DISCLAIMER: I am a squirrel, not a doctor or a nutritionist. I eat garbage out of dumpsters. If you need a more scientific explanation of what it means to follow a GF-CF diet you should talk to your doctor.
Pink Sweatpants found out very early on that Nojackno had food allergies. Lots of them. The first few months of his life were filled with doctor’s appointments, ER visits, hospitalizations, rashes, colitis, reflux, medications, formula changes, and COLIC. It quickly became clear that Nojackno could not tolerate formulas containing dairy, soy, or corn.
Here he is during two separate hospitalizations at 2 months old:
By the time he was around 2 it became apparent that wheat was also causing him problems. Over time, his digestive system seemed to mature enough to allow him to eat corn without any repercussions, but it looks like the wheat, dairy, and soy intolerances were here to stay!
Nojackno was 5 when he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which meant his intolerance to wheat was actually an allergy to wheat. And not just wheat, but gluten. So what’s the difference between wheat and gluten? Gluten is actually the protein found in wheat, as well as barley and rye. So going gluten-free (GF) involves giving up more than just wheat; it involves giving up barley and rye as well.
The next question is “What does the ‘CF’ in GF-CF stand for?” That would be “casein-free”. Which begs the question, what on earth is casein? Casein is the protein found in milk and all products made from milk–ice cream, sour cream, all cheeses, yogurt, etc. Some people are lactose-intolerant, so they may find that they’re able to eat hard cheeses (such as cheddar and parmesan) without any repercussions because aged cheeses contain very little lactose. But if you’re intolerant to casein, those cheeses will still give you trouble. Why? Because lactose and casein are VERY different. Lactose is the sugar found in milk products, while casein is the protein found in milk products. So although some cheeses may contain very little lactose (sugar), ALL cheeses contain casein (protein). So following a GF-CF diet means avoiding all foods that contain gluten and casein. This type of diet is commonly mentioned in connection with children who have a diagnosis of autism, but my job as a squirrel is to explain what the diet is; not to tell you if it’s right for you or your child. But I can tell you that you don’t have to have autism to benefit from a GF-CF diet. Pink Sweatpants discovered that her eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis herpetiformis all disappeared once she started on a GF-CF diet. She also experiences less “brain fog” and finds that her antidepressants work better once she’s been on the diet for about 3-4 weeks. Of course, she’s fallen off the GF-CF wagon in a BIG way and she’s a total disaster right now. I mean, I don’t know how much more her elastic waistband can take. Poor sweatpants . . . But I digress.
Accommodating Nojackno’s special diet isn’t all that difficult because for the most part he only eats Kettle Baked potato chips, homemade GF Rice Krispies Treats, and Glutino Pretzels. Most of his nutrition comes from PediaSure, which contains some dairy and soy, but it’s the best Pink Sweatpants can do for now. He’s gaining weight (in fact, the Down Syndrome Clinic at Children’s Hospital said he’s got a little too much weight on him) and there are bigger battles to be fought when it comes to his care at the moment, so expanding his diet is on the back burner for the time being.
Although Nojackno may be satisfied with just eating Rice Krispies treats and potato chips, Pink Sweatpants dreamed of creating GF-CF cookies, cakes, and candies that didn’t taste like the flavor-compromised GF-CF desserts and snacks available at the grocery store. In 2008, she discovered an AWESOME gluten-free cookbook called “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” by Annalise G. Roberts, and that essentially taught her the basics of gluten-free baking. With the knowledge in that cookbook she was able to adapt several of her favorite recipes (namely, her carrot cake recipe) to be GF-CF. But there was still a problem–cake frosting! Making a frosting that is GF-CF is simple; making one that is also soy-free? Not so much! Her goal was to make her recipes soy-free as well, so when Nojackno decided that he wanted to expand his diet beyond Rice Krispies and potato chips, she’d be ready!
Fast-forward to 2013. After endless research, Pink Sweatpants stumbled upon a book containing recipes for sour cream and cream cheese that were casein-free AND soy-free! To learn more, stay tuned!
PS–As a squirrel, I’m happy that I have no dietary restrictions. Here’s a friend of mine, enjoying a slice of pizza in Nojackno’s play area: