Why We’re Gluten Free – Food Intolerances in Infancy and Beyond

*This post is completely unrelated to DIY, homesteading, aquaponics, or pretty much everything else I cover on my blog. Today is a little more personal, and hopefully resounds with other parents or food intolerance sufferers who are a bit fed up with the blasé attitude of conventional medicine toward nutrition.*

About this time last year, I was suspicious about food issues with my 6 month old baby, and decided (against my pediatrician’s wishes) to do an elimination diet. Even with Caroline being exclusively breast fed, she had horrible eczema and was just so miserable all the time. She was the classic “colicky” baby. Oh, it was okay if you held her in just the right way, being sure to never ever sit down and constantly pace. She could nap if she was laying on your chest. Sometimes maybe in the swing. Anyway, my mama senses were tingling, so I gave up dairy and gluten. Dairy because I am mildly intolerant so I was suspicious she would be too, and gluten for it’s reputation of causing skin and digestive issues. My pediatrician told me I was wasting my time, that the eczema was genetic and in no way diet related, and I just had to go get prescription steroid creams for my tiny little baby with tissue thin skin and accept that pharmaceuticals were the only answer for her. I declined, and thought, what could it hurt, it’s only food. If I can’t ditch conventional bread and pasta for a few weeks for the sake of my child’s health, what kind of person would I be?! I had more self-discipline than that! So I researched what gluten was and where it was hiding, then completely cut it out to test my theory. Here is our before and after shot, taken 30 days before and after cutting gluten from my diet.

gluten free before and after

Amazing difference, right? It was like this all over her body, but her face was the absolute worst. Now her skin is clear and smooth, with barely a rough patch to be seen. Needless to say, I switched pediatricians. However, my new doctor wasn’t thoroughly convinced about my personal findings. I can’t say that I blame him, because neither was I. I was acting on suspicion, and though it seemed I was right, I prefer to know, you know? I didn’t like depriving her of practically an entire food group simply on whim, as it felt. I didn’t like people judging me for my “trendy” eating styles either. But my doctor kept brushing my concerns aside. “Just avoid gluten until she’s three, and then we can reassess.” That seemed like a very long time for guessing, considering we were at her 1 year well check. I was also suspicious about tomatoes, given her face looked like this whenever she got ketchup/bbq/pasta sauce on her skin:

tomato intolerance skin reaction

He told me it was just because it was an acidic food, that she would grow out of it eventually. She would be fine eating tomatoes, no big deal. I wasn’t entirely convinced. So, I pushed for a few months and got him to agree to an allergy test. Well three vials of blood taken later, they tested 13 measly food items. It did not include testing for celiac or tomatoes. The only item of concern was wheat, which showed no reaction. So, based on the “all clear” phone call I received, I started feeding her (and myself, since I still eliminated gluten in my own diet because of breastmilk) gluten and tomatoes again. Over the weeks that followed, she became incredibly crabby, throwing tantrums over the slightest provocation. Things like a toy falling over would cause her to throw herself on the ground and scream unconsolably. She had a low grade fever more days than she didn’t, around 99.3 degrees. Her digestion was off. She was increasingly tired but slept poorly. Many of these things could be explained away – she was teething, she had mild RSV, she was going through developmental changes emotionally and physically, so she could just be tantruming, etc. But again, I just knew something was off. More than just conventional “baby-ness”. So I talked to Kelsey of Texas Total Health (who I’ve been working with during our nutritional transition and is amazing and wonderful and CALL HER NOW!) She mentioned the Pinner Test, which tests for IgG reactions (vs IgE reactions that show allergies) and can signal food intolerances. These delayed immune responses can take up to 3 days to manifest, and last for as long as you keep eating the foods, which make it tough to pinpoint. They can cause headaches, digestive problems, grumpiness, and more. I signed up right away, and with one measly finger prick Caroline was tested on 200 different foods. And guess what she had a reaction to??

pinner test food intolerance test

To say I was not surprised would be an understatement. I was actually rather relieved to finally have real answers, versus my suspicions. And to have someone listen to me, agree that things didn’t sound or look “normal”, and to help me find those answers. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with most pediatricians to dismiss nutrition’s impact on health, but considering my batting average is a big fat ZERO in that department right now, I’m not feeling very confident. It actually enrages me, to think about how miserable my daughter would be feeling if I had just followed their advice and not looked further into the issue on my own. It’s certainly had me second guessing quite a few different things, and looking around for another pediatrician who will actually listen and address the underlying issue, instead of just throwing prescriptions at the symptoms. Caroline is only 17 months old, so it won’t be a tough transition to take out tomatoes and gluten. I did decide to have a gluten-free home, however, because I don’t want to struggle with the “But daddy is eating crackers, I want some too!” issues. I want solidarity, so she never has to feel like she’s alone and unsupported. It’s actually much harder for me to eliminate tomatoes than gluten! For now, I’m going to research tomato-free ketchup and sauces, and just limit dishes I cook with them, keeping them mostly in mom and dad meals and letting the kids eat modified versions. I’m still trying to get a handle on things, and come up with a game plan for how we’ll be cooking without two pretty major players in US kitchens. It’s challenging, but it could be SO much worse, and I am grateful that we have such a minor struggle. Gluten-free is practically a fad now, so it’s easy to find affordable supplies for baked goods, and cheat every now and then with pre-made crackers or breads. I am looking forward to the challenge. Especially now that I know my baby girl feels healthy, happy, and whole.

