Hey there, my name is Heidi and I am the quirky personality behind Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom, a personal blog about my journey to raise a happy and healthy gluten-free family.
I began my blog in June of 2009, a year after I finally decided to embrace my new path in life, being gluten-free. I wish I could say that how I arrived here was a result of greater nutritional awareness, but that could not be further from the truth.
After giving birth to my first son in 2003, my OB/GYN decided to test me for diabetes due to a sore on my leg that would not heal. The diabetes test came back negative but my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level was extremely high. Further testing revealed Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, both autoimmune thyroid conditions. After undergoing radioactive iodine ablation to “kill” my thyroid gland, I spent the following ten months pursuing unsuccessful thyroid hormone replacement therapy with Levoxyl (T4 hormone) and Cytomel (T3 hormone). During those 10 months, my TSH levels began to soar, eventually reaching a high of more than 150 (the normal range is from 0.4 to 4.5), despite taking high levels of medication.
During this time, it felt as though the life were being sucked right out of me. I was extremely lethargic, gaining weight at an unnatural rate of 2—4 pounds a week (ultimately putting on approximately 80 pounds), and I fell into a deep depression. I was prescribed a series of antidepressants, none of which did any good. Life was borderline unbearable, especially while caring for a toddler.
In April of 2005, after being at his wits’ end as to why I was not absorbing my thyroid hormone, my brilliant endocrinologist thought to test me for celiac disease and the anti-gliadin IgA* blood test came back positive. Within 4 months of going on the gluten-free diet, my TSH levels dropped from the 150’s to 5.52 (you can read more of my thyroid story here).
*The tTG blood test was not originally run and my Dr. did not initially recommend doing the intestinal biopsy to confirm the findings of the anti-gliadin antibody blood test because there was an urgency to get control of my TSH levels. I’ve since had positive test results for the tTG blood test, plus 2 positive intestinal biopsies as well as a positive skin biopsy for dermatitis herpetiformis.
I wish I could say that everything changed for the better after that fateful spring day in 2005, but it took a long time to get to where I am today, loving my gluten-free life. My initial diagnosis did not come to me as a relief like it does for many people who suffer the “classic” GI symptoms of celiac disease, rather, it was just another tally mark on my already long list of medical “oddities” that seemed to have just been my lot in life, beginning the day I was born (you can read my complete story here). Here are just a few of my atypical celiac symptoms over the years: eczema, impetigo, psoriasis, chronic sinusitis, ADD, depression, behavioral “issues,” anxiety, canker sores, muscle spasms and cluster headaches.
After spending the first 3 years after my diagnosis fumbling around in a state of confusion, denial (yes, I am a recovered gluten-cheater) and depression, I received a major wake up call the day my oldest son was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008, at the age of 5 (you can read more of his story here). It was in that moment that I decided to stand up, quit feeling sorry for myself and take back my life for the sake of my son. The death of my beloved uncle to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma a few months prior to Sam’s diagnosis was a painful reminder of what could be in my future if I didn’t begin taking my gluten-free diet seriously.
Little did I know then, but I was about to embark on the most beautiful, frustrating, mind-boggling, eye-opening, belly-laugh & tear-inducing…journey of a lifetime!
So, the first thing you need to know about me and my blog is that I am not a natural born cook, nor did I go to culinary or pastry school. I am just a mom on a mission to feed my family fun, delicious, safe and wholesome food, as well as navigate all the unforeseen “nooks and crannies” that come with leading a dietary lifestyle opposite of the Standard American Diet. I have learned everything I know about cooking either from other bloggers, my fabulous friends and readers or from “how-to” videos on YouTube. Seriously, if I can do this then anyone can and I am here to cheer you on every step of the way!
Early on in my journey of teaching myself how cook and bake gluten-free, I hit pay dirt when I discovered the amazing world of FFP’s: frugal food people! FFP’s are an absolute dream come true if you are new to this lifestyle and are having a hard time missing your favorite gluten-filled prepackaged foods. They have brilliantly developed homemade recipes for everything you can possibly imagine. Seek them out and start tweaking with gluten-free substitutes! This is how I discovered the BEST recipe (that I’ve tried anyway, and trust me, I’ve tried dozens) for homemade condensed soups.
This accomplishment proved vital for me in overcoming the devastating emotional consequences that came with my celiac diagnosis. Not only had I lost the comfort of my favorite childhood foods, but my invitations to extended family meal gatherings were suddenly “lost in the mail” (hence the 3 years of ignorant cheating on my part).
