe this story will help you.
It’s all Fun and Games with a Coeliac in the Fold
A pale, unhappy child. Tummy aches, grey complexion, dark circles under her eyes. Lethargic, unable to cope with any challenges whether physical, mental or emotional. Stunted growth, bloated stomach, massive daily tantrums… Sound familiar? That was our daughter before her diagnosis of Coeliac Disease. Maybe it is your child, too.
We struggled with our unwell, unhappy little girl until, at age four and a half, she finally was diagnosed. A major dietary change, especially in a child, is a daunting thing. You worry about them missing out, fitting in, and going on a playdate. Will she make good food choices without your being there to check on her? For a long while, it was hard and it required a high level of organisation.
When our daughter was diagnosed, we were smack-bang in the middle of the kindy birthday party circuit, and the thought that she may have to forego fairy bread was quite distressing to me. So I decided that the first order of business was to tackle the birthday party food. We borrowed “Organised Ollie”, a big soft toy from kindy, to help us. We went on special missions. The first – to find a special party lunchbox.
Next, we went to a gluten-free specialty shop and tried to replace everything she was used to eating at parties with a gluten-free version. We stocked up on sausage rolls, lollies, all sorts of sweet things. To my delight, I discovered that 100s and 1000s were gluten-free. Fairy bread was still a possibility.
Then home again to sort out our gluten-free cupboard and to make a special poster for kindy, which had the happy side-benefit of educating the other kids about her dietary needs.
We were witnessing an amazing transformation. Within 2 weeks of going gluten-free, she was happier and more energetic. Within 6 weeks, she was able to concentrate for prolonged periods, and learn and enquire about all sorts of things: “How does the brain work, Mummy?”
Her diagnosis was the best thing that has ever happened to our daughter. She is now a thriving, bright, healthy seven-year-old, thanks to her gluten-free diet, which she has followed for five years now. And if we ever needed more proof, her growth charts say it all. Since her diagnosis, she has gained more than 13 kilograms and is a picture of health. Simply amazing.
Looking back, even though she was so sick for so long, it was a great age for the diagnosis. She was old enough to remember how sick she felt, but not so old as to fondly remember the light and fluffy texture of a finger bun or other gluten-filled goodies. A blessing because, even though there’s been accidental exposure to gluten from time to time (an unfortunate fact of life), she’s never cheated; she’s never decided to cheat because she’s really badly wanted to eat something.
It’s partly due to her memories of being sick, partly because she thinks gluten is poison (and for her, it is), and partly because I always try to have a gluten-free alternative for whatever situation in which we find ourselves.
And now, thanks to my gluten-free girl, I have founded and authored a blog dedicated to gluten-free kids’ food, with a specific focus on the mightiest of challenges – the school lunchbox.
Yep, a kid going gluten-free requires organisation and forward thinking. Yep, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s tiring. And yep, sometimes she frets about her dietary restrictions.
But nup, I don’t have a single regret. Not ever. She’s happy, healthy, sparky, funny, witty and just a wee bit crazy. Just the way I love her.