With Coeliac Awareness Week almost at an end, a blog post that I’ve written for Coeliac Australia has been featured on their site, Sick and Tired. It’s always exciting to get this kind of exposure, so please click here to have a look and to read the other stories. Our story is below, complete with before and after pics of my daughter.
Gluten-free and healthy. A far cry from her pre-diagnosis days.
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 4 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.
Party lunchbox shopping with Organised Ollie
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.
Shopping for gluten-free goodies with Organised Ollie
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 three 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. You can find it at www.glutenfreeforlunchboxes.wordpress.com . While you’re there, you may like to check out my recipe for gluten-free mango and vanilla bean cookies. It’s a firm favourite in our household, not only with our Coeliac, but also with her two non-Coeliac siblings.
Gluten-free mango and vanilla bean cookies
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.