A few other “recipes” I found to be extremely helpful during my son’s transition phase, and might be helpful for other newly gluten-free kiddos:
After trekking down this path for a while, a few things happened to change our dietary course even more. One, I watched the film Food, Inc., and there was something about that film that really resonated with me and I just felt in my gut (pun intended), that there was something more to the film’s message. I have a strong, sneaking suspicion that the foods I grew up on (namely, mainstream prepackaged foods which are full of chemical additives) were a contributing factor to the deterioration of my health (I am not saying this applies to everyone as I can only speak for myself and to quote my friend Erin from Gluten-Free Fitness, “We are all unique biochemical snowflakes”).
Thus, watching Food, Inc. launched a new journey for me, one of changing my family’s diet to consist primarily of naturally gluten-free, organic (as in: non-GMO and pesticide free) whole foods: fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and the like. This has taken a little bit of work getting used to, but the results of my McCarrot Experiment only motivated me more. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to make my cake and eat it too, I just limit it to a couple times a year, but fully enjoy it when I do!
I also started learning how to “ask the next question” and I’ve been learning some rather startling medical information ever since. I cannot urge you enough to do your own medical research…knowledge is the power that could very well save your life.
The other two things that changed for us was my youngest son’s July, 2010 diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity along with a casein and egg allergy (you can read more of his story here and I followed up with a post titled Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Intolerance: Is one More Serious than the Other?). In November of 2010, it was discovered that I am now allergic to corn, thus virtually eliminating most gluten-free prepackaged foods from my diet. In another lifetime, this would have been a devastating blow for me but I am handing it in stride largely because I hope this brings me one step closer to complete healing from 25+ years of undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. Besides, the great thing about a diet based on nutritionally dense whole foods is that I’ve lost 70+ pounds in the past year or so and my 3 year old has fully recovered from his severe eczema (which I suspect is due to eliminating dairy). Talk about some food for thought!
Which brings me to a legend of sorts for my blog so it might make more sense for my visitors. Because each of my posts only show the date by month and day, you can look in the URL bar of any given page, and you will see the year I wrote the post. Anything prior to January of 2010 is pretty much permanent past tense for us (as in, we just don’t eat that way anymore).
Today finds me at a place where I cook not only gluten-free, but dairy/casein-free and egg-free for my entire family.
We are also mostly free of artificial food colorings, just because I want our diet to be as natural and chemical-free as possible. I will make an occasional exception to this rule if I think an emotional pick-me-up is in order for one of my kiddos, but by and large, my kids are completely satisfied with dye-free treats.
I am also slowly figuring out how to make more things corn-free, but at this moment in time, I am the only corn-free person in our family so there will continue to be corn-filled recipes shared on my blog. Any recipe that is corn-free will be labeled as such.
What I primarily try to do on my blog is keep ideas flowing: yours, mine, other bloggers, and especially any new and exciting research from the medical community. Gluten Sensitivity is a complex spectrum of conditions which can be confusing, not only for the patient but for doctors as well. The pace of change within the medical research community is accelerating faster than the medical establishment can seem to keep up. Heck, the pace of change in the gluten-free food market is accelerating faster than your local grocer can keep up!
By staying current on the medical literature and the food alternatives, we do ourselves a favor by gaining traction with open-minded people who may be unfamiliar with our condition. I believe this is the key to one day gaining wide-spread acceptance for the incredible difficulties that people with gluten sensitivity must contend with at times: in the exam room, at a restaurant, at the school, and even within our own extended families.
Until that day comes, I will continue to try and find creative ways “around” a food system that is not entirely sympathetic to our sensitivity issues (please note the sarcasm!). I find new recipes all the time and have the benefit of owning possibly every single time-saving kitchen gadget in the western world, so I do a lot of tweaking, baking, failing, tweaking again, and eventually success!
My experiments don’t always work…the first time, but I’ve never been accused of being a quitter. Stubborn and hard headed, yes! When I finally figure something out, I try to write informative posts full of “how-to’s” and pictures, give clear credit to the source of my inspiration so others can learn how I go about finding solutions for my needs, and most importantly, encourage others to share their ideas and experiment as well.
I wake up everyday trying to embody the motto of my website and I encourage you to do the same (it’s fun!):
Where there is a will, there is a way!
Thanks for visiting and everyone is welcome.
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