What is Celiac Disease and why is a Gluten Free Diet Essential for it ?

This is a question I am commonly asked as a dietitian. I have partnered with Americord to bring you answers to this controversial area.

First of all, let’s talk about what gluten is, then how it relates to Celiac Disease, and steps your family can make to accommodate a family member who has been diagnosed with this disease.

Gluten is a form of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and many other grains  it is also found in many condiments via addition of grains such as most soy sauces, BBQ sauces, and salad dressings.

Celiac Disease (CD) which is an autoimmune disease which includes an allergy to gluten. If someone has CD, then it is essential they follow a strict gluten free diet. Even trace amounts of gluten can evoke a negative reaction. Individuals have usually had less than optimal vitamin and mineral absorption prior to diagnosis so it is always good to have a proper assessment done and determine if any supplements are advised to help with any deficiencies. In terms of food preparation, here are a few tips to keep your home GF if a family member is diagnosed with CD.

  1. Read ingredient lists well. Watch for words that indicate wheat, rye, barley, or any other grain that may contain gluten. A common one is “hydrolyzed wheat protein” in many salad dressings and other condiements. Even soy sauce contains wheat and a GF version must be used.
  2. Have a toaster that is dedicated to GF bread only. Label it and set it in a separate area than you regular toaster.
  3. Switch out wheat based pasta for rice pasta, lentil pasta, chickpea pasta, cauliflower rice, or spiralized zucchini
  4. Always have quinoa on hand that can be offered hot or cold.
  5. For oatmeal try Bob’s Red Mill GF steel cut oats. Their GF pancake mix, pizza crust mix and other mixes are also great options for a quick and easy meals
  6. For baking use a mix of GF flours as one kind alone may lead to a dense baked product but mixing a few together can be quite nice. If you are looking for a GF muffin recipe you could try this one that I have been making for years.
  7. If using luncheon meats, be aware of any fillers that contain gluten. 
  8. Offer lots of fresh fruits and vegetables as these are always free of gluten.
  9. Be sure to ask at restaurants if they offer GF options and if they ensure proper preparation techniques of these away from any products that contain gluten.
  10. If travelling, take your own GF snacks from home to ensure adequate nourishment along the way. We really like taking fruits, veggies, GF hummus, GoGoQuinoa biscuits, and BohoBars in our home.

Also, remember that consulting an RD upon diagnosis is a great idea. You can contact your local College or Dietitians to find one in your area. And as always, feel free to leave questions in the comment section below.



The nine months before the nine months

In my last post I talked about my journey to motherhood. What I left out was the adjustments I made in hopes of making my body hospitable for tiny humans to grow inside.

There are two parts to this…the first is physical. I wanted to make food and beverage choices that would support the reduction of endometriosis in my body. The second is mental. I wanted to reduce stress in my life.

For anyone struggling with endometriosis, I want to share the 5 top things that research led me to try and I truly believe they worked.

  1. Eliminate coffee…this is not about caffeine, but the acids that are in coffee. They are hard on the system and there is evidence that eliminating coffee can help reduce endo pain. I replaced my morning coffee with earl grey tea. It took some adjustment, but over time I grew to love tea and wonder how it ever felt like a sacrifice.
  2. Increase beta carotene…I ate a ton of sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots.
  3. Increase omega 3 intake…Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect and this is important in reducing endo. Foods such as salmon, ground flax seed, hemp hearts, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, olives, avocado, as well as olive and avocado oil are great sources.
  4. Eliminate red meat…these can cause exacerbation of endometriosis due to production of negative prostaglandins.
  5. Eliminate refined sugar…can cause more inflammation to occur, which I was hoping to reduce.

I also chose to eliminate most alcohol as it too has been shown to exacerbate endometriosis.

Two dietary choices that have also proven to be effective for some, but did not seem to make a difference for me are:

  1. Gluten free…this refers to eliminating all gluten containing products from your diet, not just bread.
  2. Dairy free…this refers to no cow’s milk or products with cow’s milk in them as well as no eggs.

If you are currently experiencing pain from endometriosis, you may want to try some or all of these options. For each one give yourself 2-3 months with elimination and then a reintroduction. You will know quite quickly if they matter for you or not.

For the second part of preparation, I tried to reduce the stress in my life. I reduced my work hours. I tried to do yoga a few times per week. I continued to run most days, but listened to my body for how long and far to go rather than always trying to beat my last time or distance.  I golfed a lot that summer as I found the social aspect and fresh air very therapeutic. Overall, I tried to give myself room to breathe. I tried to be kinder to myself and respect limitations. It was painful at times as I had to say no to some things that I really wanted to do, but in the end it all paid off and I have no regrets. Not with the end result of these angels…


So a few different posts from the usual in honour of Infertility Awareness Week. Next time I will be back to normal, every day posts. Thanks for caring and thanks for reading.

Until next time….stay healthy!

My Journey to Motherhood

When I started this blog, my intention was to focus on inspiring moms to be as healthy as they could be, and to give snack and meal ideas for kids. I also wanted to touch on infertility but have not done so yet as it is an emotional topic for me. I decided that Infertility Awareness Week was a good time to do this. I started to write last week actually but with the crazy life I have, it has literally taken me a week to get back to finishing it.

Every woman’s walk through infertility is different and I will be the first to admit that my journey is not nearly as painful as many have, but I thought I would share it in case it can be of help or encouragement to anyone.

