Once upon a time, there was a six-year-old-girl who cried at the dinner table for months.
“My belly hurts,” she’d say.
An otherwise healthy, happy girl, her mom thought she just didn’t want to eat the food she was being served. The girl’s moaning and groaning at dinner soon spilled over to breakfast and lunch. She came home with headaches from school on a daily basis.
One night mom, not feeling well herself, had had enough. “What is wrong with you?” she snapped. “I’m so tired of hearing you complain. Every. Single. Night.” Then she asked the girl if she had been going to the bathroom (you know, like number two) every day.
The girl looked at her as if she were mad. What was the question again? Why would a person do that? Every day?
Later that night, the girl’s parents learned that the girl hadn’t been “going” very often, and when she did there was blood in her stool. Blood!
A call to the doctor was made the next day. This tiny six-year-old had to take laxatives, mineral oil, and magnesium daily for nearly a month because she had some small intestinal blockages. At only six! And in a family who avoids junk and eats balanced, homemade meals consisting of almost all organic ingredients.
With the help of a nutritionist, blood tests were done for the whole family to test for food sensitivities (not allergies, just sensitivities, foods that were aggravating our bodies). Results for the girl and her dad showed severe sensitivities to gluten, which was immediately cut out of the family’s diet entirely.
The girl’s headaches went away. So did the constipation. So did the bellyaches and the blood. No more complaints, except that she has to be “different” from the other kids. She can’t eat donuts and cupcakes brought into school. She constantly has to ask, “Does this have gluten?” when in a group setting, only to hang her head most of the time, disappointed, as her favorite foods are breads and sweets. After all, almost everything we eat contains flour – wheat flour. Doesn’t it?
Dad is athletic. A runner. A soccer fanatic. While he didn’t have the symptoms his daughter did, he found that he surprisingly felt better without gluten. He could run faster and longer. He didn’t feel bloated after dinner. He had more energy and didn’t get the common “mid-afternoon low”.
No one in our house has celiac disease – one cookie, a crumb, or cross-contamination of gluten will not throw Gary and Meredith into sickness. And thank God. Because I can’t imagine it being any harder than it already is. Adjusting to gluten-free has been a strain on us all. Baking is not the same. Not as easy. It was a learning curve that had me in tears more than once or twice, trays and dishes landing in the trash over and over. It’s extremely hard to find gluten-free products in the store that truly taste good. And it’s often times much more expensive.
So, I tell you this because I am infuriated after reading the article linked here, printed yesterday in the Pocono Record. Sadly, these types of unintelligently written articles pop up in news stories often. What’s especially disturbing is that clinical dietitians are obviously so uneducated on the topic that they’d call gluten-free a “new weight-loss diet” and offer the advice, “Don’t go gluten-free without a doctor testing you for and diagnosing you with celiac disease.” WHAT?? Meredith’s doctor never even looked at testing. Never even considered that gluten might be the issue. And she doesn’t have celiac disease. I know this because she will occasionally eat the smallest amount and not be sick. Furthermore, testing and diagnosing celiac disease is not easily done. Just Google it and you’ll see just how much guess work often goes into such a thing.
Pocono Medical Center, Geisinger Health System, and their respective clinical dietician/nutrition manager, Janet Milner and Lynne Garris, should be ashamed of themselves. Perhaps they need to be re-schooled so they can speak more intelligently on a topic that is supposed to be in the realm of their expertise. Surely they wouldn’t advise me to let my little girl go on being sick again, even though she clearly doesn’t fall into the celiac category?