 

Our Aquaponic Journey: Part Three – Adding a Ventilation Window to Ana White’s Barn Style Greenhouse

Ana White Barn Greenhouse

 

The plans for this Barn Style Greenhouse don’t include any ventilation. Which in Central Texas, where I live, mean that it could easily get over 100 degrees in a flash, wilting all my plants and killing the fish in my aquaponic system. That can’t happen! So I decided to make one wall of the greenhouse a “window”, and give it the ability to flip and be propped open for air movement. My original method, above, was a bit too flimsy. A mild storm flipped it all the way up and ripped it off my tiny supports. So I built a whole new frame and rigged up a good solid support to hang it. Here’s what I did:

greenhouse-window-support-beam

 

I started by adding a 12′ 2×6 (I should have measured twice before I cut! This was just a touch short, make sure yours goes all the way to the end) by drilling 2 1/2″ screws into each of the trusses.

 

greenhouse-window-frame

 

Next I rebuilt my frame. Before I just pieced together some scrap boards, which made it weak. This time I used a solid 2×4 for the top and bottom. Then I measured the distance between the top of the paneling side, and the bottom of the 2×6. I subtracted 7″ or the width of both 2×4′s, then cut five center supports. I attached them with pocket hole screws, then removed the greenhouse panels from my old frame and put them on the new one.

 

greenhouse-window-hinges

 

I just used a bunch of old hinges to attach the window to the support, pulling back the greenhouse panel a bit so half would be below it. I want to keep the water away from them.

 

greenhouse-window-water-covering

 

Lastly, we cut a spare greenhouse panel in half width wise, then removed some of the screws from the panel on the top, fed the new sheet below it, and reattached the screws. Then we folded it over the top of the window, added more screws, and voila! Easy, water resistant ventilation. Eventually I plan to take down the panels on the other wall, and build another window frame so I can get a good cross breeze going in the summertime. It should also help let pollinators in. Or if pests or critters start being pesky, I’ll add some hardware cloth and screening to keep them out. Whatever it takes to get a happy, breezy system!

Our Aquaponic Journey: Part Two

aquaponic media bed

 

Happy February everyone! I’m not normally one to apologize for long blog absences, as they’ve been happening a lot for the past year. After doing some thinking, however, I decided that it was either time to get back into blogging more, or say my farewells and move on to new things. So, without much hoopla, I’m putting it out there that I plan to be more regular with posting and share more about what it’s like for an everyday “conventional” family to move toward greener living. I’ll do my best to post three times a week, without stressing too much over pretty pictures. I do a lot of “microblogging” over on my Instagram account, so it should be easy to elaborate more with some tutorials and information here on the blog instead of clogging up my feed with long descriptions. Anyway, that’s that.

In aquaponics news, the system is moving slooooooooowly. Very slowly. The cold weather and rain isn’t exactly a great motivator to lug around gigantic, heavy boards and beds. But it’s moving. I finished up the first grow bed, a 4′x8′ media bed over the fish tank. I’m planning to fill it with gravel, and keep this for my perennials. I got a little whimsical and ordered a couple of dwarf banana trees, some coffee plant beans, and berry bushes. Cranberries, actually. I also grabbed a variety of perennial herb plants that are good for teas and remedies, like Anise, Toothache Plant, and St. John’s Wort.

aquaponic raft bed build

 

I also finished up the second grow bed, which I’m planning to use as a raft bed. That means it will be filled up with water and have styrofoam floats on the top, with little baskets for the plants. Here’s where I plan to try out vegetables and greens. I have one more bed to build identical to that one, which will fit on the left side. It’s going to be a tight fit in here! I’m planning on building a frame for each side of the greenhouse and removing the fixed greenhouse panels onto the frames so they can lift up for ventilation and pollination, as well as making harvesting a bit easier. It seems my goal of having it finished on February first was a bit too over-zealous, so now I’m hoping for March 1st to get things moving. I made things harder for myself by jumping into building before watching all the videos and reading completely through the instructional pdf, and now I’ll need to take a break and stain/seal the grow beds from the moisture. It would have been so much easier to pre-stain before installing them! But, at least I figured that out now, so I have a bit of wiggle room left in there. That’s it for now, I’ll be back soon with another update, as well as some more fun homesteading adventures!

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