I was officially diagnosed with endometriosis in December of 2005; however, I knew long before that the likelihood of this diagnosis was high. I had prepared myself from an early age that I would likely have trouble getting pregnant. When my husband and I decided we wanted to start “trying”, we didn’t hesitate to reach out to our local infertility clinic early on in the process. They encouraged us to try for another 6 months and if we did not have success then return. Sure enough, 6 months later, we were back in the office and our journey to IVF began.

My endometriosis was quite severe and had spread to other areas of my body. The fertility physician recommended that we skip fertility meds and IUI. He suggested three months of Lupron injections to try to shrink the endo tissue as much as possible and then immediately head into IVF. My husband and I had prayed a lot about various avenues that we could take and for wisdom for the doctors to know what might give us the best chance for success. We felt at peace with the course of action recommended.

I had two exciting trips planned in the coming 8 weeks following that meeting and decided that starting Lupron after those trips would be best next step. It can have some pretty nasty side effects and I wanted to be at home during that time just in case. The end of March 2011 I had my first injection. To my surprise I actually felt okay. The side effects that are listed on the internet did not hold true for me. If anything I felt more energetic and less bloated than ever! And in the two subsequent months, the same held true. I also made a several lifestyle changes during that time which I will talk about in my next post.

June 2011 came and it was time to move forward with IVF. The issue was that my cycle did not return. So once again we were in the waiting game.  All summer of 2011 we waited….and waited…and waited. I am a planner and in my mind I had the timing of everything all planned out….but the Lord had a different plan. Finally mid to late August, the doctor was able to do a special dose of Lupron along with some other meds and bring on a cycle. As those of you know that have been through this, the days thereafter were full of stomach injections, blood work, ultrasounds, and overall feeling bloated and crappy. I was also SUPER emotional . I bounced between over the top excitement that in only a few days I could have a baby growing in me to despair that I may never get pregnant.

September 9th at 10 pm I did my HCG injection. 36 hours later we entered the egg retrieval procedure. Although there were about 16 follicles, we only retrieved 8 eggs. I was not prepared for the intense pain that I would be in post retrieval. I remember trying to walk to the corner that afternoon and I had to sit down on the curb only two houses away to rest and then returned home. (If you are headed into IVF please plan to relax the day of your retrieval!!!) I was miserable and also so eager to know if we had any embryos. Finally the call came that we had three embryos; however, they did not look great. I burst into tears.

THREE? ONLY THREE? All this work and injections and emotions for only 3??? I looked up at my husband with a tear stained face. I told him there were only three and that the nurse was not sure if they were going to multiply well or now. I will never forget the reassuring look in his eyes as he said “Noelle, we only need one.” And in that moment I knew he was right. We had prayed that The Lord would allow us to have a child and we also prayed that we would not have decisions about what to do with unused embryos. My husband was right…we only needed one. Having said that, I kept reading the statistics and my chances of getting pregnant based on my age and stage of endo were 30% at best. I did not like my odds. But I continued to pray and have as much faith as I could.

The morning of September 14th we headed back to the hospital. We found out that two of the three embryos were doing well and we proceeded to hear about the pros and cons to both to help us decide which to transfer and which to freeze. The physician stopped for a moment and looked away. I remember looking at my husband wondering what else the physician was thinking. He looked back and me and took a deep breath and said, “we are not in the business of making multiples so I usually do not recommend more than a single embryo transfer; however, this has been a very difficult road to get you here. I do not know if we would be successful trying again and I do not know if any embryo will implant. I think that you should strongly consider putting both of these good embryos in for the chance of maybe one working.” I was hoping for this all along but my husband had been hesitant. He looked at me and nodded with a reassuring smile…”lets go for it!” And we did.


The medical team at the fertility clinic said I could go back to work the next week, but I really felt that spending time with my feet up would make my body seem more hospitable to these little embryos 🙂 Not sure if it mattered or not, but I spent the next two weeks relaxing with my feet up, praying, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

And the rest is history. On September 29th we found out that I was pregnant! A few weeks later we found out it was not just one baby but two!!!

I continued with progesterone medication for weeks to come and then the nausea set in….awful nausea! I just had to keep reminding myself though that the nausea was a good sign that these babies were sticking around. I had a difficult pregnancy but it was worth every minute. I was due June 2012, but only pregnant until March 23rd. Our precious twin boys made their early debut at 29 weeks and 5 days.

As you know there is more to our story as we have three boys now. Rhett, however, is not that third embryo. It did not make it beyond 4 cells. If we had chosen to transfer it, it would not have made it as it was not viable. When the twins were 20 months, I was really, really, really tired. Like nap when they nap and still go to bed at 8 pm tired. I figured that I was just worn out from breastfeeding twins, running around after them most day, and working 2 days/week. Then I started to become nauseous and thought I better see what was going on. Sure enough I was pregnant!!! A complete surprise but so exciting. Pregnancy is one of the best things for endometriosis and it seems that pregnancy with the twins cleaned me out just enough for my body to ovulate and allow for implantation on its own.

So that is my story of my journey to motherhood. I hope that it can be an inspiration to anyone walking this journey now. In my next post, I will talk about the lifestyle changes I made from January to September 2011. It was 9 months of taking care of me to get ready for my body to embrace growing tiny humans.