Wednesday, May 01, 2013

This is Our Life: Food Allergies

Last week I was making dinner while my oldest was coloring at the table.  All was quiet since he was the only one awake at the time.

After awhile he said, "Look Mom" and held up his paper for me to see what he'd drawn.  I couldn't tell from across the kitchen so I asked him what it was.

"It's a gluten free sign."

He'd drawn, in black crayon, the sign we see on the shelves where we buy our gluten free products.  An ear of wheat with a circle around it and a line across it.

I didn't say much, other than maybe "good job", but it struck me, deep in my heart, just how much he has to go through with this gluten allergy.  We don't realize how much of our life revolves around food until much of that food is no longer available for us to eat.

A little while later he asked me, "When do you think I'll grow out of this?" and contrary to what the naturopath told us 2 years ago, I've come to believe through my research that most likely he will never "grow out of it", especially given the hereditary nature of it in our family.


After 18 months there isn't a lot of gluten left in our house.  A few things in the freezer that never got eaten, a few boxes of regular pasta for when we have spaghetti with guests (because a: gluten free pasta is expensive - really anything GF is and b: not everyone has the "acquired" taste it requires to enjoy it), and a few items that we parents squirrel away as snacks for after the kids are in bed.

But 99% of the time we all eat the same thing in this house.  I've adapted various recipes to make them gluten free and found some new ones (hello oatmeal banana muffins!) so we definitely don't go without.  It's helped us eat a lot healthier too.  I don't mind so much spending a lot on fresh produce when I know the GF snacks cost even more (as opposed to regular packaged snacks that cost about the equivalent of their nutritional value).  I'm lucky that my kids will eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

I waver between being grateful that he's so young, and sadness that it will always be this way.  I'm grateful that it will be "normal" for him and he's adapted amazingly well.  It will get easier as awareness and labeling grows. 

I'm sad because so much of life revolves around food and it makes people uncomfortable when it's not easy to feed you.  When you have to ask exactly how something was made to be sure there is no sneaky cross-contamination (never intentional, but gluten hides in crazy places). 

Most of the time when there are "snacks" it's baked goods like cookies or donuts.  We'd be fine if it was fresh fruit, veggies, or cheese, but anything else is suspect unless we can check the original container for the ingredients.

I try really hard to be sure we always have treats when we'll be someplace I know there are snacks.  The kids will see other people eating and want some too so it helps to have our own.  It's become almost second nature to never leave the house without them, but it still makes us stand out as different.

Most days I don't think too hard anymore about what we can and can't eat.  This is our life, our new normal, and we do it pretty easily.  But now I know, and hopefully can be even more aware, that this affects my son in ways I will never know completely.  Because I, I can still eat anything I want.

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