Going gluten free

Going gluten free at speed

We’ve had a very hectic fortnight, and Tamsin’s diagnosis came in the midst of it all. I’d been expecting it (the specialist had described the hysteria-inducing blood test as “a formality”. Gee thanks.) but didn’t want to jump the gun by buying gluten-free foods and of course going gluten free was out of the question until we knew for sure. If for any reason the gene test had come back negative Tamsin would have had to go to the big regional hospital for a bowel biopsy under general anaesthetic and for this reason had to continue eating gluten until we knew for sure.

When the call came, just before supper which my very capable husband was cooking as I had taken DS to his swimming lesson, Tamsin decided to have one last supper before going gluten free. The next day GF living was to begin in earnest. I prepared for this by doing the obvious thing: going out and buying shedloads of special GF foods and meticulously meal planning for the rest of the week. The real problems started at the weekend as we were going away for a weekend. Not just going away, but staying somewhere with no cooking or refrigeration facilities – marvellous! I took the view that if I could keep her fed in those circumstances, I could keep her fed anywhere and anyhow.

Making mistakes

What you have to bear in mind reading the following is that I was total rookie – only last week but it feels like the other side of the rubicon. I had no idea of the mistakes I was making, even as someone who considers herself pretty well informed, so you MUST see the dietitian after diagnosis. My head is still bulging with information.

I planned with Tamsin what she (and I, as I decided to eat the same as her) was going to eat at each stage of our travels, as we were moving around a bit and seeing various people. Quorn sausages featured heavily (some lines are GF, some aren’t), as did ridiculously expensive gluten free cornflakes and too many sugary foods. In my ignorance I focussed on the food and didn’t consider the preparation.

Breakfasts were wrapped convenience items such as Belvita Breakfast Biscuits or GF cornflakes with milk, neither of which are a problem as they come straight out of packets and aren’t really handled or processed further before eating. However, we had several picnics which featured both gluten-containing products and GF foods, and my focus again was on which of these Tamsin ate, not how they were being handled. Looking back just two or three days I can’t believe I was so blind, but at the time I didn’t know about contamination. I’ll write about that properly in the post about seeing the dietitian, but contamination in preparation and handling is just as much of an issue as eating when going gluten free for coeliac purposes rather than as a dietary choice.

Learning curve

This last week has been a blur and I have a list as long as your arm to get through, but I’m planning to make a list to go on a kitchen cupboard door identifying utensils to be kept for Tamsin’s food, and the procedures. It’s probably overkill, but the dietitian has succesfully terrified me about contamination. For now Tamsin is eating only food that’s come from home – since our few nights away together she’s had sleepovers with friends on consecutive nights and I’ve had to send her with food and explain to the parents that she is to eat only that and nothing else. I’m sure as time goes on and we learn things will calm down, but for now I’m on a kind of coeliac lock down.

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