At Hudson’s 2-year check up (though, if I am being honest, it was technically his 2 year and 4 month check up…oops) I expressed concern to his pediatrician about 2 issues; 1) his low weight/slow weight gain and 2) his frequent – if not constantly bad poops. In turn, the doctor also expressed concern regarding Hudson’s low weight gain and slow growth. He reviewed his records and discovered that he had basically fallen off the charts and he hadn’t gained more than 3 or so pounds since he was 9 months old. His height was also a very low growth compared to where he was forecast to be based on his growth chart and numbers since birth.
At the time I was expressing my concerns I felt like it would be chalked up to him being petite like myself (vs Poppy being on the bigger side like her dad) and that he would tell me to not worry and he will hit a growth spurt. What I was NOT prepared for was being told that Hudson would be diagnosed with “Failure to Thrive” and that we needed to see a pediatric gastrointestinal specialist immediately. I may have gone completely pale and numb as the words rolled off of the doctors tongue. He tried to tell me not to worry and that based on my other concern regarding his poop problems, it clearly was something internal going on and that it could probably be diagnosed and fixed. No matter how you sugarcoat the potential cures to the not-yet-diagnosed-issue, there isn’t anything that could have made me feel less of a horrible mom. How did I let my son get this far? How had I not noticed sooner that his weight gain was so low. We always joked about how he went from being a chunk-ball baby to such a petite little guy. We teased that his sisters would be bigger than him all his life. We clearly did not realize the severity of it. He threw out words like “celiac disease” and “malnourished” and “Heart problems” and other potential diagnoses that were bigger than I could wrap my head around.
The doctor referred us to a pediatric gastroenterologist through Stanford and within a day I had an appointment scheduled to see her. It wouldn’t be for 4 weeks because of scheduling and delays and who knows what so we decided to play around with his diet in the meantime. We researched Celiac Disease and what exactly that meant and what it entailed. We checked off so many boxes of symptoms that we were certain that would be the diagnosis. Being proactive, we immediately converted him — and our entire family — to a gluten-free diet. We went into this new diet completely blindly. The kids usually ate pretty healthy; they weren’t big fans of bread, they didn’t eat sandwiches, pasta was rare and they wouldn’t even look at a quesadilla. Their “gluten” weaknesses were dry cereal, Gold Fish, & waffles. What I quickly learned is that there is NO substitute for Gold Fish, dry cereal options are just not as fun when they’re gluten-free nor did they have the variety like regular cereals, but waffles were a pretty easy substitute. Diving deeper into this new life-style (I don’t like calling it a diet), I researched and googled and found out lots of answers, suggestions, and information regarding gluten products and gluten-free products. I had NO idea how intense this would get.
We began reading every label, asking every place we went for gluten-free ideas, or at least the contents of some of their menu items that Hudson would like. We took this seriously. I converted my entire kitchen to gluten-free – and let me just tell you the sacrifices I made in regards to my baking habits… But I persevered. By the time we saw the specialist a month later, he had already gained 1.5lbs. That may not seem like much but for someone who only gained twice that in a year and a half — that is major. Not to mention the consistency & frequency of his poop improved drastically, also.
The specialist agreed with the Pediatricians diagnosis regarding “failure to thrive”; he was in the less-than-5th percentile for his weight and not much higher for his height. She requested lab work to be done that would test for a whole array of issues including allergies and any potential illnesses such as Celiac, too. When we took the little man in for his blood work he was super happy and cooperative and was keeping all of the other patients well-entertained in the waiting rooms.
When we had to give the lady the stack of labs to be drawn, she took one look at Hudson and her jaw dropped. There is a weight requirement for the amount of blood they had to withdraw and it was the maximum amount for his tiny little body. Poor guy.
When they finally called us back into the room he sat in the chair all by himself. He had his arm out straight just like they asked. His other hand was on the cushion, comforted by his daddy. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t shed a tear. He watched them prepare the needle and all of the tubes ( I swear there were like a dozen of them), and they tied off his arm without him fighting it. They proceeded to prick him and began drawing blood. I about lost it. He sat there calm, cool, and totally collected. He watched the entire time. Didn’t flinch or make a single peep. They finished up and gave him a band-aid and a lollipop and he was good to go. I couldn’t believe what a champ he was at barely two-and-a-half. The nurses were pretty shocked, too. They said that they’d bet he’d grow to be in the field some day based on his total fascination with the entire process and not getting squeamish by it. He clearly doesn’t take after his mom & dad in this regard…
Soon after we got a call for the specialists office regarding his results. She called me while I was at work and I had to brace myself for what I was about to hear; I had NO idea what to expect. They said that they found a low-level of ph in his stool which meant he was lactose intolerant, based on his blood-work they confirmed that he is Vitamin D deficient and though he tested negative for Celiac, there was evidence of a gluten sensitivity. They suggested that he have a high-fat diet of good fasts like avocado, olive oil, and peanut butter. They said he had to be dairy free and he should continue to be gluten-free though it wasn’t Celiac or a confirmed allergy so cross-contamination was not a concern but to limit or restrict his consumption. Everything else was good. He was otherwise healthy – which was the best news, ever. I can handle dietary issues for sure.
