Gluten Intolerance: Real or Imaginary?

If you are anything like me, I used to completely roll my eyes when a mother would explain that her child was on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet or had this or that food sensitivity. And, it is almost comical the lengths we all have to go to in order to make sure everyone’s food needs are met at birthday parties and bake sales!

Well, embarrassing to say but I have joined the group and have taken my son completely off gluten and dairy!

It all started with we decided to take Oliver to visit a doctor who practices up in Rhinebeck named Dr. Bock who wrote Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Bock, he has clients coming from all over the world and he literally heals (or at least greatly improves symptoms) of many children with ADHD, autism, asthma, and allergies through supplementation and diet change.

With Oliver, after a battery of blood tests and an in-depth interview, it was revealed that he has a gluten and dairy intolerance as well as having an iron and zinc deficiency. When Dr. Bock put him on supplements and on the new diet, we saw the results of that immediately. The main thing that we saw that set him off was GLUTEN!

Unfortunately, gluten is in everything, or at least everything a 10 yr old boy loves! Gone are the beloved morning bagels, the donuts that my husband would take him to have for “treats,” the pizza, pasta, cookies, and even the garlic knots and sandwiches he craves at school.

The good thing is that Oliver has seen the positive changes and likes how he feels. In fact, he likes the way he feels so much that it is now him that takes staying on the diet so seriously. When he does lapse and has something with gluten, either by accident or on purpose, we all see the immediate difference. Our journey has been helped immensly by the chef at our son’s school who is an advocate of healthy living as well and we are deeply greatful for everything she has done and continues to do.

Has it been hard at times? Sure! But the benefits of seeing my son so much happier, taking his school work so much more seriously and, overall, just being a more positive member of our household, make it 100% worth it! These days there are so many wonderful gluten-free (and even dairy-free) subsitutes that it has made it fairly easy to do and we have actually all had fun trying the new foods.

So, for those of you wanting to learn more, read on. At the end, I will give you a list of our favorite foods if you want to experiment a bit and see if it resonates with you.

So, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, semolina, pumpernickel, faro and bulgar. Just because something is “wheat-free” does not mean it is gluten-free! Also, because oats are commonly processed at plants handling non-gluten-free grains, they are generally placed on the gluten grains list.

What is a gluten sensitivity?

A gluten sensitivity is a “state of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals.” (Pediatrics, Aug 2001.) Someone who is sensitive to gluten might have bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, skin issues such as excema and other rashes, congestion, wheezing, headaches, night sweats, or have dark circles under their eyes. An individual can also exhibit signs of exhaustion or depression. In children, you often see hyperactive or restless behavior normally associated with ADHD.

Most people just assume that a gluten sensitivity is a disease of the digestive system but this it is actually a disease of the entire body and symptoms can vary widely from individual to individual.

Is a gluten sensitivity the same thing as celiac disease?

No!!! While a gluten- sensitivity can be annoying, celiac disease is downright debilitating and dangerous! Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the inability of the body to digest and breakdown gluten protein into amino acids and results in the intestinal villi, the surface of the small intestine, being damaged. When the villi are damaged or destroyed, it causes malabsorption of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Symptoms are similar to that of gluten-sensitivity but much more pronounced and debilitating. It is estimated that 1 out of every 133 Americans has celiac, most of which go undiagnosed. The only cure for celiac is taking gluten out of the diet completely.

How do I know if I have a gluten-sensitivity or celiac?

If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, then go immediately to your doctor and ask for a gluten allergy test. You can definitely put yourself on a gluten-free diet but without a proper test there is no way to know. Also, with so many cases of celiac going undiagnosed, you don’t want to take a chance with your health!

So, if you have a gluten-sensitivity or celiac, just what can you eat?

The grains brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and corn are all gluten-free! There are so many amazing gluten-free alternatives using these grains to replace your old pasta, bread and other staples so don’t despair.
Breads:My all-time favorite bread is Udi’s sliced sandwich bread, which comes in whole wheat and “white.” Because my son was only used to getting sliced grainy bread, the first time I served this to my son in a pb&j, he told me ‘thank you for giving me white bread.” Udi’s also makes delicious Gluten-Free Muffins andbagels , which have become morning staples in our house.

Another favorite bread is the Food for Life Millet bread, which makes yummy sandwiches, garlic bread and the most delicious croutons. Food for Life also has a delicious Raison Pecan Bread, which we use for yummy cinnamon-raison toast in the morning! For tortillas, I suggest the rice tortillas from Food for Life or corn tortillas that don’t have any other added flours.Pamela’s, Red Mill, andNamaste, which makes great bread mixes!

Pasta: My favorite brand of pasta is Tinkyada, which is a rice-based pasta that cooks and tastes just like the “real stuff.” My kids literally have no idea that it is not regular pasta. Key here is that it is not brown like the whole wheat pasta so win-win! Other brands I like are Ancient Harvest, Bionaturae, and even Amy’s has a gluten-free, rice Mac n’Cheese!

Pancakes: Arrowhead Mills has an amazing gluten-free pancake mix and my family also likes the Namaste. Other good brands are Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill. For young children, being able to have their favorite treats is essential for having them stay on their diets, which leads to my next section…

Cookies/Treats: My kids adoreGlow Cookies and they come in a wide variety of flavors- Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Ginger Snap and Snickerdoodle! Emmy’s Macaroons are also delicious and come in Dark Cacao, Coconut-Vanilla, Chai Spice, Mint Chip, and Chocolate-Orange. Put any of these out and I can promise you that no one will even notice the difference!

Ice Box Bakery also has a frozen, ready- to- slice Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies. These are fun because the kids really feel like they are having regular cookies and they are technically “homemade.” Gluten-Free Cookie Jar Company’s Chocolate chunk cookie, Sugar cookies, Double chocolate chip cookies, Vegan-chocolate chip cookie, Chocolate chip brownie, Mint chip brownie and Cheesecake swirl are out of this world!

Another healthy alternative to cookies, are the coconut milk based “ice creams” made by Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss, which are sweetened with agave nectar not sugar!  Some of our favorites are Chocolate Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Island, Mint Galactica, Naked Coconut, and Naked Almond Fudge! Yum! So Delicious also makes a good “ice cream” and has products using soy milk as well as coconut milk.

What else can I do other than take gluten out of my diet?

As I mentioned before, taking gluten out of my son’s diet was just part of our approach. When an individual has a gluten sensitivity, they have also had problems digesting and assimilating the nutrients in their food so they often will have nutritional deficiencies. Not only must you take the culprit (in this case gluten) out but you also have to build up their nutritional profile through vitamins and good food choices.

The gluten-free approach may not work for everyone but, if it does, it can literally change your life.


  • Jamie
    December 1st, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    My young daughter is gluten intolerant and so I keep a gluten-free household. We recently discovered Purely Decadent and So Delicious coconut milk ice cream, and my daughter is in heaven! The gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough flavor is amazing, and my daughter feels like she’s getting a very special treat when she eats it.

  • admin
    December 2nd, 2010 at 1:01 am

    It is amazing once you make the switch because honestly there are so many delicious products out there and the children really do not feel they are missing out on anything!

  • lance
    July 27th, 2014 at 5:46 am


    good info….

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