After my surgery I was hopeful that my issues would improve, but as the months rolled by, I noticed increasing bloating and abdominal pain. I also developed this extremely painful and itchy rash that kept me awake at night.
When Friendly was a few months old a friend shared about her celiac diagnosis. Her symptoms sounded extremely familiar. I decided to try gluten free for a bit. I soon noticed a pattern: when I ate gluten I became sick to my stomach and my rash would itch and... well I'll spare the description, it was not fun. But sticking with it was hard, was it really helping? No, no it wasn't.... okay, I got really miserable that time.... but maybe it was some thing else...
Now, I know the normal response when you have a rash like this you'd go to the doctor and get it checked out. It was on the To Do list. I had a newly walking toddler and was pregnant and already going to lots of appointments for my pregnancy...I had a newborn and a 1 year old... I had a crawling infant and a Into All the Things toddler... I had a crazy one year old and busy 3 year old. Peppered in there was an extreme level of sleep deprivation (more on that in a minute) and also, kids today have a LOT of expected "well checks" 1 week, 2 weeks, 6 week, 2 months, 4months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18months. I did most every single one of those with the older two. All the well checks for them (what was it 15-20 between them?), the thought of making time for a non-emergent doctor appointment for me? No, thanks.
Well, it all continued until Friendly was 18mos old. She was a terrible sleeper. From the time she started solids she woke up SCREAMING 5-12 times a night. She was quite crabby and fussy all the time. Probably from the terrible sleep, but also she seemed to be in pain. The pediatrician said it was likely teething and "some kids just get it rougher than others". Her belly was always bloated and hard and she struggled with regularity.
We knew some thing was bothering her. We decided to go gluten free as a family, but we weren't strict about it, going at it alone there was a lot of, "this is a ton of work, this won't really help.... but but..." around and around. It's hard to accept that the food we were eating was HURTING us. So I allowed gluten when out and about. We noticed as we limited it Friendly's belly seemed a bit better. But we also noticed when she had it she was beginning to get her own weird rashes-different from mine but she scratched them to bloody. We also noticed the intensity of her tantrums and meltdowns lessened when we kept gluten out of her diet.
As for me my rash had drastically improved, it had become more of 2 large bruises on my rib cage, rather than the nasty mess it had been. It still flared badly after eating a meal with gluten but in general it was improving.
It all came to a head when we ended up at the ER with Friendly, she was having some thing called "rectal prolapse" and it was happening when we allowed gluten. Rectal prolapse is probably the scariest thing when your baby is screaming in pain, it certainly looks disturbing!!! We took her to the ER and the doctors assured us it was "common when potty learning". I was a bit surprised by this reaction and claim. How is a Childs internal organs protruding from their body common and or normal? I am sorry, that isn't normal!!!
I am not a doctor and I understand in the ER they see a lot worse so it seems like not big deal. But I went home and researched it, and apparently it is a sign of celiac disease in young children. Since it was only happening after a gluten exposure we decided as a family that gluten needed to be 100% out of our diets. We are very careful about gluten because these prolapse were very scary and painful to Friendly: she hasn't had an incidence since! And my rash? It completely cleared and the bruising eventually went away as well.
I haven't had the skin biopsy to confirm this, but it looks like my rash is Dermatitis Herpetiformis it's an auto immune reaction to gluten. Your body cannot digest or even recognize the gluten proteins as food, and creates antibodies to attack the proteins. In doing that, they attack other organs in your body. Your skin is an organ of your body and DH, for some reason, sends the antibodies to attack your skin. DH can also go into full blown celiac disease where the antibodies not only attack your skin, but (as with Celiac) attack the villi of your intestines. The villi are a key part of absorption of nutrients. Untreated celiac disease can lead to failure to thrive in children, and increases the risk of many other diseases and intestinal cancers.
Because of the invasiveness and inaccuracy involved in celiac testing right now, I have decided not to pursue an official diagnosis. To get an accurate positive, I would have to eat gluten heavily for 6-12weeks.
Even having a trace amount makes my rib cage (I get a butterfly-like mirroring rash across both sides of my rib cage) burn and itch for days. It also makes me so sick to my stomach that I would probably be vomiting and spending hours in the bathroom- I would rather just live happily with the new health these dietary changes have brought me. My skin has been completely clear since we went gluten free, I have had a few accidental exposures that brought it back since then.... but generally free and clear.
A few interesting about gluten intolerance and celiac disease we discovered
- Gall bladder disease is very common sign that your body is struggling to process gluten.
- For some unknown reason Dermatitis Herpetiformis doesn't usually show up until your 20's, I was 23 when it started.
So that was how we came to be gluten free. What lead to the other changes we made? Well I'll discuss a bit more of that in Part 3! :) I will also probably write a post about some common themes around why we're seeing an increase in our country of these diseases, and how our family is trying to do our part to change that. On to the recipe!
Sweet Chilly Hash Stew
It was one of those, "what do I Maaake???" Sunday afternoons. I threw stuff in the chefs pot and Sweet Chilli Hash was the result.
This was a delicious sweet and gently spicy stew. It got 2 giant thumbs up from my normally picky 4 year old. She and the 2 year old had 2 big bowls each!!! I really think some of the secret to it's success was the sweet and spicy pasta sauce from Wegman's...checkout their ingredients to find some thing similar!
Sweet Chilli Hash Stew
By H. Burgett
1 pound ground beef
1 LARGE Sweet Potato (diced)
4-5 medium russet potatoes (diced)
1 medium/large onion (chopped)
2-4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 23oz jar of Spicy-ish Pasta Sauce (I use THIS from Wegman's)
3-4 dashes of chilli powder
2tsp sea salt
We use coconut oil for our cooking oil. In large skillet or wok brown beef until nearly cooked, add oil (if beef is lean) and potatoes (both kinds), onions, garlic, salt.
Toss potatoes occasionally for about 10minutes if potatoes stick (we don't use non-stick pans) pan add 1/4c of water and loosen with stirring.
Put lid on and cook for 15minutes stirring often.
Add jar of sauce and dashes of chilli powder stir well... allow to simmer (stirring often) until potatoes seem soft (5-10minutes).
8-10 servings (depending on the crowd)
Option 2: I also browned the beef, sauted all the ingredients but the tomato sauce a bit and then threw it in the croc pot, mixed in the sauce, and left it to cook on low for 5-8 hours.