Cut to 8 months later…
Hudson has since gained a total of 7 pounds! He has grown a couple of inches, too! He is thriving on his new lifestyle. We had a follow-up appointment with the specialist who suggested that after a few months we slowly test out incorporating dairy into his diet again and so far, he is handling it quite well. We are not a big dairy-consuming family as the kids solely drink Almond or Soy milk, Hudson doesn’t eat cheese (he doesn’t like to — and my guess is it’s because he associates it with tummy aches in the past) and if they have ice cream it’s usually non-dairy like coconut, soy, or almond. But we know that if he does have dairy now, he tolerates it just fine it seems. I still try to cook & bake primarily dairy free as much as I can, but I am less neurotic about it these days. He is still gluten-free and will continue to be until our next follow-up appointment at the 1-year mark. I have gotten much better at Gluten Free baking, though, some things just aren’t the same… Our dinners (that Hudson shares) are always gluten-free, too. And even though the rest of the family and I don’t have to be on the same dietary restrictions as he is, it makes it easier in our household if we are. I have found lots of delicious gluten-free items at stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods. Even Target and Safeway have improved their gluten-free options, too.
I definitely feel healthier myself without gluten bogging down my diet. I don’t feel bloated all the time, and if it weren’t for 3 kids + a full-time job + a side business, I know my energy level would be up even more because of it, too haha! I have found as well as created some really awesome meals that are both gluten and dairy free and they have become my staples in meal-making. With a few tweaks here and there, they can be converted to something slightly different, too. We eat lots of chicken, ground turkey, and the kids + hubby eat red meat on occasion, too. I buy everything raw and plain and season it and cook it myself so that I know the ingredients. I have a wide variety of protein entrees that I make such as lettuce wraps, meatballs, meatloaf, chicken in countless ways, gluten-free breaded chicken strips, and much more. We love our roasted or steamed vegetables with every meal. We live on fruit. And we have all but bought stock in Udi’s – our saving grace. We keep prepackaged/prepared items to a minimum but their breads, muffins, and pizzas are a big hit with the kids. I have finally perfected the gluten free and dairy free cake baking, too! Cookies, not so much — but I am still trying it out!
Here is a list of some of our gluten free staples and things we’ve tried & liked (even if we don’t often eat them);
Vans: Waffles, dry cereal, and PB&J bars
Udi’s: Breads, Muffins, Cookie dough, rolls & hamburger buns, bagels, tortillas, and pizzas.
Chex: Honey Nut and Chocolate are our favorites
Ian’s: Fish Sticks, Alphatots, Chicken Tenders, and Chicken Nuggets
Pamela’s: Various baking mixes and Graham Crackers
Bob’s Red Mill: Polenta, Vanilla Cake mix, Pizza Crust, Almond Meal/Flour, Pancake mix, Oats, 1-to-1 baking flour, Yellow Popcorn (kernels), Baking Powder & Baking Soda, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
Betty Crocker: Cake mixes! And, they are quite tasty, too!! (check out their GF recipes, too!)
Lucy’s: COOKIES – because, have I mentioned that I cannot perfect gluten-free cookies from scratch??
Some other brands/items to note…
I have not tried this brand, Evol Foods, but I always see it at Target and it looks really yummy especially for on-the-go type foods.
Ore-Ida has over 20 different gluten-free frozen french fries. In ‘n’ out french fries are also gluten-free (are you seeing a french-fry pattern, here??).
We love snap pea crisps, Pirates booty & veggie sticks for snacks.
GF bread with peanut butter (or almond butter) and a few dairy/soy/nut free chocolate chips or sprinkles goes a long way for a snack for them!
Be very careful of blended seasonings like taco seasoning – it contains gluten.
Already made sauces are usually not gluten-free, either.
Not all gluten-free pastas are made equal. As a matter of fact, I am not a huge fan of many of them. We eat pasta probably less than 3 times a month so it’s not a big issue for me.
Pillsbury makes a line of gluten-free items, too – though I have never tried them and mostly because I can never find them!
Safeway sells a line of gluten-free bread crumbs – original and panko style and they’re a must-have in any GF kitchen.
Although we have used or eaten the above items at some point or another, I do really prefer to make most everything from scratch and cook dinner most nights, too. I will take a “normal” recipe and tweak it as needed to make it fit our lifestyle and once you get the hang of it, it’s not too hard. You’ll build a repertoire of go-to-meals and then can learn from there how to twist and tweak them with different seasonings or sauces in order to create new dishes.
Also, we very rarely, if ever, eat out – and that makes life a lot easier surprisingly.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to you is to research what gluten can be found in and other ingredient names that it can be under and READ READ READ all ingredient labels.
If you follow me on Instagram you can catch some of my favorite meals/baked goods that fit our lifestyle on there!
I hope this helps.