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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Celiac 101 - Theresa Sirois

I am so excited to share this post with you by guest blogger Theresa Sirois! She is an amazing momma to 4 1/2 (one on the way!), and she's had to research and figure out what works best for her family, with Celiac Disease among her children. Her information is so valuable! Hope you find this helpful.

Thank you, Theresa, awesome information!

Celiac 101
By Theresa Sirois
blogger for NurturingtheNaturalMama and Social Media Marketing Manager for The Clean Bedroom

May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month and so I would like to do my part in helping assist others in the tricky situation that is switching to a gluten free diet when you or your child has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

I am a mom of 4, with one more on the way, and 3 of my children have been recently diagnosed with Celiac. It began with my youngest, Baby B, who will be 2 this June.  At 9 months, she weighed in at a mere 10 lbs, despite being a good eater. She was termed “failure to thrive”. 

This is a scary journey for any mom; you feel like you’re doing everything you can, but your baby is not getting any bigger. For me it seemed so bizarre, because she wasn’t sick either! It wasn’t like she was vomiting all the time, or not sleeping; she was completely “normal” except that she was entirely too small. 

By comparison, her brother, affectionately named Spiderman throughout my blog, weighed in at a hefty 8 lbs 9 oz at birth. Here she was, at almost 10 months, at just over 10 lbs!

Regardless, a few stressful and scary weeks later, we finally had a potential answer: Celiac Disease.  In just under 5 weeks following a strict gluten free diet, Baby B had gained 4 pounds! That was almost DOUBLE her body weight!

All photos from Theresa Sirois

So what does it mean to go gluten free?
As I quickly discovered, it’s not just about reading labels. Any wooden or non-stick surface in our kitchen had to be chucked, as those can “hold” gluten and cause cross-contamination. 

We needed a new toaster immediately so that our now gluten free bread did not get contaminated going into the toaster that once held regular bread. 

We needed new butter, peanut butter, jelly… anything that had once had a knife or spoon dipped in that had touched a piece of NON gluten free bread or food.

And we knew if we messed up, Baby B would now vomit for up to 48 hours with the smallest bit of cross-contamination.

Label reading has been the most important, and simultaneously most difficult thing, for us to follow. It’s not just scanning a product for something that says “gluten free”. Many items labeled as gluten free still say on the back “made in a facility that processes wheat”, these products are NOT safe for people with Celiac. 

The same is true for restaurants boasting a “gluten free” menu, all these items are cooked around regular food, which means cross contamination is inevitable and thus are NOT safe for Celiac patients.

You’re also not just looking for “wheat” on a label. There is an entire list of unsafe ingredients for people with Celiac, which includes “modified food starch”, which I have found is in almost every product imaginable!
What CAN I eat?!
All of this is very overwhelming for any person or family initially navigating the world that is gluten free. But I have come up with a few general rules for our own grocery shopping experience that I hope will help you too:

·    Shop mostly in product and meats. You don’t have to read labels of real food. ( just note that meats can NOT be pre marinated or breaded or you WILL have to ask for ingredients list and still risk cross-contamination)

·    Whole dairy items are also generally gluten free and include plenty of fat (if we’re talking children with Celiac) – whole milk (whether dairy or non-dairy variety), whole milk organic yogurts, whole milk organic cheeses are all healthy, whole foods and do not contain any fillers that contain gluten.

·   Popcorn is gluten free and cheap! 

·   Eggs. Also a whole food, full of protein, and generally inexpensive!

·   My favorite GF kid products are:
o   Pirate Booty
o   Pediasure (be aware that Carnation Instant Breakfast says gluten free, but is made in a facility that handles other shakes which contain gluten- so they are NOT Celiac-safe. Pediasure IS Celiac safe ;))
o   Annies GF microwavable mac n cheese
o   Ken’s Buttermilk Ranch is one of the ONLY ranch-type salad dressings that are gluten free and the kids LOVE it with their veggies!
o   All gluten free Chex flavored cereals. These are all certified GF and the cinnamon flavor is especially delicious! 

·   Tricky items when shopping:
o   WATCH YOUR LABELS- items like the ones below MAY contain gluten and/or wheat ingredients
§  Salad dressings
§  Chocolate ice cream
§  BBQ sauces
§  Granola/ oatmeal
§  Soups and soup mixes
§  Coffee and drink syrups, like the ones used to flavor drinks from Aroma Joes or Starbucks etc – MOST of them contain gluten, so check websites before you head out to grab your coffee.

· $aving Money while $hopping Gluten Free: 
   There are some items labeled as gluten free, that are already inherently gluten free- so they just charge more for the one in the GF section of your grocery store. Items that I’ve seen like this include:
o   Raisins
o   Tortilla chips
o   Popcorn
o   Cheese curls
o   Fruit snacks

So do your research first. Purchasing “regular” raisins, etc , which are ALREADY GF, is far cheaper than buying the ones labeled as such.

·  Other note: reminder that having Celiac and needing to be gluten free includes ANYTHING you may ingest. So for kiddos this also includes toothpastes, chapsticks, etc. so be sure you’re reading those labels!

·       Easy out-and-about quick snack fixes:
o   Call ahead to your local McDonalds- most have a separate frier for their French fries- so there is no cross contamination. Grab a small fry and a side of apples and you have an easy, cheap, albeit maybe not the most healthy ;), on -the-go snack!
o   Panera has several GF options available, and all you have to do is ask at the desk. They have a whole binder they go through to look up anything you need and no one has ever even batted an eyelash when I have asked. They are great!
o   Getting gas? Wise popcorn and Cheetos cheese curls are GF. Also not the healthiest option, but great in a pinch! Most also have bananas and apples available now, too!

Are there resources for parents navigating this for the first time?
Absolutely. I have found my greatest resource to be my daughter’s GI doctor, but even she doesn’t have all the answers! So I have found great fellowship, research, and real information from websites like

Since this blog post is already probably entirely too much information for one to digest ;) , I will stop here. 

There are a few more meal ideas that we have tried via the NurturingtheNaturalMama blog and I hope this has given you some helpful tips.

We have since discovered that all 3 of our girls have Celiac, two having presented with low weight, and one with migraines. But NONE with the “normal” GI symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. So if you have any concerns about yourself or your child, please consult your doctor. The genetic test for Celiac is NOT a definitive diagnosis and needs to be followed by an endoscopy for an official diagnosis.

I am available any time for questions or support. Please feel free to email me at  

1 comment:

  1. * produce and meats. not product and meats lol. dang I hate it when I catch typos after the fact!